Saturday, November 4, 2017


Marlowe and Shakespeare, (Bros)
Will, TNT Television Drama (2017). 

"A drama about the lost years of young William Shakespeare after his arrival to London in 1589,"  (IMDB)

I neglected to include the second synopsis bit about the theater being like rock and roll because I think in order to enjoy this show, you really need to have a relaxed attitude about some things, and the punk music is definitely one of them. I loved this show. Everything looked exciting and colorful, the acting was exciting and colorful, and I was fine with modern music being used to illustrate mood and feeling in Shakespeare's (and Marlowe's) London although not everyone will be. There is a pretty big community of people who get real bitchy about the useage of Iggy Pop, The Clash, and The Beastie Boys in media, and it's a downright certainty that they were unhappy with this placement, but I say whatever. If you can't enjoy "Sabotage," in an appropriate narrative moment, you're probably dead on the inside, anyway.

The point was obviously to attract a younger audience with a bunch of aesthetic spectacle while weaving the glamour and importance of the theater with the poverty, plague, and heavy anti-Catholicism present in England together with the writings of Shakespeare (Laurie Davidson) for more literary-minded, mature viewers. It works. Christopher (Kit) Marlowe (Jamie Campbell Bower), an established playwright who is, yes, portrayed as more rock star than writer, is a significant character in the narrative, and anyone at all interested in a sort of fairy tale glimpse of what it means to be a successful writer (contrasted with Will, an unknown at the series' start) will appreciate the insight explored through this often over-the-top character. Writer's block, drugs, muses, rejection, and sudden (fickle) success are all  covered, and in comparison to this guy, Will comes off as somewhat of a lightweight, at first. But patience pays off, and in the end, what begins as a sort of overindulged guilty pleasure turns into a legitimate story with interesting characters who've been written well and are solid enough in their performances to make you care about them.

"What a miserable, mother-swiving profession
it is to be a writer."
One of my favorite moments comes in the sixth episode after Will has just had to intentionally hurt someone he cares about in order to protect her, is stifling his own tears backstage, and then must go out for his bow to the wildly enthusiastic crowd cheering his play. In the middle of all the fun, this re-imagining also throws in a brilliant bit of acting, now and again.

WHO WILL ENJOY THIS SHOW: Fans of Shakespeare in Love, fans of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, fans of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, non-snooty writers, sentimentalists, and teenagers.

WHO WILL HATE THIS SHOW: People who hate remakes of any kind, historical purists, Catholic purists, Protestant purists, and musical purists (i.e., if you're someone who couldn't tolerate Immortal Beloved because Oldman's Beethoven used a piano that didn't exist in that time or you give the side-eye to concertgoers who mistakenly clap between orchestral movements, it's probably best to stay far, FAR away).