New on DVD: 'Working Shakespeare' and 'Civilisation'
If you love the theater but secretly sleep through Shakespeare, then a new blockbuster package just may open your eyes to what you've been missing. Hosted by Jeremy Irons, the five-DVD "Working Shakespeare" is an entertaining as well as educational record of a three-day intensive workshop taught in New York City by Cicely Berry, the legendary vocal coach from Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company. A group of 20 top US and British actors, including Emily Watson, Blythe Danner, and Samuel L. Jackson, are the students who set out to discover, among many things, how vowels convey emotion and how sound and meaning are linked to feeling. It's great fun to watch these pros stumble and blush before the great teacher, but they also deliver wonderful insights into one of the greatest poets of the English language. Brush up on your Shakespeare, indeed! Grade: A
Given the sophistication of television and film today, it's hard to believe that a 40-year-old TV series could still tower above nearly anything produced in the past four decades. Yet the landmark 1966 series from the BBC, Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation," does just that. Finally released in the US (it came out in Britain in 2005), this four-DVD set is a thoroughly absorbing and often sobering look at the past 900 years of Western art and culture. Grade: A