buffy british summer

In the fell clutch of circumstance...I am not very bloody but actually quite bowed.

Ugh. I am so utterly depressed by every single thing at the moment. I am currently swearing off Twitter and the actual news because everything about this fucking referendum has got me so angry and sad and helpless that I can hardly breathe from it, which is both a massive overreaction and extremely unproductive. So, no more news, at least until next week. And maybe the week after that! Instead, I have come to vomit my feelings all over LJ (ah, old times!) and am reading instead Alain de Botton's The News, in an attempt to gain some perspective!

I am also quite stressed because payroll spent two months underpaying me, then massively overpaid me, then finally figured it out, but despite my - well, not best, but fairly well-intentioned! - efforts, I am very poor this month, which is mostly OK and I can not spend money (just about), but still. Also work is very stressful, not least because work is now very stressful and I'm not getting paid any more than when the only stress was that my manager was crazypants. So, attempts at professionalism aside, that rather makes me feel that I am very literally not getting paid enough for this shit. But now is not the time for new jobs. (I mean, I'm looking, don't get me wrong. And wondering if it's finally time to get out of the NHS?) Sadly I looked at how much I would earn if I got a slightly more junior job in the NHS, and I'm not sure I can take that sort of pay cut at this point! Heigh ho. One must stumble onwards. At least I am fortunate enough that my field of employment won't be directly impacted by the EU situation (though who knows in the long term).

Anyway, I need to stop focusing on the things that are making me crazy. So far this year, I have been to both St Petersburg and NYC, and they were both such great holidays, I had an amazing time! They were two places I've wanted to go for my whole adult life (and longer), so it was great to finally go. (I mean, the non-materialising pay rise means I now owe my mother a small fortune, but details, details!) And in August I'm going to loll around in France for a bit, so that will be nice - looking forward to it already! Also, I have seen lots of ballet, and am off to Sadler's Wells tonight to see Natalia Osipova's new programme. AND the RB's doing MacMillan's Anastasia (Anastasia!!!) in the autumn and our Nellie's taking me to see it as a present, so I am super looking forward to that! Ditto the Australian Ballet's Swan Lake and Cinderella next month!

I have continued with my Russian classes, which have been brilliant fun (and I have actually learnt some Russian) - tomorrow is the last class of term, so I will have done two whole years! Sadly this year I have not been quite as good a student as I was last year - I missed quite a lot of classes, and haven't been particularly diligent about doing work between class, but heigh ho. I've still mostly kept up, so. I would like to do it next year but a) it's quite expensive and b) the class times will change and be a bit annoying. I don't know, we'll see.

We went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which was jolly good fun - it was funny, it's not really a straight play, but I'm not sure it's quite a show either - or maybe it is? I don't know. But I enjoyed it, even its ridiculousness, plus JAMIE PARKER and you know how I feel about that. What else have I seen? (checks calendar) SUNSET BOULEVARD! That was great! I saw the RB's The Winter's Tale again about fifty times and still love it. Saw Kenneth Branagh's The Winter's Tale and loved that; ditto Harlequinade; not so fussed about the Romeo and Juliet. Loved Wayne McGregor's new thing for the RB (Obsidian Tear?). Loved Les Blancs at the NT; also enjoyed Threepenny Opera (love Rory, always).

Final bits of news: cut off most of my hair. Grandma has accepted an offer on her beautiful house and is eyeing a hilariously enormous bungalow in Derby as a replacement. My parents are still resident in Qatar; my father retires soon and they are currently planning to retire to Thailand. I have read very little fiction of late. Actually, I have read very little anything of late, mostly just fic. TBH my brain is probably crumbling. NEVER MIND THERE IS STILL BLUE SKY OCCASIONALLY AND ALSO ICE CREAM AND BEAUTIFUL THINGS.
p+p lydia

-Hast thou affections? -Yes, gracious madam. -Indeed! -Not in deed, madam.

[I actually wrote this post ages ago and never did anything with it! Also, I am now very far behind.]

Oh, chums. So much theatre, so little time. Qu’est-ce qui se passe, I hear you ask yourselves, dans la vie de la Squeen? Eh bien, I shall tell all.

Charles III – Almeida; May 2014

Terrible confession to make: I was tired like a zombie and ended up leaving at the interval because I couldn’t concentrate on this at all. I’m sure it was terribly good; I did notice interesting use of language.

