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Troilus & Cressida



Plot summary

Uploaded by: FREEMAN

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John Shrapnel Photo
John Shrapnel as Hector
Anton Lesser Photo
Anton Lesser as Troilus
Charles Gray Photo
Charles Gray as Pandarus

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by TheLittleSongbird7 / 10

"For to be wise and love exceeds man's might"

As has been noted, 'Troilus and Cressida' is one of Shakespeare's less famous plays. Not because it is a bad or inferior play, far from it. The prose and characters are characteristically memorable and the comic and tragic elements and how they're balanced have always intrigued in Shakespeare (though other plays of his handle this more subtly). It is more down to how difficult it is to stage, with it being very psychological, how to respond to the characters puzzling some, its ambiguity and the questioning of values.

From 1978 to 1985 the BBC did an interesting if variable (don't dislike any of the productions, but not all of them are great) series of productions of all of Shakespeare's plays. That is one of the main reasons in seeing the productions, also with some of the plays having limited available competition on video or DVD. Another good reason being seeing casts consisting of fine actors, some early on in their career. Their version of 'Troilus and Cressida' is a solid one, do not think it as of now deserves to be one of the lower rated productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare series here. Put it somewhere in the middle, for a play with not many productions available this more than makes do.

Wasn't crazy about the production values where once again budget limitations are evident, just looked too drab and grim and the lack of authenticity sticks out like a sore thumb a bit.

Jack Birkett is less than incredible and goes too over the top, as has already been mentioned by some, as Thersites, the hamminess annoys and jars.

On the other hand, there is so much to recommend. The long takes of the camera work are beautifully judged, without ever making the action static and enhancing it at its best even, as is the distinguished delivery of the prologue. The production is directed most tastefully by Jonathan Miller, who is highly successful in making the characters interesting and easier to understand, keeping the character interaction detailed and compelling and balancing the comedy and tragedy smoothly and without being out of control (very problematic staging the play). The comedy is funny and doesn't feel over-played and the tragedy is genuinely moving.

Regarding the staging, a major highlight is the climax, the climax is one of Shakespeare's most harrowing and the staging of it in this 'Troilus and Cressida' is as brutal as they come. Hector's death lives long in the memory. Cressida agreed has a big scene that is quite devasting. Birkett aside, the acting is very good. Although age-appropriateness is called into question with some of the cast, that does not stop the performances themselves being great. Anton Lesser is a compelling Troilus while Suzanne Burden fares even better as a touching Cressida. Anthony Pedley is also fine. This 'Troilus and Cressida' production's best performances come from, and this has been mentioned by some already, Charles Gray's full of life Pandaras and Ben Whitrow's chillingly calculating Ulysses.

To conclude, solid. 7/10

Reviewed by tonstant viewer10 / 10

One of the Best of the Series

Jonathan Miller triumphs with a fascinating production of an unruly play. His eye for casting is faultless, and different from others in the series. This personal view is emphasized by his special precision as director in revealing the interplay of character. There is absolutely no rhetoric for sound's sake here - every character knows exactly why they are saying what they're saying, and who they're saying it to.

The running time of "Troilus" is 12 minutes longer than that of "Pericles," yet it feels around 45 minutes shorter. Much of this play is done with a single mobile camera in long, unblinking takes. This adds to the pressure on the actors and crew, and contributes to a special kind of energy.

The performances are all excellent, without an embarrassment in the cast. That is not always true in this series. The young lovers are fine. Charles Gray grabs the role of Pandarus, and shakes it within an inch of its life. This huge personality is almost too big for the small screen, yet he never quite outstays his welcome.

Ben Whitrow's Ulysses is perhaps the most clever, calculating and cold-blooded of any, in any version of the story I've seen. Anthony Pedley is a funny Ajax, and Kenneth Haigh and John Shrapnel are confident as Achilles and Hector. Esmond Knight as King Priam and Jack Birkett as Thersites are both blind actors, which adds a certain otherworldly quality to the proceedings. The physical production and sound design are both detailed and effective.

The book "The BBC Shakespeare Plays: Making the Televised Canon" by Susan Willis spends a whole chapter describing in detail the rehearsal, taping and editing of this "Troilus." Highly recommended reading.

P.S. The prologue is read off-camera by an uncredited actor. Could it be Alec McCowen? Whoever it is reads the Bard's words as they should be read, a model for would-be Shakespeareans to study.

Reviewed by barnabyrudge7 / 10

Solid version of a neglected Shakespeare play. Hurt by a few examples of miscasting, but overall well worth a look.

Troilus And Cressida is one of the lesser-known Shakespeare plays. In fairness, there's no such thing as an obscure play by the Bard – they've ALL been performed and dramatised numerous times. But Troilus And Cressida certainly belongs on a list of the ones that everyday viewers are less familiar with, alongside titles like Pericles, King John and Timon Of Athens. It's a problematic play to put on stage or film, for sure… throughout, the text defies expectations and refuses to be pinned down into any single genre. One moment, you'd confident labelling it a history, the next it veers into comedy... and there's enough tragedy throughout the proceedings for it to be labelled one of those too.

During the Trojan Wars several soldiers from both sides find their motivation to carry on fighting wilting badly. Trojan Troilus (Anton Lesser) is lovestruck over the lowly maiden Cressida (Suzanne Burden),whose father recently defected to the Greeks; while in the Greek camp the fearsome Achilles (Kenneth Haigh) refuses to leave his tent to join in with the fighting and lives off former glories while his comrades die in combat on a daily basis. The great Trojan warrior Hector (John Shrapnel) issues a challenge to the Greeks, demanding that they send their best fighter to come and face him on the field. He expects this to rouse Achilles out of his self-imposed retirement. But the Greeks, especially cunning Ulysses (Benjamin Whitrow) see through his plan and send out one of their lesser warriors, Ajax (Anthony Pedley),to accept the challenge. Troilus eventually manages to consummate a relationship with Cressida, but the very next day she is traded over the Greeks to be with her father, in return for a captured Trojan warrior. Troilus is devastated and, in blind rage, rediscovers his lust for combat. Meanwhile, matters come to a head on the battlefield as Hector, Ajax, Achilles and others meet to fight it out for supremacy in the staled impasse of the war. All these events are commented upon by a pair of cynical, sharp-tongued onlookers from both sides, the Trojan Pandarus (Charles Gray) and the Greek Thersites (Jack Birkett).

Part of the ambitious BBC Shakespeare series (in which the Beeb ambitiously set themselves the target of filming every single Shakesperean play),this production is low-budget but well-done. The acting is pretty good overall – with Whitrow as Ulysses and Gray as Pandarus especially fine in their roles. There are a few examples of miscasting, most notably Birkett as Thersites. Blind in real life, Birkett is a very good actor… but horribly miscast as Thersites here: the delivery of the savage, bitter outbursts that make Thersites such a powerful character is camped-up too much and distorts the character. Also, a number of the great Greek and Trojan figures are played by actors who seem the wrong age for the roles – the likes of Aeneas, Nestor and Agamemnon, while well-played, are portrayed by actors considerably older than the play demands. There are some very memorable scenes during the course of the production, especially the brutal murder of Hector (a shot of Achilles standing on the crushed and bloodied head of his rival is extremely shocking) and the emotionally electrifying scene where Cressida learns she is to be traded to the enemy just hours after finally consummating her love for Troilus. As a satiric swipe at the nature of heroism, almost an attempt to subvert and ridicule heroic ideals, the production works very effectively. Some day, a really big budget and 'cinematic' version of this story may appear… until that day, this is a more-than-adequate substitute. Good stuff.

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