A review of the Podcast “Chop Bard”

I have loved Shakespeare primarily since I looked in depth at “King Lear” and “Anthony and Cleopatra” for my A-Levels under the tutelage of the fantastically named and fantastically gifted “Ms Powers.”

Reading critical commentaries, seeing performances, and grappling with the texts hooked me on Shakespeare’s vivid explorations of the human experience.

Going on to study Shakespeare as part of my English Literature Degree, I was again blessed with gifted tutors, and my reading of the plays, critics and commentators, and knowledge and experience of productions increased.  Amongst other things I thrilled to the dark psychology and politics of Coriolanus, empathised with Hamlet’s tortured over-thinking, and thrilled to the young King Harry finding his Royal identity as warrior King.  I was introduced to the BBC Shakespeare canon of the 1970’s and 1980’s and found them, and still do, wonderful.  As a leaving present for a past job I was presented with a dvd box-set of these productions in their entirety.  I have never been more thrilled with such a gift in my life.

How wonderful then, 20 years after my studies, to come across this podcast.  It is fantastic.  It’s hosted by Ehren Ziegler, a Graphic Artist in New York who has a theatre background.  Taking a Shakespeare play, it will then over a course of weeks, and here I can do no worse than quote the website, “passionately pick apart the plays of William Shakespeare, scene by scene, line by line, in search of entertainment and understanding.” Mr Ziegler is a passionate and insightful commentator, his knowledge and learning on the plays is formidable, and judging from his reading of the lines, he is no slouch as an actor.  He draws from a range of sources, on the literary history of the texts including the ‘folio’ vs. ‘quarto’ controversies, literary and dramatic criticism, various productions on theatre and screen, and more. His unpacking of the relevance and dramatic power of the works on the human psyche, what it means to be human,  the impact of our choices and actions on each other, and our capacity for great good and good evil, in an an accessible and clear way, is second to none.  Now with me he is pushing at an open door admittedly.  I am not one who has ever, as an adult, struggled with Shakespeare.  But I can see how this podcast will engender that love of Shakespeare that was kindled in me for others who see barriers to the plays in such things as their historicity and language.  And the fact they may have been put off by bad teaching at school (or teaching that did not work for them).

For a full list of the plays the podcast has covered see the website.  Currently we’re into “The Winter’s Tale,” having just taken on “King Lear.”

The podcast draws on the talents of other actors to help expound the scenes sometimes.

So far my podcast of the year .  Brilliant.

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