The Winter’s Tale – ROH; May 2014

I obsessed and obsessed and was rewarded by the opportunity to spend a hilarious amount of money on a ticket to see this again. Fun fact: seats in the stalls circle are great. I continue to love this; the third act wasn’t as weak as I remembered, though I still think the question of Perdita’s identity was resolved too easily and I found Paulina’s role difficult to entirely figure out.

A View from the Bridge – Young Vic; May 2014

This was an amazingly good production. They maintained so much tension throughout the entire play that I almost died (that is barely an exaggeration). I did actually do it at school about a million years ago, but couldn’t really remember much about it. The design was very minimal, basically just a shower and then, later, a deluge of blood, but it needed nothing more. I loved one scene in particular, where Eddy and his wife and Catherine and the brothers were sitting around, having a superficially innocuous conversation and the tension was unbearable!

Privacy – Donmar Warehouse; May 2014

This was a very inventive, interesting play (from the same playwright as what brought us This House) about internet privacy and Edward Snowden and the uses of meta-data etc. Semi-interactive, great use of screens and the internet, loved the comedy retelling and misinterpreting of Romeo and Juliet via meta-data. I did feel it tailed off a bit at the end, to be honest, which was a shame.

Romeo & Juliet – Sadler’s Wells; May 2014

This was… interesting. It was the Scottish National Ballet, who decided to do a production of R&J set in the early c20th, which is fine. They did good things with the music – a bit of sax amongst the Prokofiev, using trolley bells etc. I really liked that, it was very effective. Sadly, the choreography really didn’t fit the music at all – it was a bit weird. Lady Capulet was kind of crazy. Romeo and Juliet – particularly Romeo – were a bit meh, so I didn’t really give a shit about them. On the other hand, Mercutio and Tybalt were GREAT. Basically, the ballet should have been about them. I feel that’s quite often the case.

Titus Andronicus – Globe; May 2014

Ah, the famous swooning production. And people did swoon. It was very distracting, and other audience members kept using it as an excuse to have a chat. But I loved this, it was great. Ridiculous amounts of drama and gore. Titus was mental. Tamora was great (and also a bit mental). Possibly best of all was Ralph (?) from Knight of the Burning Pestle as the brilliantly barking emperor. This was rather a visceral production – Lavinia’s fate was enough to turn anyone’s stomach; what happened to her was dreadful – but I loved how she completely got on board the Andronici’s revenge boat. The satisfaction of the ending was great.

Serenade | Sweet Violets | DGV – ROH; May 2014

Serenade: to be honest, the one thing’s that remained with me about this was the excellent hairography. I did enjoy it at the time. Sweet Violets: I really wanted to like this, and I did like parts, but I don’t think it really worked as a whole. The narrative was in parts too complex. Whilst I enjoyed Steven McRae leaping around as the spirit of Jack the Ripper, I’m not convinced that that theme really worked. The whole thing left me a bit underwhelmed to be honest. DGV – loved this like pie. The set, the music, the choreography all worked so well together. I can’t work out, though, whether Watson and Osipova just keep dancing things where they’re supposed to look like they’re fighting or they just don’t quite trust each other or what.

The Dream | Connectome | The Concert – ROH; June 2014

Dream: so, on the whole I did really enjoy this. Puck was brilliant – the choreography was great and I think it was performed really well. I also loved Helena’s role, that was funny (though I always feel latent guilt at deriving comedy value from a woman desperately chasing after a man). I did feel it was quite a dated production, though. I mean, it was nice, and one can appreciate the classics, but I don’t think it would hurt to modernise the design a little. Connectome: I really, really enjoyed this. The set was amazing, I liked the choice of music, and I just really enjoyed the ballet as a whole (though that middle section where McRae was like Jesus was a bit weird and I struggled to fit it into the rest of the piece, and I stand by my comment re Watson/Osipova). I hope they put it on again. The Concert – this was so beautifully enjoyable! Really, really funny. I adored the Mistake Waltz, and the guy who kept abandoning his wife to chase after Sarah Lamb’s character, and all the faffing with chairs at the beginning and the ridiculous flights of fantasy! Tip top.

The Last Days of Troy – Globe; June 2014

So, this was a retelling of the siege of Troy based on the Iliad and a bit of the Aeneid, and it really fell a bit flat for me. There was very little dramatic tension (and while it is tempting to attribute this to already knowing the story, that clearly has nothing to do with it) – it was just, in the words of Rudge, one fucking thing after another. The acting was bizarrely amateurish in places, very unlike the Globe’s usual standard, and whilst I enjoyed parts of the text, it generally didn’t do much for me.

