Monday, June 30, 2014

Bilbo Baggins Thinks Shakespeare is Boring

When Martin "The Hobbit" Freeman signed on for Richard III I was at least a little bit excited, even though unlike half the world I've not yet watched every episode of Sherlock (starring another modern Shakespearean, Benedict Cumberbatch).  Apparently, though, Mr. Baggins-Freeman thinks that Shakespeare is boring, and that there's a "conspiracy of silence" among the well-educated to just sit through those bits without saying anything:
The Hobbit star said the Bard’s plays can be tedious and hit out at the ‘conspiracy of silence’ that makes it difficult for people to criticise them. 
‘Very educated, very smart, very theatre-literate people’ tolerate the ‘boring passages’ without saying anything, he said. 
Speaking to The Andrew Marr Show he said he was ‘hellbent’ on bringing in a younger audience to see his new production of Richard III – which has updated the tale of court intrigue into an ‘imaginary dystopia’ – and thinks chopping out sections will help with that.
(image via TolkienGateway)
Look, I agree that there are passages in many (most?) of Shakespeare's plays that are difficult to understand, mostly because of the 400 years that have come and gone since he wrote them. Of course there's a tradition of editing the plays for performance, and the director has always had the freedom to cut where he feels the need to cut.  But to come right out and say "These parts here? They're boring, you don't need them" does Shakespeare a great disservice. Is Mr. Freeman going into competition with Shakespeare? Going to create the definitive film versions the way he sees them, so a generation from now our kids are all studying his watered-down version?

What ultimately kills me is the last line of the article, that tells us this is Mr. Freeman's first professional Shakespeare role. Move over Orson Welles, step aside Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, you've been doing it wrong and Martin Freeman is here to set you straight.


Fester said...

It is kinda funny coming from the co-star of the ADD/ADHD edition of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Don't get me wrong, I like the Series Sherlock, however,the action runs at such a pace, I sometimes find it necessary to stop and replay scenes.
Maybe there is the problem. We are now getting a generation of people who need the action to come fast furious and nonstop because they are programmed to expect with such sensory overload.

Anonymous said...

I am not a well educated, brightest of the bright theater goer. But I love Shakespeare. I even love reading the plays; I'd rather read a play first before going to see it. I tend to think that something is missed without the reading. Quite simply, Shakespeare's gift of language is beautiful. I use the footnotes of a play and learn some of the most interesting things in doing so. I agree with the above comment, in the current time that we live in, there is a bit too much sensory overload. A watered down version of any of his plays is like trying to duel your opponent with a feather. It just doesn't "cut" it.