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So.  David Tennant and Shakespeare.  Do I go fan-girl or literate?  I'll try for literate this time:

As I sit down to write this review, I must confess that I am tempted to feign a greater level of expertise and familiarity with Shakespeare than I in fact possess.  My mother was an English professor at the college level, and I grew up with the classics in the air.  And, bluntly, I’m very vain and like to appear smart.  But I have to be honest.  I have huge holes in my reading of the classics, and the last time I read what little Shakespeare I have, was many years ago in school.  The only Shakespeare plays I have seen recently have been at my daughter’s school performances, a Shakespeare-in-the-park or two, and the movie of Midsummer Night’s Dream with Kevin Kline.  I do remember watching the televised Shakespeare long ago, with either Richard Burton or Laurence Olivier.  I remember lots of ornate, heavy period costumes, elaborate sets and very little movement.  I seem to recall that the style of delivery, especially the soliloquies, to be minimalist – the actor stood rather still, face composed, the words delivered in great, rolling, rich tones of oration.  My overall impression was dusty and musty.

So, maybe my reaction to seeing David Tennant’s Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet is skewed.  Maybe many modern renditions of these works are just as exciting, just as joyful, as riveting, as entertaining, as enthralling – but I doubt it.  This is thrilling theater.  My reading these days is mostly science fiction, but after watching these two plays, I wanted to grab a copy of Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet on my Kindle and read them right away, if only to answer my question of, “Did Shakespeare really write that?”

In both productions, as different as they are, the entire cast is fantastic.  Catherine Tate played Beatrice to a T (lol), although she did veer into comedic mugging on occasion.  But then again, that might be something Beatrice would do.  I thought the father in Much Ado was excellent, as well.  As for Hamlet, what a joy it is to watch Patrick Stewart devour the role of Claudius.  But…

Yes, I’m not an impartial viewer.  I’ve labeled myself as a David Tennant fan.  But I simply could not take my eyes off him, whenever he appeared.  The versatility of the man is awesome.

First, there’s his sheer physicality.  The way he moves – !  He’s like a great force barely contained.  He absolutely owns the stage.  He strides, slouches, glides, dances, slumps and pirouettes.  He’s a master of comedy, using his long, gangly limbs to amazing effect.  Tennant in drag, with a mini skirt, lace pantyhose and red patent-leather army boots, prancing on tiptoe, is a sight that I’ll die happier for having seen.  Yet the brilliance of this performance of Much Ado is that they didn’t contort the play to have DT clown around like this.  (Truthfully, though, I could have done without Tate dangling around in the air, her bosom threatening to pop out – don’t ask.)  And the scene where Benedict “overhears” how Beatrice “loves” him, in which a stray tray of house paint is used to brilliant comic effect… Well, David Tennant in a Superman T-shirt with paint smeared all over his face and chest, grinning madly and with eyes sparkling, is an image clicked on and saved by many Tennant devotees.  Yet for all the slapstick in that scene, I remember best the play of emotion on DT’s face – disbelief, amazement, dawning realization, and finally, incredulous love.  I believed every moment.

Moving on to Hamlet, DT again brings his physicality to the role.  He is contained and quiet in the initial scenes, but as the Moody Dane’s emotional torment builds, his mental energy is echoed in his body.  Indeed, it’s as if the churning of Hamlet’s mind is so forceful that it propels his body with its energy.  DT has said in interviews that while Hamlet was a role that he’d dreamed of someday playing, when the role came, he felt rather terrified by the weight of all who’d gone before.  How do you take those hoary soliloquies that have been done so many times before and make them fresh?  Well, I assure you that no one else has performed these like David Tennant.  His “To be, or not to be,” is masterful.  In an early scene, his Hamlet, in despair, crumples to the ground like a child – yes, like a child who has lost his father, making this cultural iconic figure intensely personal and real.  And in the quiet agony over his wondering whether he wishes to live or die, Tennant’s amazingly expressive eyes reach out and grab you.  If you’re not moved, I’d say it’s time to check for a pulse.

