Reviewsday: BBC’s Troilus and Cressida (1981)

Shakespeare can be boring. There, I said it.

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Most of his plays–even the darkest ones–include exciting bits, funny bits, and charming bits. Troilus and Cressida, not so much. 

I must start by saying that Troilus and Cressida, probably written in 1602, when the bard was near the height of his powers, is not one of my top 35 or 36 favorite Shakespeare plays. The title characters (above, played by Anton Lesser and Suzanne Burden) are easy to forget and hard to root for. The other characters (Trojans Hector, Pandarus, Paris, etc., and Greeks Achilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, etc.) are easy to confuse. The plots, such as they are (Troilus-loves-Cressida-and-she-loves-him-until-she-doesn’t and Greeks-and-Trojans-want-to-fight-each-other-for-some-reason) are less than compelling.

Having said all that, the 1981 BBC production, directed by Jonathan Miller, turns a poor play into a mediocre play. Miller and designer Colin Lowery updated the setting from ancient Greece to something closer to the Elizabethan period, not that it made much of a difference.

This production is dominated by Pandarus (artfully played Charles Gray) and Thersites (Jack Birkett, chewing up the scenery as “The Incredible Orlando”). Burden plays Cressida as humanly as possible, and  the rest of the cast do a fine job, though no one seems to be having any fun at it.

 

 

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About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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