Review: TV: THOMAS SUTCLIFFE

Most intriguing of all, was the woman who suggested that the readiest equivalent we have for Shakespeare's Chorus is Kate Adie

Within the first 10 seconds of Conjuring Shakespeare (BBC2) you have a pretty good idea of where it is coming from: you hear the rich tones of Sir Larry declaiming "O for a muse of fire", then there's a quick burst of Frankie Goes To Hollywood singing "War, what is it good for?" and then James Cameron starts to reflect on the damnable ironies of battle. All this is over archive footage of a night-time artillery barrage. The style is instantly recognisable as Open University demotic - a form of address which is one part instruction to two parts reassurance (honestly, it isn't going to be dull and boring). For similar reasons, the academics who talked in the programme about Shakespeare's Henry V did so in locations that were as far away from a book-lined study as could be achieved; one stood in front of a large tank in the Imperial War Museum while another shared his knowledge of 16th-century conscription and training while a group of Royal Marine commandos tackled an assault course in the background. (He should be grateful, I suppose, that the producer didn't make him abseil down a cliff.) Such scenes, and the use of pop music, figure as ritual sacrifices to the god Relevance, whose holy name is almost always invoked when television tries to persuade viewers that something more venerable than itself might be worthy of attention.

This determined sprightliness couldn't quite disguise the fact that Simon Eliot's programme was less a thematic essay than an selection of illustrated footnotes, attached to the text at fairly random points. They were pretty good footnotes though. Even if you already knew that Olivier's film of Henry V had been part of the war effort, it was interesting to learn that some of the extras in the battle scenes were American GIs, preparing for their own invasion of France. That intersection between life and art was matched by a far more ancient one - the revelation that one of the hazards of theatre-going in Shakespeare's day was the possibility that you might be forcibly conscripted to act out what you had just seen performed - on one day, 4,000 men were rounded up from London theatres and forced into service. Most intriguing of all, though, was the woman who suggested that the readiest equivalent we have for Shakespeare's Chorus (a persistent embarrassment in later productions) is Kate Adie - a flak-jacketed figure who turns up now and then to update the audience on the unfolding drama of war. (In his recent film of Romeo and Juliet, Baz Luhrmann made the same leap of association, depicting his chorus as a television anchor person - and it was startling to see how well Shakespeare's lines sustained the synthetically urgent cadences of broadcast news.)

Coronation Street (ITV) is unlikely to need similar kinds of explication in 400 years' time because in 400 years' time, Coronation Street will probably still be on - the Rover's Return might have been redecorated (there could even be a sub-plot about the removal of the juke box that has just been installed) and there will be new tenants at the Cabin - selling internet browsers and chocolate eclairs. But the same dependable engines will still be turning the dramatic carousel - betrayal, romance and disputed paternity swinging round and round with a mesmerising regularity. If you haven't watched for some time, though, it does take a little while to get used to the dramatic conventions again, the strangest of which is the way that people have intimate conversations in public or discuss third parties only a few feet away from the characters they're talking about - a suspension of realism that is a kind of soapy equivalent of the dramatic aside. The revelation of Fiona's pregnancy has been the occasion for some mildly comic business about the gossipy prurience of the older women. But you don't really need to be prurient or inquisitive to find out about people's affairs in this imagined world - you just need to be conscious and sooner or later they will spill it all out in front of you.

Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

    Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

    £65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

    Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

    Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition