Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel Wolf Hall has now been dramatised, along with its sequel, Bring up the Bodies. Brian McFarlane, a regular ABR film and theatre critic, caught the new Royal Shakespeare Company production in London.
If, like me, you were not a fan of Hilary Mantel’s historical doorstops, Wolf Hall (2009) ... More
Anyone lucky enough to have read Arguments with England (2004), the first volume of Michael Blakemore’s memoirs, will be eager to read the second, Stage Blood, in which he traces the tumultuous history of his years at London’s National Theatre. Further, anyone as lucky as I was to see such productions of his as Long Day’s Journey into Ni ... More
Film-wise, 2013 has been the year of adapting dangerously. Dangerously, that is, in the sense of daring to affront devoted readers of the original novels or plays, valuing enterprise over fidelity. Now, just after admirable versions of Much Ado about Nothing and What Maisie Knew have finished their runs, we have director–screenwriter Andrew Ada ... More
The last twelve months have seen some notable film reworkings of classic literary texts, with Anna Karenina set in a theatre, a black Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and a gorgeous Much Ado About Nothing enacted in monochrome contemporary California. Now we have a compelling version of Henry James’s novel What Maisie Knew (1897), ... More
There have been more than 900 Shakespearean film adaptations of one kind or other, for screens large and small, dating back to scenes from Macbeth in 1898. The Stratford playwright would have become rich beyond the dreams of avarice from film rights alone; equally, though, I think he would have acknowledged that film-makers have notched up a pretty hono ... More
One should approach a new film with an open mind, but it’s very hard to do so when it has been preceded by the sort of hype that has accompanied The Great Gatsby. And it’s not just the hype but the other threats to the open mind which include the famous source novel (one that people know about even if they haven’t read it), the previous film versions, ... More
What is it about Great Expectations (1861) that makes it seem indispensable? Can it be its hero, Pip’s, search for a liveable identity? The small, terrified, often bullied child gets a glimpse of ‘the quality’ albeit in desuetude, becomes dissatisfied with being a blacksmith, receives the eponymous expectations, and tries to become a gentleman before se ... More
Those Brontës. If they’d only had a decent agent with foresight, they could have escaped that dank parsonage on the gloomy moors of windswept Yorkshire and set up on the French Riviera in comfort. Since 1910 there have been at least forty film or television versions of Jane Eyre, most recently in 2011. Now it is Emily’s turn for the latest (seventeenth) ... More
By chance, two of the most famous 1950s plays are in the news again. John Osborne’s historic rant, Look Back in Anger (1956), has been successfully revived on Broadway, while Terence Rattigan’s emotionally taut piece, The Deep Blue Sea (1952), has been filmed by another Terence – Davies, that is. In their day, Osborne railed against the ‘po ... More
Others abide our question. Thou art free.
We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,
(Matthew Arnold, ‘Shakespeare’)
When Arnold wrote his famous sonnet, he could have been anticipating John Bell’s book, which repeatedly asks provocative questions about the man and t ... More