Fathers and Sons – Donmar Warehouse; July 2014

I enjoyed this very much, largely for Arkady, played by Ferdinand from last year’s Tempest. He’s a young would-be firebrand and revolutionary who’s just finished university and come home, but he’s really too conventional to be a revolutionary, unlike his friend. One of those plays where not much happens, per se, it’s a character play of people working out what’s important to them. Points also to Tim McMullen’s Uncle Paul, unlucky in love and war, but really rather appealing nonetheless.

Tryst: Devotion and Betrayal – Peacock Theatre; July 2014

You know what, some of these pieces didn’t quite work, and some of the dancing was a bit less than great, but I enjoyed this whole programme. The first piece was a pretty standard pas-de-quatre with two couples and I suspect a bit of infidelity, but it was a nice piece of choreography and there were a few striking moments. Then a thing that was supposed to be based on a story with a man and woman falling in love then realising they were siblings separated at a young age, but you’d never have known that without additional explanation, and I found it quite meh and forgettable. Then there was Orbital by Valentino Zucchetti, which I really enjoyed though the dancing in places wasn’t up to the choreography and I lived in fear that someone was going to get kicked in the head. Overall, I thought this had a lot of promise, and I enjoyed the music (Philip Glass’s violin concerto) and the design. Next up, Kristen McNally’s Mad Women, which was absolutely great, by far the best piece of the evening. Sort of 1950s women wielding their sexual power. It was really, really fab, and I loved the mish-mash of old American adverts etc used as music.

The longer ballet of the evening was the Kreutzer Sonata by Andrew McNicol, based on the story by Tolstoy, based on the music by Beethoven. The music was a sort of mash-up of Janacek’s take on the Tolstoy and the original Beethoven, which I thought was woven in an interesting way. The narrative at the beginning was a bit too involved and fragmented, but when it got to the heart of matters it was better. I want to say it was a bit McMillan-ish, but I don’t think I really know enough about ballet at this point to go round saying things like that. I really enjoyed Hayley Blackburn as the wife, she was very good. (It was also thematically very like Sweet Violets.)

Antony & Cleopatra – Globe; July 2014

I enjoyed this. Eve Best was great as Cleopatra, I really liked her performance. I was in a slightly fraught mood at the beginning though, and actually struggled to understand what was going on, which is not something I’m really used to these days! After a while I managed to focus, and then enjoyed it more. I felt the second half dragged a bit, though. It just seemed to take a very long time for everyone to die. Comedy lols for the messenger who kept bringing Cleopatra bad news, and also for eunuch jokes.
p+p lydia

"Let me be not mad..."

Eh bien, my chickadees, let us continue my survey of recent theatre. Laisser les bons temps rouler etc.

Prince of the Pagodas – Coliseum; March 2014
This was hilariously enjoyable. The heroine got to leap around and be heroic, which was very pleasing, and things like the dancing seahorses and dancing shrimp were completely delightful. Plus bonus points for the Russian suitor and his ridic outfit. (The brother-sister dynamic was a tiny bit weird, though.) Also comedy lols for the father and ?servant.

Blithe Spirit – Gielgud Theatre; April 2014
Well, obviously I’d been looking forward to this, and it was super fun, with Angela Lansbury scampering across the stage on excellent form. She was definitely the best part about it. It’s quite a silly play, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Birdland – Royal Court; April 2014
TBH, this was a bit disappointing. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, per se, it was just a bit meh. I don’t know quite what it was that didn’t work – it was a perfectly good concept, the acting was good, but somehow it didn’t work. I don’t think I really cared much about the characters – maybe it was too artificial. (Maybe that was the point, I don’t know.)

The Winter’s Tale – ROH; April 2014
There are no actual words for how much I loved this. The first act, which has most of the plot, really, was AMAZING. The choreography and lighting etc for Leontes’ sudden, outrageous jealousy was brilliant – where he’s creeping around behind the statues imagining their lustful embraces – and was just so clever at making it all from within. And that early, gorgeous dance with Leontes, Hermione and Polixenes, and Mamilius running around with them. I loved the drama that came with Leontes turning on Polixenes and Hermione, and the scene where the women are being all domestic or whatevs in the nursery, and the soldiers slowly descend the stairs, and then Leontes follows in all his mental glory. Tip top. The second act is less dramatic, but really lovely, and Perdita’s foster brother was ace. The third act was the weakest and tbh could probably do with a bit of beefing up when they next put it on (and THEY’D BETTER) – everything was resolved far too quickly and with minimal dramatic tension. The ending was terribly sad in a way, though; although Hermione’s statue came to life, Leontes looks for Mamilius’ to do likewise and must be disappointed.  (I enjoyed this so much I went to see the live broadcast but HORRORS the cinema broke down five minutes into Act 2. Then I was going to take the morning off on Thursday to queue for a day seat for the final performance but alas there’s a meeting I have to go to. SADTIMES.)

