If there was any greater mash up of two great mediums, I'm not sure that I could think it. I love Shakespeare's plays, particularly his histories. The Bard was a master at capturing the essence of humanity and distilling it into words. George Lucas' original trilogy of Star Wars films achieved similar feats to Shakespeare's works for the modern audience. So how could a Shakespearean version of the original trilogy not be something amazing? It is my great joy to proclaim from my digital soap box, that William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily a New Hope is a masterpiece, a smash, a blending of modern and past fiction on which the mind feasts on sheer geeky pleasure!
I first came across this book while killing time in my local Barnes & Noble some time last fall. I browsed its and was amused finding that Ian Doescher was very respectful in his treatment of both source materials, creating a near seamless blending of Shakespeare's language and technique along with the story for my favorite of the original trilogy A New Hope. I put the book down, thinking that I might purchase it eventually. Fast forward to the new year and an outstanding balance in my Itunes gift card, I searched and found that Doescher's work was converted to an audiobook. "Zounds" I cried and could not click purchase fast enough! What I found was a work of acting excellence with a small cast of actors who brought to life a book and doubled my enjoyment.
The performance of this audiobook, as befitting the blending of Shakespeare and Star Wars, is done by five people rather than one. The cast includes Daniel Davis, Johnathan Davis, Marc Thompson, Ian Doescher, and January LaVoy. All of the actors, with the exception of the author Ian Doescher, have previous experience in narrating other Star Wars audiobooks. I was particularly happy to see that Marc Thompson was part of the cast, as I enjoyed his work in the recording of Mercy Kill, a continuation of the Wraith Squadron series. Each of the actors adds a unique twist on each of the characters they read for, adding depth and feeling to words where there might not be otherwise. Honestly this is the only way to enjoy this mash up as plays are truly meant to be heard or watched.
So as one would expect, this follows the normal narrative of Star Wars: A New Hope, the twist coming with the addition of Shakespearean language and added prose to the telling. In this story alone I caught lines and soliloquies from Richard III, Henry V, and Hamlet. Furthermore, there seems to be a very Puckish bent to the development of R2D2's character. While around other characters he acts as he normally would ,speaking in nothing more than beeps and squeaks, R2 is granted asides where he might speak his mind and enlighten the audience to his true thoughts and his mischievous nature. Ian Doescher also included the stage directions, which add an extra layer of reality to the audiobook. Those who are familiar with the the theater or the works of Shakespeare, know that stage directions are an important part of any play. Having January LaVoy read them helps to set the stage setting in the mind of the listener, as the stage directions announce which characters are on stage and general positioning. The stage directions also help to move the story along and describe any actions that are not visible. The inclusion of sound effects and a "chorus" also helps to set scenes and fill in action events that would normally be seen by the audience on the stage. Upon my first listening, I found that I could see the film in my mind while hearing new audio. I do not, repeat do not, recommend trying to drive and listen to this audiobook at the same time. Sheer enjoyment and hilarity may lead to distraction and possible dangerous driving.
I am no wordsmith so I shall be brief, buy this audiobook and then go get the rest of them. If you are a fan of Star Wars or Shakespeare this piece of theater is for you! Worry not fair readers, for a review of the next chapter The Empire Striketh Back will soon follow with haste upon the heels of this article.
David is a local historian, techie, home brewer, stage hand, and geek. He loves Star Wars and Shakespeare with equal passions and is prone to quoting it at random!
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