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My Shakespeare (2004)

TV Movie  -   -  Documentary  -  27 December 2004 (UK)
8.0
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Paterson was born and raised in the rough area of Harlesden, London and, since becoming an actor, has decided to return to his streets with the message of Shakespeare. Setting himself a ... See full summary »

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Paterson was born and raised in the rough area of Harlesden, London and, since becoming an actor, has decided to return to his streets with the message of Shakespeare. Setting himself a target of four weeks to cast, rehearse and direct a West End production of Romeo & Juliet, Paterson plans to show the world that Harlesden is not what people assume and prove that Shakespeare can be brought to any place, any people and any time by using a cast of all first time actors. In the background director Baz Luhrmann looks on and offers Paterson advice on how to bring Shakespeare alive for modern actors and audiences. Written by bob the moo

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reenactment

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27 December 2004 (UK)  »

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A rare piece of "reality TV" – uplifting, enriching, enjoyable and constructive for subjects and audience
31 January 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Patterson was born and raised in the rough area of Harlesden, London and, since becoming an actor, has decided to return to his streets with the message of Shakespeare. Setting himself a target of four weeks to cast, rehearse and direct a West End production of Romeo & Juliet, Patterson plans to show the world that Harlesden is not what people assume and prove that Shakespeare can be brought to any place, any people and any time by using a cast of all first time actors. In the background director Baz Luhrmann looks on and offers Patterson advice on how to bring Shakespeare alive for modern actors and audiences.

I am not a big fan of reality television; too much of it either makes celebrities out of people with no talent other than a talent for appealing to the tabloids, while other reality shows seem to be more about holding their subjects up for ridicule with a vague aim of somehow helping them or teaching them lessons. So when I heard of this project last year I did fear the worst but I am very happy to report that this film manages to do what so many reality projects fail horribly to do (if they even try) and was uplifting, engaging and, most importantly, constructive for subjects and audience alike. The concept sounds like a gimmick and indeed there is a risk that it could have been as a collection of innercity stereotypes (baseball caps, hoodies etc) are brought together to do a Shakespeare play that many of them just dismiss from day one, but it holds you while it is like this and then builds to something much better.

Luhrmann has limited input but he is important at the start because he is very interesting while the production is yet to grip us. As the roles are cast then Luhrmann is less interesting and the real people and the production becomes fascinating. The challenge of the play itself is gripping and it is great to see how the young actors develop not only as performers but also as people. Khpal is a great example – coming over as shy, insecure and giggly at the start she becomes so much more confident and her performance has a real sense of wonder about it that she carries in rehearsals and in herself. Many of the cast come on – they say at one point that they don't show emotion "on the street" but then the rehearsals seem to bring them into touch with deeper feelings. It is actually enriching to see it happen and I felt it constructive to me personally just as they found it constructive; this is a world away from the seedy mocking of "How clean is your house?" and all the better for it.

The whole cast are likable people and quickly rise out of the ghetto stereotypes that they come across as at the first few times of meeting them; it does go to show that, although stereotypes have an element of truth to them you stick to them at your peril. Among the rough ethnic teens is a middle class, well spoken mother of two who we assume will do the best but, in reality, she cannot cut it and is removed from the production, meanwhile Taylor becomes more and more emotive and confident, coming across as a great Romeo and a really nice guy. In a genre (reality TV) that often just pigeonholes, mocks and generalises it was so refreshing to see stereotypes being challenged.

Overall this is a wonderful show. I'm not sure if I want to see the idea repeated because it was so perfect here that I think it stands by itself. The people involved are stereotypical baseball cap wearing youths who challenge our preconceptions while also developing as people and actors. The production is amazing considering the challenges involved in time and tools and the whole experience is as uplifting, enjoyable, enriching and worthwhile for the audience as it was for the people taking part. A fantastic piece of "reality television" that is miles above the dross that is in that genre – hunt it out, it is really, really worth seeing.


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