Tag Archives: Shakespeare

The Bard and The Doctor: British Institutions Re-imagined at the Brighton Fringe

England’s largest fringe festival takes over the city of Brighton during the month of May. The Brighton Fringe brings the great, the good, and the ‘that-could-do-with-a-bit-more-rehearsing’ of the arts to the seaside city. Of the 740 events, my partner and I went to see two: I need a Doctor: The Whosical and Shit-faced Shakespeare.I Need a Doctor

The Whosical runs through the story of two Whovians and their need to dodge cease and desist letters from the litigious Stephen Moffat using a questionable principle of “different, but the same”. K-9 became K-10; Daleks became Exterminators; and the Cybermen are cunningly disguised as the Cyber-Gents (who tap dance!). Different, but the same. With just two of them playing all the characters; sometimes more than one at the same time. It’s a wonderfully warm and endearing tale, peppered with songs, which only adds to a story that is best described as cute. I laughed so hard that I was close to rolling in the aisles. Here’s a taster:

ShitShit-faced Shakespeare: a team of classically trained actors stumble through an abridged version of Much Ado About Nothing, whilst one of them is, well…. shit-faced. Shit-faced, for those of a non-UK background, means bladdered. That’s just as confusing, Gazebo’d? Tanked? Hammered? Legless? Smashed? Three sheets to the wind? Really drunk basically. This thoroughly enjoyable story is made all the better as the other (non-tipsy) actors attempt not to corpse in the face of alcohol-inspired anarchy.

The compere, wearing what can only be described as Dorothy’s Ruby Red Chucks (something I must own!) a morning suit jacket and braces, is in charge of the plastered actor, directing them back to the stage when they wander into the audience in search of a lighter, a cigarette, their boyfriend, a friend, a seat to rest or just a chat. My favourite bit was when she stopped the show to tell another actor they were hamming it up too much and should have another go.

Here’s footage of them on a different night:

Both performances highlight the fantastic variety of great performers in the UK and the unique twists that have been applied to iconic British institutions. If you ever want to go on a journey in a Police Box (different, but the same) or see an actor actually go rogue with Shakespearean material then these are definitely two shows to check out. Both will be appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, the largest fringe festival in the world.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was ‘Forced’ to Read

The Broke and the Bookish have come up with another thrilling topic for us book bloggers to conjure with. So the verb is a little strong (‘made’ would suffice), but you get the gist: this is a list of books that I had little option but to read, most of which I’m glad I did. Click on any picture to open the gallery.

What were you made to read?

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Bands That Like Books as Much as You Do

See an updated version of this here.

In a bookshop in Bath a band has come together to write songs based on the books of visiting authors. Watch a video here. This inspired me to think about the relationship between music and literature. From Jerusalem to Wuthering Heights, the words of great writers have been put to music (albeit rather painfully in the latter example). Here are some other literary links:

The band Modest Mouse takes their name from a Virginia Woolf short story The Mark on the Wall.

modest_mouse

‘I wish I could hit upon a pleasant track of thought, a track indirectly reflecting credit upon myself, for those are the pleasantest thoughts, and very frequent even in the minds of modest mouse-coloured people, who believe genuinely that they dislike to hear their own praises.’

Belle and Sebastian are named after Belle et Sébastien by Cécile Aubry, a classic French children’s novel.

Belle

Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello named themselves after Nikolai Gogol, the Ukrainian born Russian realist. They said that they admire the way he brought Ukrainian culture into Russia and aim to bring their brand of music to the West in the same way.

Gogol bordello

Both David Bowie and Radiohead have based songs on George Orwell’s 1984. Radiohead have also based songs on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Ion Square by Bloc Party uses part of an E. E. Cummings poem as its chorus. They also took inspiration from Bret Easton Ellis‘ Less Than Zero for Song for Clay.

Here’s John Cale‘s Hedda Gabler, inspired by the Ibsen play.

There are many Nabakov references in Lana Del Rey‘s album Born to Die. Consider Off to the Races:  ‘Light of life, fire of my loins…’

Soma by The Strokes is about the population-controlling drug from Aldous Huxley‘s Brave New World.

Watch Leonard Nimoy sing The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, inspired by J. R. R. Tolkein‘s The Hobbit. It’s a treat.

Some bands are created just as homage to literature, for example Harry and the Potters are solely committed to J. K. Rowling‘s magical back catalogue.

What are your favourite songs inspired by literature? Leave me a comment!

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The Shakespeare Interpretations I’d Like to See

Happy Shakespeare’s birthday everyone!

