Shakespeare Live! From the RSC ★★★★

Watched for the Shakespeare 400 anniversary yesterday, this live stage production was shown on television and relayed live to cinemas, and although it had an uneven start with a tuneless and slow-paced performance of "Tonight" from 'West Side Story', it picked up to mix speeches, ballet, opera, jazz, hip-hop and comedy to show how Shakespeare's plays have made inroads deep into popular culture over the past five decades in particular.

Despite a number of young performers appearing to contribute to scenes, it was the old veterans like Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen who effortlessly stole the show, and Roger Allam's Lear, Rory Kinnear and Ann-Marie Duff's Macbeths, and Simon Russell Beale's filmed extract from the 'sceptred isle' speech of John of Gaunt in 'Richard II' must surely have caught the attention of casting specialists.

The comedy worked well, with Al Murray's Bottom playing well against a regal Judi Dench's Titania, and a 'nine Hamlet' sketch on how to speak the Dane's greatest speech was topped by a surprise appearance by Royal guest Prince Charles.

This was not quite as accomplished as the National Theatre's celebration of its own 50th anniversary (that celebrated the past by including film of past productions), but if its aim is to show that Shakespeare still has relevance in the 21st century, I would say it succeeded.

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