King Lear – Olivier, NT; April 2014
We’d ummed and ahhed about going to see this, neither of us having much enjoyed the Almeida’s production a couple of years ago, but it sounded like it was an interesting production and we are always pro a bit of SRB, so we decided to risk it. Guess what? It was dead good. I’d previously found the whole mad Shakespearean king with straw in his hair leaping around very difficult to connect to, and didn’t quite understand what was going on (which I do put down to a weakness in the production). This was (a) so much clearer in terms of understanding the political landscape and the position Lear and his daughters were in and (b) infinitely more sympathetic to Lear and, to an extent, Goneril and Regan. SRB’s Lear was a little bit heart-breaking – aware of his own failing powers but with no way to deal with it. Enjoyed the shifting fortunes of the Gloucester/Edgar/Edmund triumvirate. Highly recommended!

Much Ado About Nothing – Shakespeare’s Globe; May 2014
Basically, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Much Ado. I think I’ve only ever seen one production I didn’t enjoy much. This was a touring production, and was really enjoyably fun – lots of larking around and dancing and ridic instruments etc. I liked Beatrice and Benedick – Benedick was played slightly sillier than I’ve seen before, I think, and his stepping up to the mark to challenge Claudio seemed more out of character and thus in a way more impressive. Claudio and Don Pedro seemed even more unbearable and uncaring about Hero which made me want to punch them (my usual reaction for Claudio; less so for Don Pedro). And Dogberry was hilaire, which is always a good measure for Much Ado, I think, because too often those sections can fall a bit flat. I really need to watch the Joss Whedon production again (Ken & Emma obvs so often watched it can be played out in my head at will).

A Small Family Business – Olivier, NT; May 2014
Well, I had an afternoon free and there were £15 tickets, so I thought I’d pop along. Although I was mildly entertained throughout and the ending was pleasing in terms of dramatic structure and its nods to the relevant popular culture, I probably wouldn’t bother with this again.
eddie techno fear

"I think there's a bulb out."

Being a big fan of the old Marvel Cinematic Universe or whatever they’re calling it, I was super excited about Agents of SHIELD, and was commensurately disappointed when the first couple of episodes failed to hold my interest. Having a heavy TV schedule as it is, I do not watch things that don’t grab me, however much I love their origins, and we removed it from the FT calendar.

Last Friday, however, I popped off to see Catpain* America 2 which I really enjoyed (I loved the central idea – so thrilling!) and as I needed to find something in which to drown my own private sorrows, and having heard that Agents of SHIELD improved in later episodes, I decided to try it again, not least because I really, really wanted to see what they were going to do in the light of Catpain** America 2’s events. I ended up watching episodes 10-15, then backtracking a bit, then watching ep 16 this week (OMG).

You know what? I really enjoyed it. I mean, first I was just enjoying it, then I started getting a bit invested (FITZSIMMONS), and then I was on tenterhooks, and now I can’t wait for next week’s episode! So much fun! So, yeah, for anyone who was similarly disappointed at the start of the season (and I know quite a few people were), it’s definitely worth giving a second chance.

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* Hilarious Blackadder joke that brings me much joy.
p+p lydia

"Where do you think you are?"

Many years ago, I thought it would be fun to catalogue all my theatre trips on my LJ. Obviously – obviously – this is a project that fell by the wayside. But hey, I’ve seen quite a bit of stuff recently, so let’s catch up with my theatrical calendar since the last time we checked (which was a second viewing of the Globe’s excellent Macbeth in October last year). ‘Ware spoilers for anything current. I present a chronological list:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Noel Coward Theatre (the Michael Grandage season); October 2013
Oh. My. God. Now, I will be entirely honest. I was tired. I’d already seen a really excellent Dream at the Globe earlier in the year. Also, I’m not the play’s biggest fan. But still. Oh. My. God. This was just really bad – a very confused, completely unengaging production. We left in the interval. I was so disappointed – I was excited about seeing Sheridan Smith, and the Globe’s production had temporarily made me forget that I don’t like the play that much. For some reason, it got really good reviews, which is a source of ongoing mystery.

