First I'd like to talk about Rhys Ifans. This Welshman has been skirting the edge of the A-List since 1991, working non-stop in an amazing variety of roles. You may recognize him from a few I selected out of 82 roles:
  • Steadfast Dobbin in "Vanity Fair."
  • Goofy idler in "Danny Deckchair."
  • Flatmate from Hell in "Notting Hill."
  • Evil conniver in "Nanny McFee Returns."
  • Narrator in "Exit Through the Gift Shop."
That being said, now we can talk about "Anonymous" in which he plays Edward De Vere, the Earl of Oxford, whose name you may not instantly recognize, but who has long been rumored to be the "real" writer behind William Shakespeare and his singular career. Of course this is the age of deconstruction, so we watch while writer John Orloff ("A Mighty Heart") systematically dismantles English History, along with the reputations of Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, the Earl of Essex and the Earl of Oxford.

This big budget extravaganza made me squirm because along with a terrific cast from the U.K., it boasts infidelity, incest, plagiarism, impiety and profoundly re-writes history. Of course I would have wasted 35 years worth of tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival if I didn't recognize the delicious scraps they tossed our way. We see links to Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, and Richard III through either situations or dialog. We think, "Aha! Hamlet! That drapery will be called an arras and Pelonious gets stabbed there!" or "A hunchback? Of course, Richard III!" Snippets from well-loved plays are done with great relish and I liked seeing three men play the witches in Macbeth. At least that rang true...

Of course there's plenty of humor, Shakespeare is depicted as a country bumpkin who can read but not write. Because he is an actor, he hams up his curtain calls and starts to suffer from delusions of adequacy. There are so many reasons this plot doesn't hold water, I won't bore you with any more of it. Suffice it to say, palace intrigue isn't for the faint of heart and there were some mighty tough courtiers in those days!

This DID whet my appetite; now I can hardly wait for Henry V in Ashland, Oregon next year; I already have my ticket!

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Here is a link to the preview:
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