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16 June 2018 @ 07:24 pm
It's everything I've ever wanted, and it's never going to make it to the US, is it?


It's a documentary called Abducted: Elizabeth I's Child Actors, for BBC4. Here's the full press release:

*mournful grabby hands*
12 June 2018 @ 01:25 am
...uh what?

Hailee Steinfeld to Star in Emily Dickinson Comedy Series for Apple

The project takes viewers into the world of Dickinson and explores the constraints of society, gender and family from the perspective of a budding writer who doesn't fit in to her own time through her imaginative point of view. Dickinson is described as Emily's coming-of-age story and one woman's fight to get her voice heard. The comedy is set in the 1800s and features a modern sensibility and tone.


[editing post because, aw man, "Don't tell! they'd advertise - you know!" would have been a much better subject line from that poem]
Well, Geoffrey Tennant was right again.

The National Theatre production of Macbeth, starring Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff, was…perplexing. I didn’t hate it as much as some of the reviews I read - mostly because I rated Kinnear’s and Duff’s performances slightly higher than they did - but it still felt incoherent and unnecessary. Rufus Norris decided that the rebellion at the beginning of the play, rather than showing us a rightful king defending his own, was just another spasm of a post-apocalyptic civil war that had been going on for some time. (The aesthetic was all garbage bags and duct tape: I couldn’t help but giggle at the part where two men tape Macbeth’s armor onto his body near the end of the play, winding tape around him like a parcel they were readying for the post.) If, however, Duncan is not an anointed king, but instead just some jumped-up former-civilian-turned-warlord (which was heavily implied by the little featurette before the broadcast), that makes a hash of Macbeth’s recognition that Duncan “hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been / So clear in his great office, that his virtues / Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of his taking-off.” That language of angels and damnation is hollowed out if Duncan hasn’t been invested with royalty, if kingship isn’t a holy office.

(All that said, Banquo’s murderers were possibly the most inexplicable thing about the whole production: a giant ‘80s frat boy in a pale denim jacket and a blonde ditz in tatty fishnets and a hot-pink top with a plunging neckline - so it’s comforting to know that insulting class stereotypes will still exist after the apocalypse, I guess.)

To be fair, I can - almost - imagine how one might read Macbeth, with all its apocalyptic language, and decide to toy around with such a setting. But the blinking neon problem with this interpretation is that Macbeth’s terrible deed is the cause of the apocalypse. That’s when the earthquakes start, and nature turns on itself, horses devouring each other - the very night Macbeth kills Duncan. If the murder changes nothing about Scotland, then the play means nothing - both because it’s utterly baffling why Macbeth wants to be king in the first place (“vaulting ambition” for what? All Duncan seems to have that Macbeth does not is a slightly nicer red suit and a silk scarf!), and because it’s utterly baffling why anyone thinks that backing Malcolm will make any difference at all. Why does Macduff go all the way to England, leaving his wife and children unprotected, if Malcolm is just the son of the previous random warlord, and Scotland was already a destroyed land where shrieks are “made, not marked”? (Come to that, why doesn’t Macduff just defeat Macbeth and take over? He’s the one who seems to have the battle prowess, anyway - and Malcolm was conspicuously wounded in this production, his arm in a sling and his hand bloodily bandaged - which might have been a way to give him a reason not to fight Macbeth himself, if Norris felt one was necessary, but compounds the problem that Malcolm, if he is not the rightful heir to a rightful king, and putting him in charge is not about restoration of the social and moral order, is pretty surplus to requirements in this production.) Unsurprisingly, all Malcolm’s talk about failing to possess “the king-becoming graces” was cut (and so was the bit where the king of England, a truly holy king, can heal with his touch): this production creates a world where such talk wouldn’t even make sense - but the problem is that the world of the play is such a world, and Macbeth’s “horrid deed” has shattered that world. The value of Macbeth, it seems to me, is not in the number of grisly beheadings it allows you to stage, but in watching how a man becomes a tyrant, and how tyranny deforms a nation - but if it’s never clear how Macbeth is a tyrant, since there are no longer any social or ethical rules to contravene, and if the nation is already deformed, then we’re just watching…what?

There was one part I liked, though. For the most part, the set was unrelievedly grim and unappealing, and the various rotations of parts of the set didn’t seem to add much to the action, but at the very end, it allowed Kinnear’s Macbeth to step through the doorway into the concrete hideout where Lady Macbeth had killed herself, and for us to then follow him into it - almost like a film cut - so that “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” became a direct elegy to Lady Macbeth instead of just an oblique one, as he cradled her body in his arms. Even more than the speech itself, though, I liked what it did to his “At least we’ll die with harness on our back” - which became a sort of valediction to her, a squaring of Macbeth’s shoulders before battle, in order to do her proud. I’m not sure it was worth the rest of the production to get to that moment, however.
05 May 2018 @ 09:47 pm
No Fear Shakespeare translates Olivia's "Most wonderful!" as "How unbelievable!"

