Patrick Magee as King Lear

05 Feb

The third of the three Shakespeare DVDs is, I’m afraid, bloody awful. Patrick Magee (31 March 1922 – 14 August 1982) was a distinguished actor — associate of Samuel Beckett, appeared in A Clockwork Orange, and from 1964 in the Royal Shakespeare Company when Peter Brook was directing. But, and alas this was too apparent in the DVD, critic John Simon (as reported on Wikipedia) is correct: “Magee ‘has a way of turning every syllable he speaks into overripe Limburger cheese: he is the only actor I can think of to whom one listens with one’s nose’.”

No visible intelligence informs this production.

I agree with Canadian Mark Morris’s King Lear Links: “The 1988 Lear with Patrick Magee (who played Gloucester in the earlier Miller version), is not listed here, but alas is to be found on video store shelves. It is the worst Shakespearean production I have ever seen on stage or film (and that’s saying something!), and The Video Movie Guide must have been on some kind of trip to call the Goodwill store costumes and sets ‘glorious’.” Except that it would have been remarkable if Magee did this in 1988… My copy says 1974. Screen Online more kindly says “Despite Patrick Magee in the title role (he had previously played Cornwall in the Peter Brook film), the production was not regarded as being especially distinguished.” Despite? Because, I’m afraid.

The BBC King Lear directed by Jonathan Miller with Michael Hordern as Lear (and the Thatcher-like Goneril) is much better, as is the 1997 Richard Eyre production with Ian Holm as Lear.

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Posted by on February 5, 2007 in Cultural and other, Films, DVDs, TV, Surry Hills


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