DT then goes from these moments of quiet, deep despair to the “Am I a coward?” speech while jumping around – no, not jumping; rather, leaping like an enraged lion about the stage, all in a heartbeat.  I’m not very knowledgeable about theater, but the staging here seems to me fresh, bold and exciting.

After the physicality – or rather, another aspect of it, because what tools does an actor have but his/her physical self? – is DT’s ability to emote honestly and transparently without seeming artificial.  With the slightest movement, he lets us see so very many nuanced emotions as they flit across his face.  Thoughtful, skeptical, somber, tortured, enraged – he makes us feel it all right along with him.  He swallows, and the movements of his throat and Adam’s apple, along with a hollow look in his eyes, says it all.  His face can communicated more in his pauses between words than others can say with paragraphs.  He never seems to be “acting;” he merely inhabits the role completely.  And with these filmed versions of staged theater, the camera can be close up, allowing Tennant to shine with these subtle, intense, and very personal moments.

"Much Ado About Nothing” is available only through Digital Theatre (www.digitaltheatre.com), for now at least.  “Hamlet” is available on DVD.  I can’t recommend these more highly to both Tennant fans and anyone looking for a fresh view of these plays.

OK, enough with the "literate."  Now, can I just tell you that DT is so adorable and hot and squee-worthy in both of these?  I never thought of Shakespeare as, uh, before-bedtime reading, shall we say, but watching either of these would definitely put me in the bedroom mood.  Wowza.

Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
sykira
Dec. 30th, 2012 10:07 pm (UTC)
Wow. I couldn't agree more! I have my own fangirly ramblings about DT in MAAN if you want me to link you but basically a huge HECK YES to all of this. Shakespeare bored me before DT if I am to be brutally honest but watching MAAN I finally GOT it. Fresh, bold and exciting indeed! Blew my socks off and I love your descriptions here because it brings it all back. You should see Talking Over the Asylum if you ever get the chance, he's compelling.

AND you are a fellow DS9 fan! Let me love you!
prelocandkanar
Dec. 30th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Oooh, only if you let me love you back!!

I went over to your journal, went to your tags page and read everything there about MAAN. I loved!!! what you wrote, and the other folks' reviews that you linked to, as well. You, and they, said it all much better than I did. A real pleasure to read!

I actually have ordered Taking Over the Asylum; it's due around the end of January. In the meantime, I have a few more things to watch.

Another DS9 fan, yea! And you're a Sid fan, too. Excellent taste! (I wondered if loving Sid and DT reveals a trend. Tall, skinny, lovely accent. Although many differences as well.)

Well, I just finished "Single Father." Now *that* needs writing about...
sykira
Jan. 1st, 2013 11:06 pm (UTC)
I have a few more links if you want, that I just added you to the filter for, mostly DT but also some CT gushing fangirling! http://sykira.livejournal.com/80479.html
sykira.livejournal.com/79998.html
http://sykira.livejournal.com/82146.html
prelocandkanar
Jan. 3rd, 2013 11:14 am (UTC)
Thanks! I can't wait to read it all! :D
woodsie22
Dec. 30th, 2012 10:13 pm (UTC)
DT :-)
I'm glad that you've found your way into the world of David Tennant. I was fortunate to have discovered him about 6 years ago, so I was actually able to see both plays live, and I know that I enjoyed them both greatly.

Looking at the list of movies that you posted at Tennant Love, I would like to add a few more movies/items that you must seek out. Some you can find on Region 2 DVD, others are on youtube, and still others might take a bit more work to find, but there's a lot of good stuff for you still to find.

1)Recovery (tv movie) - in my mind, this is one of the best things that DT has done.

2)Single Father (miniseries) - interesting in its own way, and it will make you cry in a couple of parts

3)Takin' Over the Asylum (miniseries) - supporting role, but still a very good series, DVD has a commentary track w/ DT on it

4)Rab C Nesbitt - check for a clip of DT on youtube and in drag - small, but interesting, part

5)Friday Night Project - DT was on two different episodes of this, both of which you'll probably find on youtube

There are other must sees, but that's a good start.
prelocandkanar
Dec. 30th, 2012 10:49 pm (UTC)
Re: DT :-)
Oh, thank you for this!

