Essential Shakespeare Live

Royal Shakespeare Company, Performed by, Peggy Ashcroft, Actor, Judi Dench, Actor , read by Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Paul Scofi Sourcebooks $29.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-7123-0524-2

Bravos all round to the Royal Shakespeare Company and the British Library Sound Archive past and present for this tantalizing selection of brief scenes culled from recorded performances by an ultimate all-star cast. Doran, associate director of the RSC, begins with Olivier as Coriolanus at Stratford in 1959 and moves into the '60s with Scofield as Lear, David Warner as Hamlet, Ashcroft as Queen Margaret in The War of the Roses . The '70s finds a young, round-faced Patrick Stewart as Cassius, Janet Suzman as Cleopatra and McKellen and Francesca Annis as Romeo and Juliet . In the '80s, Derek Jacobi plays Prospero, Alan Rickman is Jacques in As You Like It and Brian Cox does Titus Andronicus. In the '90s, Robert Stephens as Falstaff and David Oyelowo as Henry VI lead to a glorious finish with Dench as Countess Rossillion in All's Well That Ends Well at a 2003 Stratford performance. Sound quality is not uniform throughout, but thumps and bumps and audience responses add to the excitement of live performances. The companion booklet is essential reading, as wonderful as these scenes are, since none are introduced or identified on the discs. The photos illuminate the proceedings but leave one wanting more. Theater buffs, schools and libraries will all applaud this treat and should demand encores. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 04/03/2006
Release date: 02/01/2010
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