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Archive for the ‘Plays’ Category

I said I’ve been reading a well known series – and that’s what will be the focus of the next few posts.  However, I shall start with the newest:

Book 27 – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. This is a rehearsal script for Jack Thorne’s new play and as it’s very new I will try not to spoil it!

This story starts 19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry is a father and works at the Ministry of Magic, and his second child Albus, is about to start his own education at the school.

With the pressure of his name, and an unexpected Sorting, Albus find life complicated and lonely. As time passes and his relationship with his father becomes more and more difficult, and he feels increasingly isolated.  Finally, with his best friend Scorpius – someone whose heritage is as complicated as his own – Albus makes a plan that will change things for everyone…

To confirm: it is a script, I knew it was a script, and I didn’t mind that at all. Also, I am discussing what was on the page only, as I have not seen the play.

Scripts allow you to use your imagination in a different way from novels and that’s quite fun, because you get to define the extent of things – how big is an explosion, what does the inside of a building look like and so on.

What is does mean, though, is that the inner dialogue which is a key part of the 7 books is non-existent. Everything is visible, or in the imagination of the reader. This makes it a very different beast to the previous Potter stories.

The other difference is that Harry is an adult now; we are not really following his story so much as the ramifications of his story. That gives us a chance to see the fallout of the past in a way I found quite satisfying – I was hugely irritated by the ’19 years later’ chapter of the last book but since reading the script I feel much less negative about it.

It’s hard to say much more without a huge spoiler and I think it’s better to read this without knowing it. It’s one of those stories where everything works best when it is revealed at the right time.  My advice is not to read spoiler reviews if you can help it (be aware I link to goodreads which often has spoilers in the reviews).

This isn’t a literary work so can’t really be reviewed as such, but it was an enjoyable and engrossing story.  It took me about 2 hours so isn’t very onerous – people have read it faster, but there’s no need; it’s fun to read the stage directions and spend a few minutes imagining what is happening on stage!

You definitely need knowledge of Harry Potter’s world to understand the links between elements so this isn’t one for people who haven’t read the previous books/seen the films.

If you do read it, it’s probably best to read it as a separate entity rather than as the eighth story: it is after all a visual piece which has a profound impact on the possibilities and the choices made. Plus, the story may be Rowling’s but the stage play isn’t, so there are multiple influences affecting the work.

Happy reading,
EJ
🙂

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I am back from lovely Northumberland – it was too short a break really, but we squeezed it in between various things and were lucky to get any time away, to be honest.

I said I’d tell you about my theatre trip when I got back so here goes…

The Royal Shakespeare Company have been touring the UK with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and we got tickets for 23 April, which was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.   The performance has used local theatre groups to fill certain roles around the country, and the performance we went to see was no different.

Except that it was: for the first time ever recorded, a woman played the part of Bottom.  Not only was this historically significant but the part was brilliantly performed by an amateur, not a member of the RSC cast.

The local performers were great – I wasn’t sure when I heard about it how well it would work but for our performance they were brilliant, and had the audience in stitches.  Interesting phrase that, by the way: current usage is relatively modern but an earlier version was used by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, so it seems appropriate!

The staging was completely different from any other version of Midsummer I’ve seen – no trees, forests, flowers but what looked like a bombed out building.  Reading the programme I understood why but it did give the performance a different feel from normal.

So there you have it, in a nutshell.

I find myself reflecting on elements of a performance long after the play has finished.  There is generally one scene or image that floats in my mind and settles into the memory bank more strongly than others.  Sometimes it is obvious why – Idina Menzel rising over the stage singing ‘Defying Gravity‘ was a pretty theatrical image! – but sometimes it is a simple gesture that tugs at my emotions in a powerful way.  The intimate nature of those moments only works in a theatre for me: even when we’ve been in the cheap seats I have felt connected to the scene before me.

One of my earliest live performance memories was seeing the ballet Swan Lake performed.  It was at a beautiful moated castle and although I was probably only about five I can still close my eyes and see (or imagine I see) the shadows of those dancers pirouetting across the stone walls.  It was magical and dreamlike, and it’s the feeling I am searching for every time I see a play, ballet or show.  I think it’s why certain images stay with me too – they reflect that first memory.

We are all inspired by, or brought joy by, different things – be it music, dance, football, golf, films, gardens.  What is the same is that it makes our lives richer.  We can be transported to another place and we can be genuinely removed from the trials and tribulations of day to day life.  We can be inspired to try things ourselves: I am sure my am dram life is related to my love of the theatre.  We can expand our horizons.

All that from a couple of hours is a pretty good return on investment, don’t you think?

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

 

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I forgot completely that I would be away this weekend and for part of next week – time has flown this year and I have not kept up with it! Therefore this post is pre-recorded, so to speak, as is Tuesday’s. Still, at least I remembered before I left…

Yesterday was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Enjoy his work or not, it has had a profound and lasting impact on English language and on storytelling. His work is still studied in schools, colleges and universities; his plays are constantly in production on the stage and have been filmed for both cinema and TV release; his phrases are still in everyday use.

I was fortunate enough to get tickets to see the Royal Shakespeare Company perform yesterday – I will tell you about that on my return.

I have an interest Shakespeare, even though King Lear remains on my ‘do not revisit’ list.  Not quite a soft spot, but maybe it’s forming!

I did not appreciate him in my youth, to be truthful.  However, as I get older, and se performances of his work by countless skilled performers, with staging that has varied from the beautiful colour and magic of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet film to the sparseness of the Donmar Warehouse’s Coriolanus, I understand the longevity.  There are so many ways to interpret and portray the themes in the plays that every time you can see something new.

