Friday, 30 November 2012

Limerick Pentameter

A prolific young playwright called Will
Gave Elizabethans their fill
Of murder and bloodshed
And conquest of maidenhead
By constantly dipping his quill!
(Come on! Be honest!)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Star Trek (The Next Generation) Meets Shakespeare!

Quote #031

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

Portia - 'The Merchant of Venice', Act IV Scene 1 

31 - The Merchant of Venice

Whoa! Racist much! By the end of the play Jessica has been made to covert to Christianity in order to marry Lorenzo and Shylock is also made to convert because of some amazing legal loopholes around the whole ‘you owe me a pound of flesh’ argument. Even putting aside the anti-Semitic bit there are other digs at other ‘non-white individuals’; including Portia practically doing cartwheels when she doesn’t have to marry the Prince of Morocco or others of his “complexion”

I have been reminded by a friend that I did in fact see the great Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock along with Joan Plowright as Portia in a National Theatre Production by Jonathan Miller. How could I have forgotten such a thing you may ask. Well, to be honest it was actually a TV adaptation of the production from back in the 70's which I would have seen on a scratchy video recording at school some ten years later. But those of us too young to have seen the great man perform on stage must be satisfied with these mere scraps.   

And Finally – Yet another birth of a game show! Surely the whole ‘which casket’ task is the forerunner of 80’s favourite ‘3-2-1!’ “Oh bad luck! I’m afraid you don’t win the hand of the rich heiress or the gondola or the Ronco Bloodless Flesh Extractor! Because you’ve picked Dustio Bin! Goodnight and see you next time on ‘Tre-Due-Uno!’”…  


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Quote #030

“When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools"
Lear - 'King Lear', Act IV, scene 6

30 - King Lear

Thank goodness I held back some of the big hitters for towards the end of this Bardy Marathon. I just love this play. It somehow puts me in mind of the current Fantasy Epic on the small screen - 'Game of Thrones'. The play is also the background to one of my favourite Shakespeare related movies - 'The Dresser'. There are so many films linked to, inspired by or simply adpted from the works of Shakespeare that I'm considering a partner blog on just that subject.

May I also recommend to theatre lovers that they check out 'Lear' by Edward Bond as an alternative version. I have that play to thank for getting me into drama school. On the trawl of auditions for schools I had for a while used Edmund's "Thou Nature art my Goddess" speech but moved on to Feste from 'Twelfth Night'. However, having at last secured my place at a school I then had to audition again for a local government grant! For that we needed three pieces so I performed Feste, a piece from 'The Conquest of the South Pole' and finally a piece from Bond's 'Lear' as Lear himself. Couldn't tell you how they exactly went down but I won the grant so it can't have been all bad.

My undying memory of the Bard's version of the play stems from reading it for English A-level. In class we read the text aloud and I took the part of Edgar in the ‘Mad Tom’ scene. I have never been the best sight-reader so unfortunately managed to mispronounce the line “Pillicock sat on Pillicock Hill” as “Pillock sat on Pillock Hill”. My friends howled with laughter and my tutor took a lot of convincing that I hadn’t done it on purpose!

And Finally - Nearly half of the named cast in the production die (and another says he’s off to top himself at the end) but only three deaths occur on stage. Some might cite the similarity to Greek Tragedy but I think Billy-boy was simply fed up of ham-actors taking so long to finish a death scene! (Oh! Don’t they go on?)…

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Some True Shakespeare Nasties

Legionella Shakespearei - A species of Legionelle, the pathogenic bacterium which can causes Legionnaires' disease
Goetheana Shakespearei - A species of minute parasitic wasps (here seen mugging a thirps nymph)
Porcus Shakespearei - A period specific species of the dreadful genus 'Thespiana Overacticus' (Lord save us all)


Friday, 9 November 2012

'King Lear' by Jean-Luc Godard

So let me get this straight. 

This is a film by Jean-Luc Godard loosely based around the story of King Lear which stars Woody Allen and Peter Sellers (not to mention 80's Hughes-heartthrob Molly Ringwald). And I've never even heard of it before now! 

How is this even possible? ("Anyone...? Anyone..?")

My guess is that unfortunately it's either really, really bad or really, really up its own Art House! Or both!


Thursday, 8 November 2012

Quote #029

"I charge thee, fling away ambition;
By that sin fell the angels."
Cardinal Wolsey - 'Henry VIII' Act III, Scene ii


29 - Henry VIII

My Gawd but this was hard work! True snores-ville! Never read the play before but of course everyone knows the story and in fact this is only a third of it (I'm thinking Billy-Boy missed a trick at another trilogy). 

I'm afraid I'm still on a 'Carry On' kick as a recently introduced my kids to 'Carry on Cleo' following my reading of Antony and Cleopatra. So I couldn't shake that other classic 'Carry on Henry' with Sid James as the titular King. Helping along the way were also Terry Scott as Cardinal Wolsey and Kenneth Williams as Cromwell, who had such a way with words himself -

"I'll read it to you. It's just a simple little confession. "In as much as I, Roger de Lodgerley, of Bedside Manor, Wilts, hereinafter referred to as the party of the first part, did unlawfully, with malice aforethought and without taking due precaution, on the night of October 4th last, admire, covet, blandish, cosset, seduce and otherwise get at Marie, spouse to Henry Tudor, hereinafter referred to as the party of the second part, I do now hereby solemnly declare, and in witness thereof I append my signature below, that the resulting issue, herein after referred to as the party of the third part, is the direct consequence of the joining together of the party of the first part's and the party of the second part's parts.""

We do get another of the Bard's trippy vision things - as we did back in Cymbeline. This time it's Queen Katherine who's been chasing the Tudor dragon and sees 'tripping' spirits with garlands of flowers in their hair. Very Hippy-Shakespeare-Shake!

Ready for a quick 'Bard Fact'? During a performance of 'Henry VIII' at the Globe Theatre in 1613, a cannon was fired as a special effect but consequently burnt the place to the ground. Now how's that for bringing the house down!

And Finally - In truth it's all about the begating of Good Queen Bess! Although I not sure a new born babe really wants to hear at her christening that she'll die a virgin. Better the spinning wheel prick and sleep for a hundred years option. At least then you're on a Princely promise in the long, long term...