I have been to see two productions of Romeo and Juliet in my time. The first was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s interpretation, romeo-and-juliettransposing this great love story to Fascist Italy. It was a moving production in black, grey, white and fierce red, with prison-like sets and breath-taking performances. The second was in a park of a summer’s evening, by a less-renowned organisation, which consisted of about four people trying to play all the parts. Much of the dialogue was shouted from behind curtains as actors frantically transformed from Tybalt to Lady Capulet. One of these productions moved me to tears, at the other, I had to work very hard not to laugh during the tomb scene. My point is, it’s not just the bard’s words that matter, but the whole production. Here are some I’d buy a front row seat in the circle for. 

Julius Caesar as played by the coalition government: ‘Et tu, Clegg?’

A gender reversed production of The Taming of the Shrew, wherein women would conspire to train men like ‘falcon(s)’ and say such questionable things as  ‘[I] am born to tame you’, and ‘Thy [wife] is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign’ while forcing their menfolk not to eat or sleep for several days. Let’s see how it looks when the silken Elizabethan shoe is on the other foot. 

midsummer-nights-dream-shakes-puckA Midsummer Night’s Dream should become A Midsomer Night’s Dream, set in the fictional, picturesque murder capital of England. It makes Puck lurking in the bushes just that little bit more sinister. Just imagine this on ITV1 of a Tuesday:

‘Thus I die. Thus, thus, thus.
Now I am dead,
Now I am fled,
My soul is in the sky.
Tongue, lose thy light.
Moon take thy flight.
Now die, die, die, die.’

A band of people in a remote location who must complete tasks to rejoin civilisation? It’s either The Tempest or ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. I propose adding Ant and/or Dec to the former or Sir Ian McKellen to the latter, I don’t mind which. ‘Hell is empty and all the devils are here,’ again, really could apply to either.  

One more: Hamlet in Space. Think about it. 

Have you seen any memorable Shakespeare plays? What version would you like to see? Tell me in the comments! 

As Shakespeare said, please like and share this post – thanks! 

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Snow in Literature

I’m with Shelley: ‘I love, snow and all the forms of the radiant frost.’ It is a wonderful symbolic tool in literature. Snow transforms a familiar landscape; it can become a magical wonderland or a bleak and forbidding country. It can cause the world to slow and a certain muffled silence to fall. I’ve collated some of my favourite uses of snow in literature.

Often snow is used to symbolise cleansing. It is a blanket that obscures all, which can either be a new, clean beginning, orSnow Country a blanket obscuring a truth. Throughout Nobel Laureate, Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country, snow is used as a metaphor for the purity the protagonist seeks: ‘The thought of the white linen, spread out on the deep snow, the cloth and the snow glowing scarlet in the rising sun, was enough to make him feel that the dirt of the summer had been washed away, even that he himself had been bleached clean.’ Its use is often similar to the colour white, which is often used to denote purity, light and innocence. See Shakespeare’s use in Cymbeline, for instance, ‘I thought her as chaste as unsunned snow.’ Unsurprisingly, snow is also a theme in The Winter’s Tale, ‘as white as driven snow’.

Ethan FromeSnow and winter are often used to represent sadness, bleakness or death. In Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, the characters are having a rather sad time of it; the weather is used to represent and reinforce this. The character, Zeena, sits out in the cold: ‘the pale light reflected from the banks of snow,’ which makes ‘her face look more than usually drawn and bloodless.’ The lexical field of wintry weather is used figuratively throughout to maintain this sense of bare desolation. This is a description of the kitchen: ‘the deadly chill of a vault after the dry cold of the night.’

Consider the use of snow in James Joyce’s The Dead: ‘His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their latter end, upon all the living and the dead.’ Critics have claimed variously that the use of snow here represents death and desolation and the opportunity for renewal and another chance. For me, it symbolises a sort of togetherness and universalism; the snow falls equally on all.

Our association of snow and Christmas is widely thought to be the fault of Charles Dickens. He employs it in simile here to express just how cold-hearted Scrooge is in A Christmas Carol.

The-Muppet-Christmas-Carol

‘No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely and Scrooge never did.’ The associations of a white Christmas have become idealised from a Dickensian model.

A Child's Christmas in WalesA Child’s Christmas in Wales is another example of snow used to evoke nostalgia about festive seasons past. Dylan Thomas wrote, ‘All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea…It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas.’

Snow is also used excellently in Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials where armoured polar bears rule Svalbard. In C. golden-compass-bearS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, of course, it is always winter and never Christmas. The melting of snow shows that a brighter future is near. Also, I must mention Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman
which says a great deal about friendship, joy and the transience of life.