He was a poet, too; I had one of his more well-known sonnets – sonnet 116 – read at my wedding, something I would never have anticipated in my schooldays!  There is a truth in the words that I struggled to find in other works: it talks not only of the joy and wonderment of love but of the constancy of it in the face of life’s battles.

In my experience, Shakespeare is more powerful on stage than on screen, but the expansive nature of a film probably encourages a wider audience.  See for yourself…

If you get a chance to see his works, do – the worst case is that you don’t enjoy it all that much, but who knows – like me, you could find a new source of inspiration and entertainment!

Happy writing/play-watching,

EJ

🙂

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I have just got back home from the cinema and I have to tell you all about it!

As you may know, the National Theatre here in the U.K. record certain performances and screen them in cinemas. The performances may be from another theatre company in partnership, but it’s done under the NT banner. The screenings are available in multiple countries; in the U.K. they appear at most cinemas.

So today I went to see something that I had originally considered getting tickets for at the theatre: Coriolanus.

The lead role was performed by Tom Hiddleston, a fantastic actor who is probably most well known as Loki in the Thor/Avengers films but who trained as a stage actor.

I have never read Coriolanus and it’s probably not one of the most commonly studied Shakespearean tales but it was a very powerful play. I held my breath, averted my eyes, cried and gasped at various points in the performance.

It would be impossible for me to get tickets to all the plays I would want to see but this was a fantastic alternative.   I think this is a brilliant way to make theatre accessible and to engage people who haven’t seen a play, ballet, opera before. My husband and I are already talking about what we want to see next.

But of course, people need to know these screenings are on if they are going to enjoy them, and that is why I am telling you 🙂

I love seeing different performances and experiencing different stories and if you do too, it’s definitely worth having a look to find out what’s going on near you.  It’ll never beat the physicality of a live performance but it beats missing out on theatre altogether!

Happy viewing,
EJ
🙂

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This week I managed to finish something – hurrah!

Book 39 – A Midsummer’s Night Dream, by William Shakespeare.  I chose this for a few reasons: I had it to hand, I’ve never read it, it seemed like a good idea at the time, I love watching it performed…  Some reasons are more reasonable than others!

Before I start, I’ll remind you that I read Doctor Faustus a little while ago and rather liked it; I found it a relief not to have to fight through the rhyme scheme of a Shakespeare.  So when I say I found some of Midsummer’s Night a little overwrought you’ll know I came with a viewpoint already formed!

The joy of Shakespeare is the way the words come alive when spoken, especially when spoken by a great actor in a great location; that is what I experienced when I went to see Midsummer’s Night performed at The Globe.  For me, reading it off the page doesn’t give the play the spark of magic that brings it all to life.

I enjoyed the lightness of the comedy, the speed in which the characters are sketched out and subsequently filled in through both their own speeches and those around them.  I enjoyed the sense of the ridiculous.  Although the rhyming couplets aren’t my favourite thing there were some lines that were clever and energising, and whenever you read Shakespeare you can understand why so many terms have become common parlance – they are apt and attractive.

What was less appealing were some of the characters themselves – Oberon, as King of the Fairies, is like other Shakespeare characters (eg King Lear) in thinking the world should turn on his command; I find this irritating as a reader and my lack of sympathies with Oberon and Puck do affect my responses to them.  I also find the Athenian women a little shrewish and unattractive.

Shakespeare is proof positive that there is no such thing as an original story too: within the play is another play, which ends in a very similar manner to Romeo and Juliet!

Despite Shakespeare being widely studied in literature courses, my personal view is that he didn’t write to be read but to be seen.  His plays work beautifully on stage and with actors reading lines with accent and inflection, the whole sense of a scene can change.  I am glad I read this, as it was something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – but next time I have a yearning for Shakespeare I’ll find a play to watch, and experience it as he designed.

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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This week I only managed one book – but what a book to have tried, I was clearly delirious when I picked it…!

Book 25 – Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe.  I have long thought that Kit Marlowe is unfairly missed from school reading lists: not only a contemporary of Shakespeare, he has the added mystique of a violent death and an arrest warrant out for him when he died, aged just 29.  He is the type of character that would be at least infamous in the public eye nowadays.

Anyway – onto the book!  This was actually a play and as such I can’t really judge it like a book.  It was in Elizabethan English which made reading it a challenge but it wasn’t as dense or complex, reading-wise, as some of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read and I was able to follow it pretty easily.

The story follows Faustus as he offers up his soul to the devil in exchange, ostensibly, for knowledge and power.  The cast involves humans, angels and devils and as such runs from good to bad and everything in between.

As a play the pacing was inevitably different from that of a book – I found the whole thing a little rushed but there were a few good examples of how far Faustus was prepared to push his own morality in the knowledge that it didn’t matter.  His sudden fear at the end of the play as to how he would cope in purgatory was rather less effective than may be hoped; he made the choice in knowledge of the outcome, benefitted from his pact for over 2 decades, and used his strength against others, so any sudden change of heart was a little late in the day!

In terms of structure, I am used to the rhyming couplets of Shakespeare which don’t appear as regularly here – there is much of the play that appears to be in genuine prose style as we would see it now.  This in a large part accounts for the ease of reading – there is no tortured sentence structure required.

All in all, I’d say read it if you want to get a wider perception of Elizabethan tastes – as well as some Philip Sidney, my next Elizabethan to try!

Happy reading

EJ

🙂

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