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Ian McKellen: Acting Shakespeare - documentary DVD / dramatic monologues DVD / stage plays DVD / theatre DVD / arthouse and international DVD review
IAN MCKELLEN: ACTING SHAKESPEARE Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating: 5 stars
Featuring: Ian McKellen
Director: Kirk Browning   Distributor: E1 Entertainment
DVD release: 12 January 2010   Runtime: 90 min. (1 disc)
Format: Color, DVD, NTSC
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.33:1, Audio tracks (English - Mono)

Though perhaps best-known now for his roles in prominent Hollywood blockbusters such as the X-Men and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, Ian McKellen has long been regarded as one of the world's leading Shakespearean actors. Acting Shakespeare is an often remarkable one-man show in which the actor intercedes performances of some of the Bard's best known soliloquies with personal observations of his history with the plays, plus informative personal insight into what Shakespeare's words mean to him.

During the entire 86-minute performance, McKellen is alone on the stage. His monologues are striking in their depth and power, most notably his devastating delivery of Macbeth's famous "sound and fury" monologue. Before delivering the monologue in full, McKellen masterfully breaks down each word of the monologue, conveying what each part means both to Shakespeare and to himself. It is remarkable how deep down McKellen goes into his psyche and what he seems to dredge up, thus giving his performance of one of the most despairing passages in literature an almost frightening power.

The performance is not all utterly serious, however. Many parts of the DVD are quite funny and charming, as McKellen intercedes humorous incidents that occurred to him on stage (such as when he was mistakenly given a blank page during a performance of "Henry V" and had to "wing it") with monologues from some of Shakespeare's comedies, such as "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

This DVD is highly recommended for fans and scholars of Shakespeare. It might also provide a valuable learning tool in high school and college classrooms. As McKellen masterfully performs passages from many of the Bard's masterworks (ranging from "Richard III" to "Hamlet" to "Romeo and Juliet," just to name a few), he not only displays his own acting genius but, more importantly, offers new appreciation and insight into some of Shakespeare's masterpieces.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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