Affectionate Profile of an Eighteenth Century Megastar
Filmed on location in and around the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Derek Jacobi presents a profile of the eighteenth century's greatest actor, showman and manager.
Born into modest surroundings in Lichfield, Garrick announced his debut in modest form; although playing Shakespeare, he did not put his name on the playbill. This was a clever strategy; if successful, he would increase public curiosity as to the identity of this mysterious performer; if he failed, he could crawl back into the depths of anonymity.
Luck was with him; his performance was well received; and Garrick was catapulted into the limelight. After a comparatively short time in the provinces, he made his way to Drury Lane, and by his early thirties had assumed the management of the entire theater. Never one to hide his light under a bushel, he shamelessly publicized his performances in a manner befitting a great star, and drew audiences to match.
In terms of acting-style Garrick introduced a much more naturalistic form. To modern playgoers his approach might seem too mannered and artificial - at least, according to theater experts - but at least he approached the characters he played as real people, not simply figures of fiction. Never one for textual fidelity, Garrick ruthlessly reshaped Shakespeare to his own tastes: KING LEAR was given a happy ending, while ROMEO AND JULIET had the star-crossed lovers galloping away into the Veronese sunset.
Perhaps Garrick's major contribution to the development of British theater lay in his understanding of the zeitgeist. When he died in his mid-sixties, he was still at the top of his profession, able to attract huge audiences to his repertoire. He not only carried on a venerable tradition established during Shakespeare's time, but paved the way for the great Victorians such as Macready and Kean.
Enthusiastically presented by Jacobi - who clearly relished talking about his subject - this was at once an informative yet highly personal profile.
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