I just -

I don't -

Why. Why. Why do they do these things.

I mean, I probably have more feelings about this line than the average person, since one of the reasons I love Twelfth Night so much is that sense of wonder, of the miraculous, that exists in the last scene - which even changes time itself from blind arbiter to "golden time," an echo of the golden world - but still. "Unbelievable" is not even in the same ballpark; why even bother "translating" this word if you're going to fail this hard? (I mean, do they not know the word "amazing"? What about "wondrous"? "Extraordinary"? It's like they just pointed at random to a word in the thesaurus!)

Although shmoop.com is just as ridiculous, as it features lines like, "Sir Toby and Sir Andrew enter the garden and say 'hey' to 'Cesario.'" Oh, they say "hey," do they? This Shakespeare jazz is the bee's knees! Thanks, daddy-o!

ETA: are you even serious right now:

"'Cesario' tries to give Olivia the brush off, but Olivia tells 'Cesario' she's got the serious hots for him and demands to hear what 'he' thinks of her."

...the hots?!?!?
The Globe recently announced casting for its Ensemble productions of Hamlet and As You Like It:


It's not much of a surprise that Michelle Terry will be playing Hamlet - but I wasn't expecting James Garnon as Audrey, or Jack Laskey as Rosalind! (The latter is especially interesting, since he played Orlando at the Globe a few years ago... I'm very curious.)
(I mean. Was I not going to quote from Twelfth Night? That seems unlikely.)

Putting this in the "cross-dressing" tag, although Twitter (where I found the link) reminds me that the assumption that all such figures found in the archives must have been cross-dressed women does erase the possible presence of trans men:

‘A poor wench in man’s clothes’: English civil war cross-dressers unveiled

This anecdote is the most ballady thing ever:
In 1645, Oliver Cromwell, then a lowly second in command, captured a royalist aristocrat, Lord Henry Percy, and a group of supporters. Cromwell noted “a youth of so faire a countenance, that he doubted of his condition; and to confirm himself, willed him to sing” – which the prisoner did “with such daintiness” that her true sex was revealed.

("For I can sing, / And speak to him in many sorts of music, / That will allow me very worth his service.")

And this bit is interesting, too:
However hard to find in the records, such women were common enough for Charles I to add a handwritten note to a draft proclamation on standards of behaviour for his army in 1645, warning: “Lett no woman presume to counterfeit her sex by wearing mans apparall under payne of the severest punishment.”

Stoyle, who publishes his research in History, the Journal of the Historical Association, regards the note as fascinating. “These words suggest the king believed female cross-dressing was quite widespread in his army and show a willingness on his part to take a much firmer line on the practice … Curiously though, when the proclamation was finally published it contained no reference to cross-dressing.”

I love the idea that Charles I was just super-worried about this.

The Guardian article also provides a link to Mark Stoyle's article in the journal History; it looks like the whole article is available to read online:

‘Give mee a Souldier's Coat’: Female Cross‐Dressing during the English Civil War
21 March 2018 @ 12:54 pm
Since I posted about the removal of Waterhouse's painting before, it's only fair to post a follow-up piece from the Guardian:

‘The vitriol was really unhealthy’: artist Sonia Boyce on the row over taking down Hylas and the Nymphs

The problem here, as I understand it from, y'know, the one article I read about this decision when it first happened, was that the museum was spectacularly unclear about whether the painting was being permanently removed, or whether it would only return if there were enough comments in favor of its reinstatement, or whether it was simply being removed for a certain amount of time. (Taking all the postcards of the painting out of the gift shop also didn't help here: is that part of whatever "artistic act" the removal is meant to be, or has the museum decided that the painting shouldn't be on display at all?)

I went back and reread the Guardian's first article about this*, and they may have a hand in the lack of clarity about the museum's intent, but it also sounds like the curator the reporter spoke to was unhelpfully cagey: while the article does say that "[t]he removal itself is an artistic act and will feature in a solo show by the artist Sonia Boyce which opens in March,"** Clare Gannaway, curator of contemporary art at the Manchester Art Gallery, is quoted as saying that the decision to remove the painting was informed by the #MeToo movement (which makes it sound much more like a rush job than something that had been in the works for some time), and then says of the painting itself, "We think it probably will return, yes, but hopefully contextualised quite differently. It is not just about that one painting, it is the whole context of the ["Pursuit of Beauty"] gallery.” If the plan was always to put the painting back up at a predetermined time, why not just say that - unless you're trying to stoke outrage? Why "probably," if you know you're planning to bring the painting back?