I actually just finished watching "Single Father," and am going to try to write something in the next few days. Although there were some issues with it, I think it was a great, great showcase for Tennant's range.

"Takin' Over the Asylum" is on order, and expected to arrive at the end of January.

The "Nesbitt" -- is that "Davinna"? Yes, I did watch all the YouTubes of "Davinna," including the final scene with that guy groping D in the closet. "I've got a big surprise for you....!"

"Recovery," I've read about but not seen. Is it available on DVD? I have a multi-region player, but I didn't see it on Amazon. I see a nine-part "Recovery" on YouTube... is that complete? Anyway, I'm off to watch it.

Thanks again for this!
woodsie22
Dec. 31st, 2012 01:34 am (UTC)
Re: DT :-)
Yes on Nesbitt, and that sounds like the complete version of Recovery. It was just a one-off. You're in for a treat. I don't know how it hasn't made it to dvd, but I think there are bootlegs on ioffer, and, of course, torrents.
leianora
Dec. 30th, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
Oh my! I've actually been looking forward to viewing these plays for a while now. Since I've been blind since birth, the thing that sticks out for me is, of course, the auditory performances of the actors. DT captures me whenever he does the BBC Big Finish audio shows. It doesn't matter what part he plays, he's amazing! As Luther Arkwrite or Dr. Who, As Col. Wood or merely a bit part cop, he is utterly brilliant! I can hear his voice inside my head at any given moment and be spot on with the exactness of it. There are not very many actors I can do that with, but he is one of them.

Now I'm gonna go buy the hamlet DVD. I have both of these movies where the parts are played by Kenneth Branagh, so seeing him do them will definitely be interesting. MR. Branagh's interpretation of the part of Benedict kills me dead every time. He makes it all seem so natural and funny as hell. His verbal inflection is amazing, and the way he makes the words flow as if people still talk like that today never ceases to astonish me.


BTW, I hope to see you in the DS9 chat room very soon!
woodsie22
Dec. 31st, 2012 01:41 am (UTC)
I saw both of Branagh's versions, too, and his Hamlet was my go to Hamlet version until I saw DT's Hamlet. Now it's my standard by which I judge Hamlet.

Another good voice actor I love is Benedict Cumberbatch from Sherlock. Now, David does better characterizations in the audio dramas, because he switches accents for the characters so well. But, Benedict has the better voiceover or narrator voice. Still, I could listen to either of them read a phone book.
prelocandkanar
Dec. 31st, 2012 04:17 pm (UTC)
woodsie22, I'm not familiar with Benedict Cumberbatch, although I've heard of him. To be honest, at first I thought he was a made-up character, with a name like that! I think DT mentioned him once. I haven't seen Sherlock yet, although I'm watching Elementary and definitely have Sherlock on the list.

"Listen to [someone] read a phone book" is such a cliche, but in David Tennant's case, it's so true, isn't it?? I could listen to him read or say anything. While "How to Train Your Dragon" certainly had its charms (I thought it was very good, actually), having David's voice in my ear while I walk the dog is one the best pleasures I can think of! Now I'll have to seek out Benedict Cumberbatch.
prelocandkanar
Dec. 31st, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
Leianora, one of the most pleasurable parts of following David Tennant is his voice! Both in terms of his accent and his actual voice. Over on David-Tennant.com they have a complete (I think) list of audio links for him -- all this radio interviews and co-hosting (like with Christian O'Connell on the Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio), as well as his audio books.

I just love love love listening to him on these radio shows! Just hearing his natural Scottish accent and his lovely voice is heaven, plus he's so funny, sometimes shy, sometimes outrageous, down-to-earth and seemingly perplexed by his fame. I walk the dog twice a day for about an hour in the woods, and my favorite thing is to listen to David Tennant in my ear as I go.

Not to be all "some of my best friends are" about it, but actually, one of my best friends, from college, has been blind from birth. They over-oxygenated her incubator. We were suite-mates in college, and became best friends. Not that that's relevant here at all, really. [here am I, channeling Ten]: Am I being rude?

