When Pericles discovers the dread answer to Antioch's riddle, he flees for his life straight into famine, shipwreck, love, fatherhood, and another shipwreck; he loses his wife and daughter,... See full summary »
David Hugh Jones
A rich merchant, Antonio is depressed for no good reason, until his good friend Bassanio comes to tell him how he's in love with Portia. Portia's father has died and left a very strange ... See full summary »
King Leontes of Bohemia suspects his wife, Hermione, and his friend, Polixenes, of betraying him. When he forces Polixenes to flee for his life, Leontes sets in motion a chain of events ... See full summary »
After the murder of her lover Julius Caesar, Egypt's queen Cleopatra needs a new ally. She seduces his probable successor Mark Antony. This develops into real love and slowly leads to a war with the other possible successor, Octavius.
King Lear (Sir Michael Hordern), old and tired, divides his kingdom amongst his daughters, giving great importance to their protestations of love for him. When Cordelia (Brenda Blethyn), ... See full summary »
After the murder of her lover Caesar, Egypt's queen Cleopatra needs a new ally. She seduces his probable successor Mark Antony. This develops into real love and slowly leads to a war with the other possible successor: Octavius.
When Sir John Falstaff decides that he wants to have a little fun he writes two letters to a pair of Window wives: Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. When they put their heads together and ... See full summary »
David Hugh Jones
Jonathan Miller wanted Troy to be sharply differentiated from Greece; Troy was decadent, with clear abstract lines (based on some of Hans Vredeman de Vries' architectural experiments with perspective). The Greek camp, on the other hand, was based on a gypsy camp near the BBC Television Centre; cluttered, dirty and squalid. Miller envisioned it as built on the remains of an earlier Troy, with bits of roofs jutting out of the ground and bits and pieces of ancient statues lying around (although this idea originated for Troilus, Miller had first used it in his earlier Timon of Athens (1981)). See more »
Jonathan Miller triumphs with a fascinating production of an unruly play. His eye for casting is faultless, and different from others in the series. This personal view is emphasized by his special precision as director in revealing the interplay of character. There is absolutely no rhetoric for sound's sake here - every character knows exactly why they are saying what they're saying, and who they're saying it to.
The running time of "Troilus" is 12 minutes longer than that of "Pericles," yet it feels around 45 minutes shorter. Much of this play is done with a single mobile camera in long, unblinking takes. This adds to the pressure on the actors and crew, and contributes to a special kind of energy.
The performances are all excellent, without an embarrassment in the cast. That is not always true in this series. The young lovers are fine. Charles Gray grabs the role of Pandarus, and shakes it within an inch of its life. This huge personality is almost too big for the small screen, yet he never quite outstays his welcome.
Ben Whitrow's Ulysses is perhaps the most clever, calculating and cold-blooded of any, in any version of the story I've seen. Anthony Pedley is a funny Ajax, and Kenneth Haigh and John Shrapnel are confident as Achilles and Hector. Esmond Knight as King Priam and Jack Birkett as Thersites are both blind actors, which adds a certain otherworldly quality to the proceedings. The physical production and sound design are both detailed and effective.
The book "The BBC Shakespeare Plays: Making the Televised Canon" by Susan Willis spends a whole chapter describing in detail the rehearsal, taping and editing of this "Troilus." Highly recommended reading.
P.S. The prologue is read off-camera by an uncredited actor. Could it be Alec McCowen? Whoever it is reads the Bard's words as they should be read, a model for would-be Shakespeareans to study.
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