Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

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,




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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,



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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,

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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



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Ah, King Lear. I studied this play at school and really disliked it, and yet some of the lines come to mind very readily…

The reason this particular quote has surfaced is that I’m sitting waiting for high winds that have been forecast over parts of the UK.  I can already hear the howling noises so am hoping I get this posted early in case we lose power tonight!

This week has been another one of those up and down ones, and a lot of my writing time has been very administrative – editing, filing, formatting, reorganising, submitting and so on.  I am struggling to get to grips with editing book two, and am ignoring the two courses I should be doing – ignoring them studiously, actually!  Everything has seemed so fragmented that just spending a few hours archiving old poetry drafts seemed a good way to get some work done without having to focus too much on anything in particular.  My friend and I have also discussed a music and poetry performance for Christmas, so I’ve considered which pieces of poetry might work for that.

But I have to get a grip on book 2.  I have a target of the end of November, and about 130 pages to read.  I am rearranging so much that there will be significant amounts of new writing, and I have barely scratched the surface, with 5 weeks to go.  I can’t focus on the courses now – I un-enrolled from one and will make a decision about the other in the next few days.  If I can watch a few videos and feel they are useful, I’ll stay on the course but if not, I’ll un-enroll from that too. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but it’s been a really challenging few weeks and quite honestly, I think trying to do two new courses on top of everything else means nothing will get the attention it needs.

So I am setting myself a new plan of action.  I will go through – correcting and revising – 30 pages of book two each week until I am done.  I have 5 weeks so there’s 20 extra pages of contingency; if I fall one or two behind I’ve got a bit of leeway.  This will be my personal NaNo, and rather than aiming for a word count I’ll work on edited pages.

I want to get this done before I lose faith in my ability to salvage the strong core of the work – wish me luck!

In other news – well, I lured you here with Shakespeare so I thought I’d better go back to him!  I read this article about Shakespeare being performed in schools.  I love the idea of plays being treated as plays – they are, after all, written to be seen and heard.  If you’ve read Shakespeare and never enjoyed it, watch a performance and see if it changes your perception.  The worst thing that’ll happen is you get an afternoon/evening of theatre or film!

And finally – we’re onto book 5 in the 100 best novels and it’s another one I’ve never read.  I am not doing very well with this list at all.  Roll on next week, let’s see if I can tick one off!

That’s it for today – I’m off to find some candles and torches just in case…

Until next time,

Happy writing,



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As you know, I said I would have done some submissions by today.  Two, in fact.

I have to be honest and tell you I’m nearly there, but not quite. One has gone, and one is in the post for tomorrow. I’ll give myself 75% for that.  But I’ve aged about ten years in the process!

I still think of myself as a new writer, in that I’ve not been published, so I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise to others in the same boat that the hardest thing to do is share my work.  It’s easier now with poetry, because it’s mine and I’m not hoping or aiming to make a career from it.  But the novels are my career dream, and my goal is to be published.  That makes sending the book off a horribly difficult process for me.

It seems silly – the wannabe published writer who doesn’t want her book read – but all the time something is a dream, you still have hope.  Now is when I have to face the possibility of that hope being misplaced.

I know the stories of writers who couldn’t find an agent, who were rejected and became bestsellers – they are dotted about through the literary world.  But we don’t hear about the great book that didn’t get picked up or the writer who stopped sending it out.  We don’t hear the other side of that story because there’s no triumphant success.  If I were a betting woman, I’d say the safe bet’s always on the rejection letter.  I hope to beat the odds, and now I’m waiting for the cards to fall as they will.

So yes, this has been difficult.  For anyone else feeling the same worry about next steps all I can offer by way of comfort is that many (UK) agents seem to want e-mail or e-submissions now, and these at least are quick to do.  Waiting for my printer to churn out 44 pages that may define my future was much, much worse that a few copy, paste and clicks.

Now I just have to wait for up to six weeks and see what, if anything, comes back to me.  And dye my hair back from the white this week has caused 😉

In other news – Some while ago (so long ago, in fact, I can’t remember when!) I talked about the reworking of old novels by modern writers.  Well today I read that the same is being done for Shakespeare.  Yes, one of the most famous writers in history is being  updated for modern audiences.  I won’t judge the project before completion but I am surprised that it has been launched.  Shakespeare still forms a major part of the English curriculum here in the UK – I left school a while ago, but we did at least three Shakespeare plays between 14 and 18; his plays are never off the stage; we still use words and phrases of his creation.  It doesn’t really seem necessary to do anything to bring him to a modern audience!   In many respects it’ll be fascinating to see the outcomes…

Also – I have booked a retreat!  More on that next week, but we have gone for peace and space to write and paint, not sunshine and tutorials.  Although we may get sun if we’re lucky – it’s in the UK, so you really never know 🙂

I’ll leave it there for today as I really need to lie down!

Happy writing



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Now that project month is over I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I missed in the writing news, but I got sidetracked by a story that hit the culture headlines this week – the prospect of another three Star Wars films.

This reminded me of the efforts made a few years ago to encourage people to list their religion as Jedi on government census forms, and got me thinking about how some ideas become part of our cultural landscape.

As I have said before, storytelling is hugely important, and many stories remain part of our consciousness for centuries.  Their characters, or memorable quotes, become part of everyday language – and even if we have never read the stories ourselves, we use the terminology.

We might think of Shakespeare, who is the source of a number of phrases still in use today – and who would know they are using phrases written for Elizabethan plays?  Or Bram Stoker: he was not the first person to write about vampires, but Dracula is probably the most famous literary vampire (in English-language literature, at any rate).

A more modern example might be George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, a book that spawned the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ amongst others.  The idea has taken hold and we now see the phrase used by some people when talking about covert surveillance – or reality tv!

So why do some stories seem so much bigger than others, and why do they seem to last in our consciousness for such a long time?

I don’t have an answer, really – it could be that they’re taught in schools so each age group is introduced to them; it could be that they survive and others don’t either because they went out of print or were not as popular when released; it could be that they caught the public mood of a time, and became famous/notorious as a result.

Nowadays, marketing has a bigger part to play, but I don’t think that’s enough on its own – it might make something fashionable but it won’t make it timeless.  On the other hand, the Harry Potter series has grown from a set of books into a world-wise phenomenon covering films, clothing, holidays, tours and countless official and unofficial websites plus lots more, so marketing clearly has some influence!

Of course we don’t really think about the fact we are using Shakespearean phrases, or referring to mythological characters.  Maybe in another five hundred years, people will say they’re as forceful as a Jedi, and it’ll be perfectly meaningful…

Happy writing,



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