The Herd – Bush Theatre; October 2013
Already talked about this in an earlier post, it seems.

Mojo – Harold Pinter Theatre; December 2013
Again, another play with great reviews and only middling enjoyment. That is, the play was quite amusing and the cast was great (Ben Whishaw was amazing, natch, and I thought Daniel Mays really stood out, plus Rupert Grint was endearing – their double-act was one of the highlights), but it really didn’t seem to have any point to it. Turned out, according to further reading, that it was supposed to be a play that laid bare the pretensions to power that men have (in a gangster sort of way, that is), but from our point of view it seemed so clear that all the blokes in it were clueless twats that there was no progression at all.

Jumpers for Goalposts – Bush Theatre; December 2013
This – about a really terrible LGBT five-a-side football league in Hull – was absolutely and utterly adorable. That is all. Loved it so much.

The Light Princess – Lyttelton, NT; December 2013
Katie queued to get us day seats for this, and it was a really lovely Christmas-time sort of musical. That is, tbh I thought the book and music were very mediocre, very pedestrian, but it was very well produced and the actors were lovely. I enjoyed it a lot.

Drawing the Line – Hampstead Theatre; January 2014
A Howard Brenton play about the process of partitioning India. Very good, and my first visit to the Hampstead Theatre. Had a very visually effective ending, but really it was its focus on the impossible job handed to the civil servant sent to India to draw a line between India and the notional state of Pakistan that was its strength.

Henry V – Noel Coward Theatre (the Michael Grandage season); January 2014
Oh, this was top notch. Jude Law made a great Henry, and it was just really good fun. Very fast-paced, but I didn’t feel it lost anything from that. They kept in the humour; the set was pretty minimalist but effective; I enjoyed the Chorus. The only downside was that we were right up in the gods and it did mean we spent a lot of time looking at people’s heads. (Also, Jude was no Jamie, but who is?)

The Blackest Black – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs; January 2014
This was kind of weird, about an artist and an astrophysicist or astronomer or something struggling to understand the other’s perspective on the world. I felt the first half, set in an observatory, was stronger than the second, in the artist’s, like, garret or whatevs. Some interesting ideas; interesting lighting.

American Psycho – Almeida; January 2014
Oh my God, this was absolutely ridic and so much fun! Kind of loved some of the musical numbers. I mean, it was a bit stupid, but a great night out. Is it moving to the West End? I’m sure someone said it was.

Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; January 2014
So, this was very interesting – basically an interpretation of a lecture that Ellen Terry did or summat, looking at different female roles in Shakespeare, but really I was more interested in the theatre in some ways. Newsflash: it’s so beautiful.

Coriolanus – NT Live (Donmar Warehouse); January 2014
It’s not really proper theatre, I know. And yeah, the way they do the camera-work and editing is kind of weird. Still, I enjoyed this. I won’t lie to you, I do enjoy watching a bit of Tom Hiddleston, he was very good, and Deborah Findlay too, but mostly I liked the scheming politicians; they were great! The pacing was a bit off, though – not of the action/drama per se, but of the narrative – he seemed to rise and fall in the course of about a day’s work in the Senate or whatevs. I don’t know if it was due to cutting the text or what, but that did seem to happen a bit too quickly. But oh, when Coriolanus concedes that his mother’s pleas have worked and he will cease to attack Rome, and the price becomes apparent…

Strangers on a Train – Gielgud Theatre; February 2014
Oh, you know what, I enjoyed this. Very melodramatic and silly, but every element of the design was superb and I like melodrama.

HMS Pinafore – Hackney Empire; February 2014
All male Gilbert & Sullivan. I am so, so glad I went to see this, it was so good and so much fun and just really delightful.

It Just Stopped – Orange Tree Theatre; March 2014
Hmm. I did enjoy this, about a couple stuck in their fortieth-something floor flat and everything stopping working and thinking the apocalypse had come, but it got quite confusing towards the end, and I’m still not quite sure what we were supposed to think was going on.

The Knight of the Burning Pestle – Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; March 2014
This was so funny. Just ridiculously, Monty Python-esque funny. We were practically wetting ourselves laughing. Plus, play-within-a-play (my favourite trope, as I may have mentioned before), and ridic posing and dancing everywhere. Brilliant. Playhouse still beautiful.

