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From the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, hosts David Tennant and Catherine Tate are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Meera Syal, David Suchet, Rufus Wainwright, Tim Minchin, Gregory Porter, Joseph Fiennes, English National Opera, The Royal Ballet and Akala for a very special evening. Together, they mark the life and work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death. This unique event takes place in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and celebrates Shakespeare's extraordinary legacy and his enduring influence on all performance art forms - from opera to jazz, dance to musicals.
This review is going to be very subjective, and in fact, if I can sum it up entirely, I'd say watch it by yourself and fast forward the bits you don't like. Because by catering for "everyone" it means there's bits you're not going to like.
One of the things that they tried to do with this "celebration" was to show the importance of Shakespeare by how it influenced other works. Personally, I think it failed. The very first thing we saw was a West Side Story song and dance number. I can see what they were going for I guess, but I think it lost the point. It was a celebration of Shakespeare, not Shakespeare's cover band. It'd be like going to see The Beatles and instead having some pub band playing songs that they wrote because they liked The Beatles. We wanted John Paul George and Ringo.
Well, in this case, we wanted Shakespeare. And that's the rub. Between the ballets and the operas and the songs (done with varying degrees of success) the overall runtime left, in my opinion, more filler and less Shakespeare. It left me wanting to see King Lear or Hamlet or heck, the Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged.
There were some great performances. Sir Ian McKellen was the stand out performance giving a powerful speech about immigrants. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal (from Goodness Gracious Me) nailed Much Ado About Nothing in a fantastic comedic / tragic scene. And the stage actor, Paapa Essiedu, played an amazing Hamlet for the famous To Be or Not To Be.
It's essentially Shakespeare at the Proms. And there are good bits. You'll just need to either put up with, or fast forward, the boring bits.
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