*located here: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/jan/31/manchester-art-gallery-removes-waterhouse-naked-nymphs-painting-prompt-conversation?CMP=share_btn_tw

**Even that doesn't help all that much, to be honest, because "the removal is an artistic act" does not equal "the painting will be put back up." In the comments to the later article (I know, I know, don't read the comments), someone posted a picture of the notice that was put up when the Waterhouse was taken down, and it's similarly unclear: there's a lot of talk about "filming an artistic takeover" of the gallery...but still nothing to tell the public whether the painting is ever being put back up, or whether another work will go up in its place.
11 March 2018 @ 11:14 am
From an interview with Christopher Eccleston, on playing Macbeth:

There’s no doubt that [director] Polly Findlay wanted me in this role because of what I bring, the things we’re talking about. And without jemmying it in, there are definitely things I can access – about being very capable, but being overlooked. Macbeth is fantastic at his job. He lays his life on the line, and then he sees a chinless, milky blue-blood become King of Scotland. So of course I’m going to use that.


I mean...

This is one of those modern things that always feels a bit off to me: the idea that you can map the modern idea of jobs and promotion onto early modern ideas of kingship and hierarchy, and not lose something in the translation. (This is, in fact, what made the early parts of Polly Findlay's recent As You Like It at the National Theatre feel nonsensical to me when I saw it via NT Live: the court doesn't really make sense as a trading floor, and being banished is manifestly not the same thing as losing your job - and the loyalty one is expected to have for one's duke or king doesn't really have an analogue in today's job market. It doesn't really make sense to suggest that Macbeth is somehow being passed over for being king, when that's not how kingship works. (I suppose that doesn't mean that Macbeth might not feel aggrieved, but it's not like Duncan was going to announce that Macbeth was his heir and then didn't, or something. And Duncan has already given Macbeth what is in his power to give; he makes Macbeth thane of Cawdor as an explicit reward for his services in battle.)

That said, I thought that BBC adaptation of Macbeth starring James McAvoy (you know the one: "Pigs are landing on my head!") did manage to make this idea work, precisely because the stakes of the adaptation weren't about kingship or rule, but about Joe Macbeth giving his heart and soul to the restaurant he worked in, fully expecting for it to come to him when the owner retired - and then being passed over for the owner's son, who barely knew anything about the place. That made sense, in a way that "Macbeth being fantastic at his job" never quite does, if Duncan is still king, and not some kind of military dictator (though that guts the fact that Duncan, even by Macbeth's own admission, is supposed to be a leader who "hath borne his faculties so meek" and been "so clear in his great office" that his "virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued" against his murder...).

It's just weird to me, is all. Macbeth himself tells us point-blank that he has no reason save "vaulting ambition" to contemplate murdering Duncan; why is everyone so unwilling to believe him? Why is it so hard to believe that Macbeth could want power without his thinking that he is entitled to it - without his thinking that someone should already have given it to him, and he's just taking what he deserves?
09 March 2018 @ 11:40 am
An interview with Samuel Barnett, who is currently in Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Menier Chocolate Factory:

Most of Barnett’s twenties were taken up by playing Posner in the History Boys, a “gay, small, Jewish” sixth-former from Sheffield trying to get into Oxbridge. He never gets bored of talking about it.

“It was such an extraordinary part of my life,” he says. There’s a fondness in his voice when he talks about it; the cast — which included James Corden, Dominic Cooper and Jamie Parker — are “like family”.

He realised retrospectively that playing an unhappy teenager every night from the age of 24 to 27 had made him feel “a bit stunted” and that when it finished he felt he “physically changed”. But it was also something that he didn’t want to end — Alan Bennett wrote in his diaries that Barnett fought back tears while delivering his lines for the final performance.

“And now we’re all getting married and having babies,” he smiles.

But, contrary to the fandom’s wishes, none of them are getting married to each other. There’s a blog documenting every tweet Barnett and co-star Jamie Parker have written to each other. “Jamie texted me a link to it saying, ‘you need to look at this’, and we were both like, ooh dear! There’s so much Dirk Gently stuff too. It’s amazing how people want to homoeroticise or sexualise things.”


I am concerned that Sam and Jamie know about the tweet Tumblr...