Versailles – Donmar Warehouse; March 2014
This was very good. I loved, in the first act, the way they explored these different kinds of people and how the war – and its end – had affected them. The second act, I think, was the strongest – Leonard in France trying to convince the powers that be that making their demands for reparation too harsh – or, not even that, but the precise nature of the demands too economically unreasonable – would only lead to trouble. He had this immense speech about the coal industry in Germany and how the proposed terms would affect it, and it was so compelling and so interesting – utterly absorbing. A few nods to hindsight were amusing (a dig at the individualism of lower-middle class grocers and the potential political ramifications of same). I really enjoyed it – see it if you can!

1984 – Almeida Theatre; March 2014
Wow, this was intense! Just kind of sucked me in. Brilliantly constructed – I loved the repetition of scenes, of phrases, the use of video, the sense of unreality. Very good. I do really feel, though, that the concept of “Big Brother”, the ubiquity of the words these days (not even in the reality TV sense, just in the way it has pervaded our modern culture) renders it less effective in its original context, which is a real shame.
p+p lizzy tea

"Let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories about kings."

Actually, one of the things I found interesting about Richard II relates to an earlier post I made, about how weird I always find it when the overthrow of a monarch is treated as such an unprecedented event, when frankly it is one of the most precedented things in English history.

Watching the play, seeing Richard’s reaction to being deposed by his cousin, I did genuinely sympathise with his outraged disbelief that this could happen, in the indignity of it; the shame, almost. How could it happen? How could it be allowed to happen?

And yet, it’s funny, because the play references at various points Richard’s and his cousins’ and uncles’ descent from the great Edward III with no recognition that Edward himself became king when his own father was deposed. It’s a very weird selective blindness.
p+p lydia

"No king of England, if not king of France."

Hullo! I have returned, once more, to share my fulsome thoughts on Life and also Art. To kick us off, let’s have a brief overview of what I’ve been doing. Ein minuten bitte, whilst I consult my diary.

Theatre-wise, since last we met, I saw Macbeth (again) at the Globe. This was just as good – loved everything about it, possibly the witches most of all. I am genuinely pissed off with our education system, though. I was into Shakespeare as a teenager, and my school was really good, AND YET being forced into studying Macbeth for GCSE English was so fucking boring and annoying that I hated it, and it has taken me this long to go and see it again. It’s such a good play, probably one of my favourites; the language is just dazzling. And school almost managed to ruin it. So thanks for that, chaps. I also saw Rory Kinnear’s play, The Herd, which I thought was really good, though the sort of structure of the narrative meant that the ending (not just what happened but how it happened) was painfully apparent. Still, I thought it was a good play; the dialogue really rang true.

I have also, rather late in the day, finally taken advantage of the NTLive broadcasts, and in November saw Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art and the RSC’s Richard II. The play within a play is one of my favourite tropes, so that was enjoyable. Thought Alex Jennings was spectacularly good as Britten, and loved Adrian Scarborough’s actor desperately trying to find a connection and a point to his part. Also bonus John Heffernan as the assistant stage manager. Richard II was also really good, once I got past the first section. I am a bit of a philistine, but I think the play is a bit boring until Richard gets back from Ireland and it all kicks off, but after that it was great! The broadcast thing is not, of course, a patch on seeing a play live, but it was better than I expected (I think seeing it in a cinema rather than on a little tv screen did help), so I will do that again, I think.

On Tuesday, I went to see Romeo & Juliet at the ROH, which I enjoyed (highlights: the music, always; Prokofiev’s score for R&J is my favourite ballet music, hands down; Mercutio and Tybalt; the scenes with Juliet where her parents are trying to force her to marry Paris (and the way she danced with Paris was great – so unwilling!)). That said, I do think I preferred the National Canadian Ballet production I saw at Sadler’s Wells.

So, that’s that. Saw Thor 2 (very enjoyable) and the new Hunger Games film (ditto). Have done and seen other things too, but nothing much I can be arsed to talk about.

Right, now, I have a confession to make. Despite, as you knowing, being distinctly pro Bard, and despite the fact that the history plays are my favourite, I had not, until now, actually watched The Hollow Crown. I know, I am ashamed. I’ve had the DVD for the better part of a year and everything! And I have still not watched Richard II (I’ve started it about three times and kept getting bored and stopping, but now I know it gets properly good, I shall be watching it soon). I have, however, now watched the Henry IVs and Henry V.

