“Who in the lusty stealth of nature take
More composition and fierce quality”
Still, these final five videos feel a little bereft of inspiration for me, featuring as they do two excerpts from the same play (The Merchant of Venice) and two actresses currently starring in the same play (The Maids). One of those, Zawe Ashton, does give us one of the highlights of the entire series with a beautifully mournful take on Jacques’ Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It but it’s hard not to wish that some of the casting choices had been equally as inventive.
We do get Paterson Joseph’s Shylock, with murmurs of a production recasting him as an Ethiopian Jew, full of charismatic reasonableness. But Laura Carmichael’s quality of mercy as Portia doesn’t do anything too special despite being well spoken; likewise Damian Lewis’ “friends, Romans, countrymen” leaving me rather unstirred. It’s left to Riz Ahmed to spark up interest as a brusque Edmund from King Lear, a rare example of director Dan Susman truly pushing the envelope.