With theaters closed, it’s time to dive into the big movie adaptations


My favorite Shakespeare film adaptation is also from the 90s: Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night starring Imogen Stubbs as Viola, Ben Kingsley as Feste and Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia, is such a delicately balanced, bittersweet, and poignant portrayal of Shakespearean comedy as you might hope to see.

Since then, Australians have appropriated the on-screen bard – from Baz Luhrmann’s lavish blockbuster, Romeo + Juliet, to more independent dishes, including a gangland Macbeth by Geoffrey Wright in 2006, and the gritty last year Measure for Measure starring Hugo Weaving, with Shakespeare’s problematic play transported to an impoverished Melbourne housing estate.

Rarely does a good theatrical performance survive intact onscreen, but exceptions often become film classics. from Albee Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? received his definitive vision of marriage as a monster in Mike Nichols’ film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Tennessee Williams ‘movie’ A tram named Désir starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh have redefined acting for a generation.

And if you’ve killed them, the lesser-known delicacies of American theatrical canon abound. Worth looking early Glass factory with the great Katharine Hepburn as Amanda Wingfield.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Credit:AP / File

Perhaps the playwright who translates most faithfully to the screen – aptly enough, in these absurd times – is Samuel Beckett. If you can’t keep up with one of his full-length apocalyptic tragicomedies, you can try the BBC’s recording of Not me, portrayed by Irish actress Lisa Dwan.

The play is a short, rambling monologue delivered by the mouth alone, the actor blindfolded and virtually crucified behind a screen, with the whole theater plunged into total darkness.

It is such a demanding role that it has rarely been played. And while the recording doesn’t wow you in the same way as the live event (which creates an experience of sensory deprivation so intense that audiences start to hallucinate), the cadence is perfect, the motormouth performance masterful and the histrionic achievement so great that it will whet your appetite for the day when our theaters can – finally – reopen.


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