Do you mean the DS9 re-watch chat, or is there another DS9 chat that maybe I don't know about since I've been absent here for a while? I've missed the re-watch chat for some time, but I'm planning to return!

Edited at 2012-12-31 04:12 pm (UTC)
leianora
Dec. 31st, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
Cool! I, too, was over-oxygenated. It happened in Germany when my dad was in the army. And no, you weren't being rude at all. The people who perplex me are people who say things like, "You're blind? I have a cousin who's deaf." What am I supposed to say about that? :D I usually end up saying something like, "I'm sorry to hear that."

I've been missing the rewatch chats a lot recently as well. I'm planning to come back to it in January, because things are finally starting to get really good in the show, and I find that I have a lot more to say about everything that's going on in the episodes.

I'm still a bit confused about the final episode montage, the one that doesn't show Jaddzia in it, from what I've been told. I'd love to know about the different clips it does show. The music in it is beautiful!

Okay, I'm going to shut up now. I've babbled on long enough.

Happy New Year!
prelocandkanar
Jan. 3rd, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I sent you a transcript of the final episode montage! Happy New Year to you, too!
sue_denimme
Dec. 31st, 2012 01:08 pm (UTC)
It always amazes me that there are people who think DT is a huge ham. He's not, it's the characters he plays! If the character is quirky and high-strung (like Ten), then he plays it quirky and high-strung. If the character is quiet and reserved (like Eddington in Einstein and Eddington), then he plays it quiet and reserved. He can do subtle, he can do wacky, he can do evil, he can bawl his eyes out if required -- he can do *anything*.

BTW, Einstein and Eddington is another good thing to look out for, as are Learners, Secret Smile, and United, for a bigger sampling of the range he has.

(Oh, and I'm a DS9 fan too. Hi. *waves*)
prelocandkanar
Dec. 31st, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
Hi, Sue! [waves back!]

I had read about "Eddington and Einstein," and you've pushed me over. Also, my teenage daughter (well, I've outed myself as being a mom) is a science geek, and I think this story will be interesting to her, to. Besides... I'm well and truly sunk now. I must own or at least see everything Tennant possible.
sue_denimme
Dec. 31st, 2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
His performance in E&E is especially sensitive. And definitely check out Secret Smile, where he is SUPER creepy as an obsessed stalker.

Also... *whispers* check out "theproselytizer"'s channel on Youtube. They have tons of DT's performances, though the titles are altered (e.g. "Sprintdall and Jumpkirk" for "Randall and Hopkirk", and "So You Think I'm Scottish" for his episode of "Who Do You Think You Are").
sue_denimme
Dec. 31st, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, and there's also Casanova, if you haven't seen that yet. It's available on DVD. That was the project that first brought him and RTD together. :-)
prelocandkanar
Jan. 3rd, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'd originally watched "Recovery" through someone else over at Youtube, but the quality wasn't great. I found theproselytizer's version, and it's much better. I see it's a fairly complete collection -- so good! Do you know if "Shakespeare Uncovered" is there" I've only ever seen a short clip. I searched for "Bard" but can't think what other changed title to try.

Also, he/she/they have a new channel, kind of a "part two" now. It's called "moosetenorange." Makes me thing of a cross between Ten and Bullwinkle wearing his spacesuit from "The Impossible Planet." :D
sue_denimme
Jan. 3rd, 2013 04:35 pm (UTC)
No, sorry, I haven't actually checked it out in a while and don't know if they've got Shakespeare Uncovered.
sue_denimme
Jan. 3rd, 2013 04:37 pm (UTC)
Oh, just thought of something else. Try Dailymotion. Worth a shot. http://www.dailymotion.com/us
prelocandkanar
Jan. 3rd, 2013 04:44 pm (UTC)
Yes, they have it!! I have to run to a meeting right now, but I've bookmarked it. This was one of the things I hadn't been able to find. Thank you so much!!!!!
sue_denimme
Jan. 3rd, 2013 05:12 pm (UTC)
Awesome!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )