BBC tells us that their recent production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part One was an “adaptation” of Shakespeare’s play. “Adaptation”: it’s a convenient get-out clause. It allows them to enjoy the prestige of “doing” Shakespeare, while at the same time not put off their potential audience with all that boring stuff with language and poetry and whatever. It’s the best of all worlds.
So, what does this adaptation entail? Lots of quick-cutting and fussy camera movements, for a start. Long speeches shortened to a few lines each, or even cut out entirely. Entire chunks of the play cut, the text butchered. Scenes spliced with each other to prevent the audience becoming bored with any single scene going on for too long. Shakespeare’s carefully considered pacing replaced with a staccato exposition of the plot in fragmented spurts. The intricacy of the various relationships between characters not allowed the time or the space even to establish themselves, let alone develop. And so on. Everything, in other words, that we now accept as integral aspects of modern film-making, and made for an audience supposedly more sophisticated than its predecessors had been.
But then again, all the reviews I have seen so far have been positive, so what do I know?