Sunday, 5 February 2012

I heart I Claudius

I've just finished re-watching the BBC adaptation of I, Claudius (1976).  I've always been a sucker for Roman history.  I even stumbled through a Latin A-level.  Some of my fondest school memories are of Metella est in atrio, and Grumio est in culina and poor bloody Cerberus est always in via.  I use "fond" in the loosest sense you understand.

Whenever it was time for a "fun" lesson our Latin teacher would whack a creaky VHS of I, Claudius into the VCR.  Being a teacher now I can appreciate the inward sigh of relief about a "fun" lesson spent watching something vaguely relevant.

They're all a ghastly bunch of course.  The Romans I mean.  The Julio-Claudian family were poisoning each other left right and centre.  That's probably because they were all hugely inbred, what with the marrying first and second cousins and nieces and all that.

But the BBC do it well.  No special effects, no snazzy edits.  Just good solid British drama and the cliche of wobbly sets (this actually happens).  Some of the microphones aren't properly set up either so you can't hear some of the lines.  All the high class Roman families and senators speak with perfect RP.  They all get terribly shocked by the scandals going on around the Palatine.  We get treated to an array of acting heavyweights too: Derek Jacobi, Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, George Baker, John Hurt and Patrick Stewart.  Patrick Stewart!  He's the 'got ideas above his station' Praetorian guard, Sejanus.  Still speaks impeccably though.  Perhaps the chief of the guard was an Equestrian?  One of my favourite parts has to be John Hurt prancing around in make-up and women's underwear as Caligula in his 'I'm totally mad, me' phase.

Of course, all the rest of the army - the grunts and shafters - speak with regional accents.  From wherever you like.  As do all the workers.  Love it.

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