Mark McKinney doth protest too much

Former Kids in the Hall member learns Shakespeare from Robin Phillips

Robin And Mark And Richard III (Susan Coyne and Martha Burns). 58 minutes. Opens Friday (April 15). See Listing. Rating: NNN

Ever wonder what it’s like to learn how to perform Shakespeare? 

So did Mark McKinney, of Kids In The Hall and Slings & Arrows fame. So he approached one of the Bard’s best interpreters, actor/director Robin Phillips, and went through a couple of key scenes from Richard III.

The result is equal parts interview, scene study class and in-memoriam tribute to Phillips, who died last July. 

Phillips is calm and helpful as he leads McKinney through his first awkward attempts at Richard’s opening monologue. The director is especially insightful about a scene’s architecture and rhythm, and McKinney, and later Christine Horne – who joins them for another scene – are eager students. (Horne is much more used to speaking the language.)

These scenes are entertaining enough, but the film lacks an arc. McKinney doesn’t want to star in a production or even audition for a role.

Interviews with acting veterans like Maggie Smith, Martha Henry and Brent Carver help put Phillips’s achievements in context, and they also reveal that he could be temperamental.

Co-directors Susan Coyne and Martha Burns both acted under Phillips in his Stratford Young Company, so this is mostly a love letter to a talented artist, complete with a dozen or so touching goodbyes during the film’s closing credits. 

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