Shakespeare with a difference

So as I pointed out last month, there are some great (and some not-so-great) films of Shakespeare’s plays. But sometimes you don’t feel like watching Shakespeare. Sometimes, you want to watch something a bit different. So, for those nights, here are some adaptations that offer Shakespeare with a twist, with a little bit of something for everyone.

Do you want your Shakespeare adaptation —

  • to be high-brow? Try The King Is Alive, a 2001 film from the Dogme 95 group in which a group of tourists stranded in the Namibian desert decide to stage King Lear.
  • to be low-brow? Strange Brew is for you. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as the cult Canadian duo Bob and Doug McKenzie star in this bizarre and fabulous 1983 adaptation that marries a love of beer and all things Canadian with Hamlet and results in a whole lot of deadpan hilarity.
  • full of snark? Then you need to join the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew to watch Maximilian Schell’s 1961 performance as Hamlet in MST3K: Hamlet. As a bonus, this can double as high-brow if you mute it and substitute your own dialogue in suitably Germanic-accented English.
  • to babysit your children? Two different Romeo and Juliet adaptations are for you: Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss (2006) and Gnomeo and Juliet (2011). Why a play about teenage suicide is suitable for the under-8 crowd is beyond me, but apparently it is.
  • to be about existential angst? You can’t beat Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s 1990 adaptation of his stage adaptation of Hamlet. On the other hand, if you think the undead are angsty enough, then perhaps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead (2009) is more your cup of tea.
  • in the form of a western? Then mosey over to Broken Lance, a 1954 adaptation of King Lear starring Spencer Tracy. Or maybe film noir is more your thing? Then try Machete, a 1959 Othello set in Puerto Rico.
  • to include Charles Mingus and Dave Brubek? You can have that! All Night Long (1962) sets Othello in the jazz world. Not enough music? Try Placido Domingo in Verdi’s Otello, directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1986.
  • to feature prisoners? Shakespeare behind Bars is a 2005 documentary about prisoners in Kentucky’s Luther Luckett Correctional Complex putting on a performance of Tempest.
  • to focus on mid- to late-1990s adaptations of Hamlet? You’ve got two to choose from! Royal Deceit (1994) and Let the Devil Wear Black (1999).
  • to be violent and bloody? Romeo and Juliet is your friend. Try Tromeo and Juliet (1995), Romeo Must Die (2000), or Rome & Jewel (2008). The first one is from Troma, so mixes some camp in with the gore; the second is Jet Li, so brings home the martial arts; the last is a hip-hop musical that I haven’t seen and am not hugely inclined to.
  • to be violent and bloody and without all the speechy bits but with the master of horror? Theatre of Blood (1973) stars Vincent Price as an actor who revenges himself on unappreciative critics by murdering them Shakespeare-style. And what could be better Shakespeare than that?!

Sarah Werner has two sons, at least one job, and too many books to
read. As a result, Netflix Instant is her constant companion. She blogs about books and reading and is
known to a corner of the twitterverse as @wynkenhimself.

One Response to “Shakespeare with a difference”
  1. You reference the troupe Shakespeare Behind Bars. Here’s an update on their latest prison-based production: Romeo and Juliet.

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