I think Simon Russell Beale is great. I’ve seen him in quite a few things at the National over the years, and he’s always tops. I have to say, however, that I did not enjoy his Falstaff. I almost said he was too seedy, too craven, but of course that’s just Falstaff: what he wasn’t, was charming. He was a rogue, but not a particularly loveable one. I felt that spoiled the dynamic between Hal and Falstaff, because you couldn’t really see why Hal was so fond of him, and lacking that affection, I think Hal came across as a slightly crueller character. That said, I thought Jeremy Irons was brilliant as Henry IV, and the relationship between Henry and Hal was much more affecting than I’ve seen before. Loved John of Lancaster, as usual. Returning to Falstaff, again, that scene at the end of Part 2 (“I know thee not, old man.”), which I almost feel is one of the most tragic lines in Shakespeare, lost a lot of its impact because of my lack of sympathy for Falstaff; frankly, I just wanted Hal to ditch him.

Moving onto Henry V. Oh, Henry V. Well, they sucked 95% of the fun out of that, didn’t they? I thought the acting was great, Tom Hiddleston really pulled it off, Anton Lesser was great as Exeter, I loved the way they chose to do the Crispin’s Day speech, Catherine and Alice and the comedy French is always a delight; but they made some very weird production choices, I thought. I was sad to lose the Southampton section, though I can see why it would be an easy option to chop for time constraints. They cut out everything that was remotely comic (excepting the first scene with Catherine and Alice, which they basically have to keep because otherwise you don’t even know who she is, and a bit of Bardolph/Pistol/Nym). Inevitably, the live action renders the Chorus a tad superfluous, so that what is genuinely quite powerful on the stage becomes voice-over fluff on the screen.

For me, however, the main thing that just confused me was the way they cut out the section with the boys being killed. Except, they didn’t cut it all out. So, Henry has this wonderful, outraged speech that is a reaction to this terrible act by the French soldiers, and Tom Hiddleston delivered it so well, EXCEPT that they cut out the boys being killed so the speech ends up being a reaction to – what? – a couple of French soldiers riding along a hill a mile away? It’s ridiculous, completely disproportionate and makes Henry look like a bit of a dick because then his army is just killing prisoners with zero moral high ground. So weird, especially because it felt like they had really set up to kill at least one boy, and then that plotline fizzled out and, as a viewer, I felt completely wrong-footed.

Has everyone else watched these? Thoughts? Feelings?
hp luna

A note or two

Lol whoops that didn't last very long, did it! I got a bit distracted by tumblr, I can't lie; that seems to be its very purpose in life. Also distracted by the ongoing, incessant wankery of the current government, which basically just makes me want to slit people's throats. I'm not even that bothered about whose, so watch out there.

In other news, off to Macbeth again at the Globe, very excited (very excited indeed; have become Welsh). We also went to see Ibsen's Ghosts at the Almeida, which seemed to be mostly near-incest and syphilis; good times there. Loved the set, and the lighting was excellent - I assume the original play doesn't take place in Scotland, but using that as the early-nighted landscape against which the action took place worked really well. Thumbs up.

I continue to rail against this unpleasant weather, but as yet to no avail.

A thought about history

I find it increasingly curious that, upon reading British history books, every telling of the tragic fall of a monarch seems to come with commentary about how unprecedented it was, how shocking, how cataclysmic. But they weren't entirely ignorant of their own history, even where it was a simple narrative constructed by monks or whatevs. The Anglo-Saxon kings had their fair bit of shenanigans. After Henry I died, Stephen and Matilda pinched the crown off each other a time or two. John told everyone Richard I had died. John himself was pretty much decrowned, and the throne given to the French. Edward II "abdicated" and died in Mysterious Circumstances. Richard II "abdicated" and died in Mysterious Circumstances. Henry VI had his crown pinched, then given back, then pinched again, then died in Mysterious Circumstances. Edward IV had his crown pinched and then took it back. Edward V if not died then disappeared in Mysterious Circumstances. Richard III had his crown taken in battle by one of his subjects. Charles I had his head chopped off. Charles II, to begin with, had no throne to inherit. James II was deposed.

There were a whole host of different circumstances, but the sanctity of the anointed king was surely never completely beyond question. Surely at some point it had to stop coming as a surprise?
spock fucking serious

"All live to die, and rise to fall."

