Pass the Popcorn (AO5 at KS5)

You think this looks mad NOW? Wait until it’s finished …

Welcome to my next stupidly ambitious project …

Students and some others amongst you will know that in the second Shakespeare question for the OCR A Level exam, AO5 ‘explore literary texts informed by different interpretations‘ is worth a whopping 50%.

This seems unnecessarily daunting to many of my lot.  It’s no more difficult than exploring the WHAT and WHY of other points of view.  No-one ought to be surprised that I enjoy adopting a Marxist and/or Feminist critical position in my essays, and I encourage this, not least because for other texts that they are tested on (I’m thinking of Tennyson‘s ‘Maud‘ in particular, this is pretty much all they’ve got to work with).

But … for Richard III we have the luxury of comparing four gloriously different film versions of the text:

1955 (dir.  Laurence Olivier, 161 minutes) – the polite soubriquet we give this one is ‘the Lord Farquaad version.  I’d probably be sued for publishing what we usually call it;


1983 (dir. Jane Howell, 239 minutes) – I tend to describe this as the ‘cultural artefact‘, as traditional as a Sunday roast, and whilst equally adventurous, it was the first film version I saw; I have a soft spot for Ron Cooke‘s mischievous imp of a Richard;


1991 (dir. Richard Loncraine, 110 minutes) – for obvious reasons, we call this ‘the Hitler one‘.  Certain female students have been known to call it ‘the Robert Downey jr one‘, all misty-eyed.  You know who you are.  Sigh.  He dies.  Accept it, and move on, ladies.


2016 (dir. Dominic Cooke, 129 minutes) – variously ‘the Hollow Crown one‘; ‘the Cumberbatch one‘; ‘the Game of Thrones one‘; the ‘“I don’t like Shakespeare, but …” one’; and ‘the dumbed-down one‘.

– – –

So, to the plan … or is it the plot that I have laid?

Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to re-watch these, in order, and mind-map the shit out of them – the WHAT and WHY I referred to earlier.  Mostly because I absolutely adore massive, complex mindmaps, but also because at A3 it might prove a useful resource. Lastly, I’ll be writing some kind of comparative piece here.

According to IMDb, that’s 639 minutes of Richard III, nearly 11 hours …

NOW is the winter of our discontent turned glorious summer!  :o)

Wish me luck!

* STUDENTS!  It’s an interesting fact that Howell’s version is as long as Loncraine’s PLUS Cooke’s …

Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

5 thoughts on “Pass the Popcorn (AO5 at KS5)”

  1. It’s Cook not Cooke… and he’s a mighty fine if often overlooked actor. As I have seen all four versions (being somewhat obsessed with the play which I shall be seeing yet another production off this summer) I shall be watching this space with interest.


      1. We’re going to our local theatre, the Derngate, and will be taking our own cushions (because despite the theatre being massively refurbished fairly recently, they seem to have omitted the upholstery – a 4-hour Lear there left me barely able to stand up at the end!


      2. Ah, yes, I think I told you that I used to live down that way, and I’ve been to the Derngate in the dim and distant past. Seem to remember that it was for Return To The Forbidden Planet, so still a Shakespeare connection!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Indeed. It’s a very good theatre and does a lot of productions of its own these days, but the seating leaves a lot to be desired.


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