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Broadcaster: BBC News channel
Year: 2012
Genre: Documentary
URL: http://bobnational.net/record/298557

Review by Jenny Richards

This 15 minute clip is an excerpt from a programme about the actor, television presenter and director Jonathan Miller, following him behind the scenes as he directs a stage production of King Lear. This may be useful to those studying a Renaissance Drama module or anyone with an interest in the direction of Shakespeare’s plays.

Miller introduces the play by discussing its historical context; he describes the play as one ‘dedicated to the necessity of the monarchy’ but also highlights the fluctuating dynamics of the monarchy and their sovereignty throughout the seventeenth century in which the play was written and performed. Speaking about his job as a director, he highlights the importance of accentuating the universal themes of the play that will remain resonant with today’s, fundamentally different, modern audience.  For instance, while our relationship to the monarchy has changed dramatically since the play was written, the issues of power, status, family and loss that permeate the text are still relatable to us in the contemporary.

Rather than discussing the poetry of the language Shakespeare uses in isolation, Miller sees the universality of such themes that Shakespeare deals with and the eloquence and accuracy with which he portrays the human condition as critical to the success and persistence of Shakespeare’s works in modern culture.

A veteran director of King Lear, having done so twice before, he is accustomed to the fine details of performance that enhance this portrayal of characters. Seeing Miller in action directing rehearsals is particularly interesting as he focuses on the subtleties of body language – the ‘sub-intentional actions’ – that accompany characters’ speech, allowing the actors to explore or emphasise features of the characters that are not as prominent on the page.  In his direction of the interrogation in which Gloucester is blinded for instance, Miller orchestrates the characters’ actions in a way that maintains Gloucester’s dignity despite his incarceration. Small decisions like this on the part of the director may be worth thinking about when reviewing a production or analysing a character’s speech as details like this define how the play is interpreted.