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Macbeth (1981)

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Richard Alfieri ...
Barry Primus ...
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Franklyn Seales ...
Jay Robinson ...
Brad David ...
Ross (as Brad David Stockton)
Nomi Mitty ...
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Eugenia Wright ...
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Stanley Waxman ...
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If the McKellen/Dench version is available, either skip this Brett/Laurie version or view them together.
20 April 2001 | by (Boston, Massachusetts) – See all my reviews

With a high school student struggling through the text, we found two stageplay versions on film, this one with Jeremy Brett (RIP, Sherlock Holmes) and Piper Laurie, and the McKellen/Dench version.

I have seen three ways to film a stageplay. (1) Put up a few cameras with an audience present (never works). (2) Take a cast used to performing before an audience and reblock for cameras and shoot with no audience (this version). (3) Forget audience, block and perform entirely for film (McKellen/Dench).

So this Brett/Laurie version features actors who project as though they must entertain people 100 feet away, and they move through a paragraph of lines as one would truly read a paragraph. Well enough.

But the McKellen/Dench is much more gripping, despite a minimalist set. Lines and characters were omitted for the sake of an overall vision. Characters stopped dead in mid-paragraph for effect. I'll never remember who Ross was in the Brett; I'll remember Ross/Porter in the McKellen. No spoiler here, but in the two versions one sees radically different Lady Macbeths -- not merely in execution but in conception. The Dench Macbeth being absolutely thrilling.

This Brett/Laurie, however, tracks Shakespeare. So the high school student should begin here. Then move on to the McKellen/Dench.


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