Jizzy fucking Chrizzy, will someone please just shoot Osborne. He’s such a fucking tosspot. Please explain to me, Georgie, what the fuck is the point of forcing a whole load of people to go to a Jobcentre every single day. Oh no, wait, there is no point, plus I find it hard to imagine that Jobcentres these days are actually staffed to be able to cope with that level of activity. Just a stupid way of punishing people who can’t get a job. Vile. This Government’s obsession with vilifying the unemployed and in fact anyone who needs any kind of benefit (despite the cold, hard fact that the countless number of people on minimum wage are not in fact making a living wage) is revolting, and the way the majority of the media seem to be playing along with it is doubly so.

In other, more localised news, I had precisely zero 3G this morning (not exactly a surprise) and a similar level of mobile service. So, thanks Orange/EE. Shit as ever. I spent half my way into work trying to text Katie to ask her to take some chicken out of the freezer; will now have to revisit dinner plans. Vexing, vexing. I am so fed up with the lack of service in London. FFS, it’s London. I really don’t understand. I was opposite the Hs of P on Friday afternoon, and there was just no service at all. Honestly, you’d think our noble parliamentarians would have got pissed off to the point of getting it fixed by now. Or probably they have a bubble of wifi and are thus unconcerned by the problems the rest of us face*.

Anyway, in happier news, as previously advertised, went to see the National’s Edward II on Friday. Oh, that was good! I can see why it would be polarising, but I really enjoyed it; their choices really worked for me. The staging was fantastic – loved the shack-of-plotting where baronial whispering went on (set in the middle of the stage, you couldn’t really see inside, but the scenes were projected onto screens – I thought it was a brilliant way of representing all the secret conspiring that went on, and the implicit danger of those meetings). Also there was a comedy portacabin of terror which tickled our fancy. I thought the characterisation of Isabella was fascinating – she seemed simultaneously to have agency and yet to be dependent on the man in power, whether that man be her husband, her lover, or her son (and that final scene with Edward III was mesmerising). That one line, “All live to die, and rise to fall,” I think perfectly captures the mood of the whole play and that medieval view of the progression (or cycle) of life: the wheel of fortune, indeed. All in all, fabulous.

Saturday, as planned, we went to Ham House, where it was fortuitously open cabinet day! Open cabinet day is the best day. An update on Ham House (as I am sure you have been eagerly awaiting): the Duchess’s bathroom smelt very vinegary; the paintings on the staircase have been taken away for cleaning or summat; they’d left the door to the lumber room off the beer cellar unlocked so I had a little look round (it’s full of lumber); we discovered where they must have barred the kitchen door to the outside world; the library was, alas, locked, so we couldn’t go in and instead peered longingly through the window; they’ve got a new second-hand bookshop (thumbs up).

Didn’t do anything on Sunday except roll around the sofa like a would-be potentate whilst Katie brought me a bacon sandwich for lunch and squash & blue cheese riz for dinner. TV watched over the course of the weekend included Agents of SHIELD and, natch, Downton. My feelings on Downton:

1. I’m sorry, I’m not happy about Edith’s fella. Very concerned he’s going to turn into a Nazi. Back to the drawing board there.

2. Well. At least Matthew left a letter with testamentary effect, but I still find it massively a) out of character and b) fundamentally unlikely, given his profession and state in life, that he did not just make a fricking will. And, in fact, he says he never has made a will. Not when he became Robert’s heir. Not when he inherited Ginger Lavinia’s dad’s fortune. Not when he got married. Not when he bought half of Downton. Really? Really? DO NOT BELIEVE.

3. FFS. Cora’s credulity and Robert’s blind bullheadedness are really giving me the pip. I harbour a longstanding fondness for Robert, but he is being a complete dick.

4. Bates should not look twinkly-eyed; it is extremely disconcerting.

5. There is not permitted to be any conspiracy against Anna. Unacceptable.

6. There is an unwavering truth about Downton that has been apparent from the very first: the Dowager is the best thing.

7. The new lady’s maid. No. Must go. Cannot bear all the petty plotting and mean-spiritedness.

8. Rose is annoying, but that chap she danced with was A+ adorable.

9. The footmen are also annoying. Daisy, you deserve better and one day your prince will come.

10. Molesley. Oh, Molesley. No words, really.

Also watched Atlantis, which I have to say I thought was a bit shit, so I probably won’t bother with it again.

* Huh. It’s like a little allegory, right there.