Tag Archives: Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Superhero

Holidays are horrible things. They prevent you from going to see Shakespeare at the Royal Exchange Theatre. I had to send a replacement to check it out…

“Somehow, I get the feeling that when Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream he didn’t plan on a man dressed as a superhero, a food fight or the need to quickly recruit a member of the audience to play Bottom. But 400 years later, that’s precisely what happened. A fabulous team, directed by Sean Holmes, showed just how insane this play can become.

The Lyric Hammersmith and Filter Theatre production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened with Ed Gaughan’s Quince walking into the Royal Exchange Theatre, chatting with the audience. He thanked us for coming, rather than staying at home to watch the Olympic Men’s Gymnastics.

Jonathan Broadbent was an excellent Theseus and a hilarious Oberon, sporting a bright blue leotard and silver cape. The equally talented Poppy Miller gave a high standard performance as Hippolyta and Titania, complete with astounding vocals for the scene where Titania and Bottom first meet.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM by William Shakespeare

Similarly the four lovers; John Lightbody, Gemma Saunders, Rhys Rusbatch and Rebecca Scroggs, were fantastic. Designer Hyemi Shin and director Sean Holmes have gone to town with both costumes and demeanor, using a lot more humour than usual. And we mustn’t forget The Mechanicals, who suddenly were one short when Sir Ian McKellen got stuck in the lift. (Yeah, right!) But no matter, a helpful member of the audience stepped forward, Sainsbury’s shopping and all, to fill the space (after signing a waiver in case he tripped and broke his leg or something).

Chris Branch, Alan Pagan and not least Ed Gaughan were great, and Chris’s impersonation of Sharon Stone is a joy. Puck has always been one of my favourite characters and Ferdy Roberts, with his brash and humorous Puck,  did not let me down.

I applaud the whole team; they took a timeless story and added some glitter, some 1950s music and a couple of Capri-suns, bringing back a play that was originally written as a comedy, making it funnier still. I spent most of the 1 hour 45 minutes laughing. It’s unmissable.”

(Review by Helen Giles)

Sauna for Hamlet

I’d like to think that Hamlet actually lived here.

Varbergs fästning and kallbadhus

This is the castle in Varberg, as seen from the town’s Kallbadhus. Which, as you can tell, means cold bath house. I.e. you sauna and then you jump in the sea; winter as well as summer.

It makes for a long life, which is something Hamlet could have done with. His father, too.

Hamlet lived here

Except maybe he didn’t.

Hamlet's Castle - Helsingør

Elsinore is usually where Hamlet is believed to have lived, and this is the very castle. But some people reckon Shakespeare’s angsty hero really lived in Varberg, across the water, in Sweden.

Unless Hamlet turns out to be fictional…

NT getting closer

Now I may no longer have to consider whether I can face the journey to London to go to the National Theatre. They are setting up some magic so that people can go to Cornerhouse in Manchester and see some of the National’s plays live.

They are starting big, with Hamlet on the 9th of December, with Rory Kinnear as the prince. Then it will be Fela! on 13th January and King Lear on 3rd February. Frankenstein in March and The Cherry Orchard in June complete the season.

I have never seen anything like this, so have no clear idea of whether it works well or not. But with the modern magic available, it makes sense to bring culture to the ‘sticks’. And they may as well practise on Manchester before they do…

Shoes or Shakespeare?

Now that I’ve been culture blogging for six months, it is perhaps not a good time to wonder what culture actually is. But that has never stopped me.

Found a blog in the Guardian about whether or not people read Dickens. That might be culture?

When Son was a baby, I was desperate to get out of the house, so joined an evening class with the WEA. It had to be something interesting, and something where I didn’t have to read a lot in between meetings. No time. I chose Current Affairs, which was led by a charming FE teacher from Belfast called Declan. I thought more about politics then than I had ever done before, and it was a really good class, with interesting people.

Anyway, one of the others was a retired teacher. She was very proud of her English heritage and pondered the meaning of English culture. She came to the conclusion that it’s Shakespeare. I didn’t want to disagree with her, but I don’t think so. She believed Shakespeare is the most English of English things. But I can quote from Hamlet in both English and Swedish. He translates well, and I think he belongs to us all, and not just to the English.

I wanted to suggest culture is more about whether or not you take your shoes off when you enter someone’s house. You need to understand the if and when and how and where. It sounds flippant, but most countries will have its Shakespeare readers. They can probably quote Hamlet, but won’t know what to do about shoes if they visit a random country.

Forty years ago I went to my aunt’s 60th birthday. I was going to say party, but reception is a better description, considering it was in Sweden. When you have a ‘special’ birthday and want to be left alone or have your party/reception on a different day or not in your home, you need to advertise in your local newspaper. Otherwise everybody will turn up at your house/flat in the morning of the birthday bearing flowers. And expecting to be fed.

That’s culture! Imagine sleeping in on your big day, wanting to do nothing at all, and finding hungry hordes outside your front door.

Anyway, we turned up late on my aunt’s birthday. Perhaps around 10.30 in the morning. The mezzanine landing just below her flat was full of shoes. This being Twelfth Night (morning of) people wore boots and galoshes to get there, so would pause outside and take them off. It being a proper kind of event, they would then change into nice, dainty footwear.

That’s culture.

The memory of that shoe-filled mezzanine won’t go away just yet.