I hope you’re all staying warm and safe. If you can think of any other snowy examples, I would love to hear them!

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All I Want for Christmas is…The Best Literary-themed Gifts!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The perfect time for giving and receiving reading and writing paraphernalia. Hopefully, you’ll all be buying my proofreading and editing Christmas Vouchers here for the talented writer in your life, but in case there’s still some room in your stockings, here’s my suggested list for Santa.

Brilliant  falling bookend, creating that wonderful sense of trepidation before you’ve even picked up a new thriller.

bookend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Capture the Castle tea towel. Reminding us that sometimes lovelier things than scrubbing broccoli molecules out of a sieve can take place in a kitchen sink.

i-capture-the-castle-teatowel-3368-p[ekm]249x249[ekm]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hairpins– because everything about you should scream well-read. Even your hairdo. hairpins2__55935.1308856435.420.420

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puns and Shakespeare- these are a few of my favourite things (sung with glee like Julie Andrews). The bard himself would definitely have been proud to wear this if t-shirts had been invented instead of the blouses and bloomers they wore back then. To buy or not to buy- that is the question.

william_shakespeare_will_power_womens_dark_tshir

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, something seasonal, but not saccharine: a cool but creepy print, inspired by Charles Dickens’ ghost of Christmas yet to come. I could very easily have written a whole post on pictures from Society 6, but I have to restrict the time I spend on that website- it’s a maze of glory that I don’t have the wall space to accommodate.

A christmas carol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writers, just for a change, bring your stories to life in a different way. Sometimes it’s nice to see something physically – visually – expressed; it’s all great story-telling! Also, Christmas is all about quality animation- The Snowman is a personal highlight. That + Labyrinth= Bowie’s greatest moments. I’m willing to try anything that kids look that happy doing! Four thumbs up! animate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gift that keeps on giving- a Persephone Books subscription! Who doesn’t love getting post that isn’t bills or circulars? Quality literature through the post every month- what could be better?

book-a-month

 

 

 

 

Alternatively, *awkward plug warning* you could by my cheap and cheery ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. It’s got pictures and everything!

The Brilliant Women Collection

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Secrets and Lies

Intrigue is the root of so much great storytelling. I think the trick to writing it well is to give enough clues for the reader to have a few guesses at what secret is held by the mysterious aristocrat/creepy housekeeper/any character who gives cryptic answers to simple questions while gazing with a troubled frown into the middle distance. Yet don’t let your audience get too close to the truth- perhaps pop in a few red herrings; a surprise ending is always a treat! Or, it can be great fun to drum up a bit of dramatic irony- let your audience  in on the secret and let the anticipation for the fall out build!

I recently read the absolutely brilliant Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Bradden. The eponymous protagonist lacks a credible back story, refuses to see certain guests and giggles awkwardly before becoming deathly pale far too often to be innocent. The reader is brilliantly fooled along with the characters up until the final dénouement: more twists than a curly-wurly on a helter skelter.

Many of the best secrets are hidden in attics (see Dorian Gray) but Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester hides a whole wife up there. It is an undeniable classic by Charlotte Brontë; secrecy and foreboding are cleverly maintained throughout.

Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations has a greatly unexpected reveal- who’s funding Pip? Probably one of the eccentric wealthy people in the novel…or perhaps not!

In The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Misselthwaite Manor is host to many secrets behind locked doors, in addition to the magical garden. Even a child, Colin, is hidden away. It is a master class in that timeless literary technique of implying something’s wrong with the use of shifty servants.

A complex web of secrets is found in Daniel Deronda by George Eliot. The biggest secret is who the title character really is. Is he the illegitimate son of the chap that he suspects is his father? Moreover, everyone else is hiding something: affairs, secret children, the fact that they’ve found out someone else’s secret but aren’t willing to tell them. The whole thing becomes an ‘I know something you don’t know’ to the power of ‘I know something you think I don’t know but actually, I do’.

Also, the device is used in practically every Shakespeare play:

Romeo and Juliet: ‘I just met you, and this is crazy, but how about we get married and keep it a secret from our families?’

Hamlet: ‘I killed your father to marry your mother.’ and, ‘I’m not actually mad. Or am I?’

Julius Caesar: ‘We’re going to kill the chap in charge, and yep, Brutus is coming too.’

Merchant of Venice: ‘I’m a woman dressed as a man.’

Twelfth Night: ‘I’m a woman dressed as a man.’

The Merry Wives of Windsor: ‘I’m a man dressed as a woman.’ (Just for a touch of variety…)

What do you think of my list? Do any other brilliant fictional secrets spring to mind? Please share in the comments!

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