Comic Relief does Shakespeare (and a rare opportunity to see Jonathan Pryce as Hamlet)

We are still on Comic Relief weekend (which reminds me, if you haven’t donated already, do it now) and it’s right and proper there has been much talk about its many achievements over 25 years. Yet, despite extensive discussion, some are still overlooked. Like its contribution to Shakespearean studies.

Many have asked the question: could have Shakespeare benefited from an editor? But no one gave as succinct an answer as that: Continue reading

Review: Quartermaine’s Terms, by Simon Gray, at the Wyndhams (starring Rowan Atkinson)

Rowan Atkinson as St John Quartermaine. Photo by Nobby Clark.

Rowan Atkinson as St John Quartermaine. Photo by Nobby Clark.

“I mean these things between people – people one cares for – it’s hard to bear them“. In the middle of the play, this words uttered by St John Quartermaine, land like a bomb. Quickly the moment passes. Most other characters try not to feel, and only care up to a point, they have considerations, alliances, careers, plans to distract them.  St John Quartermaine, played by Rowan Atkinson, has nothing but the staff room at this English school for foreigners.

Simon Gray’s play, written more than 30 years ago, is set in the fringes of Cambridge academia. Tweed jackets, heavy bookcases, leather chairs and croquet, but also frustration as none of these professors play with the big boys. In many other ways, it’s a depressingly modern workplace. Co-workers talk of lifelong friendships and bonds between them, but time and again practicalities get in the way.  Efficiency marches in, the weakest links are cut loose. Leave any man behind. Continue reading

Five Reasons the London 2012 opening ceremony kicked ass

Better qualified people have been commenting on the ceremony (my current favourite is the Sports Illustrated article), but I figured most of them won’t be able to use “kick ass” in the title. Clearly, this is exactly what the ceremony (and Danny Boyle) did, so it’s entirely appropriate to correct this and to write my personal response to the event. (Further reading: the Illuminations blog has a good selection of articles about the ceremony). In no particular order:

1) It made us proud to be British: many said that exact thing last night. But when I say it, I think it means more: because I am not British. Many of us came from somewhere else and made a home here, and this ceremony, like the best of Britain and, especially, the best of London, made sense of the fact that London is my home too.

2) It was unifying: I don’t mean united in feeling or pride (although it was that too). I refer to that unique moment when everyone was thinking the same thing: “It can’t be her, can it?”. Outside fiction, how often can you have half a billion people having the same thought at the same moment? The deliciousness of a film featuring James Bond and The Queen (the real Queen) is obvious, but it’s worth noting the Sun had printed the story back in April. But it printed on April Fool’s and nobody believed it. Pay attention because it’s unlikely I ‘ll say this about the Sun ever again: how brilliant is that? Continue reading