#MindTheBard 2021: Diary

Pestilence

As I’m not doing much in the way of reviews for this #MindTheBard, I thought the best way to keep things going throughout the week was to do a daily ‘diary’ update – this way I can give you a little bit of feedback on whatever version of the day’s play I end up seeing. Do keep an eye on my Twitter feed and Insta stories for updates as they happen (I’m making it sound like breaking news when it really, really isn’t), and please feel free to get involved!

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Leech

Saturday 3 July 2021
For once, a combination of time, motivation & creativity hit me, so I could get things prepared and written on the day of this challenge week beginning… Ideally I would have announced & prepared at least a week in advance, but at the moment my work is based at a different site where I have no computer and I’ve also been walking up to 10 miles a day – so no resources & general exhaustion put paid to advance preparation. Anyway, that’s easily rectified when time is finally on your side!

Today’s play was Henry V, so I decided to go a bit off-piste and watch Netflix’s The King; technically this is based on the Henriad, but it goes so swiftly through any events from Henry IV parts 1 & 2 that it does still feel like more of a Henry V adaptation for the most part. It was intriguing to see a different approach, though it’s a shame that pretty much all of the humour was completely sucked out of it. I enjoyed the (presumably) more realistic depiction of a battlefield than you could realistically expect from a Shakespeare production, and the whole thing definitely brought home the dark side of conflict well – there is more focus on trying to stop battles, rather than the patriotic bluster that some productions of Henry V can be tempted into. My main bone of contention was the complete change in Falstaff’s role, no doubt influenced by Joel Edgerton playing Falstaff but also being credited as a writer & producer. It’s not a bad watch, by any means, but I’d suggest you have to be in a slightly different mood to really get on board with this particular version of the Hal story.

My engagement with the film was not helped by the Worst Neighbours Ever™ loudly watching the England game outside, and then having what turned out to be a wedding reception in their back garden – no warning to neighbours, very little taste in music, and clearly an inability to tell the time.

“Sleep shall neither night nor day
Hang upon his pent-house lid” (1.3.21.22)
First Witch, Macbeth (Act 1 Scene 3)

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Boils

Sunday 4 July 2021
A bit worse for wear after being kept up until past 1am against my will (regular 5am alarms on work days are no joke – my bedtime habits have definitely changed since having to do that), but ready for another day filled with Shakespeare and cricket. Except Bristol had to ruin the perfect run for England in the T20 & ODI series with Sri Lanka, didn’t it? One innings and then match abandoned due to rain, so no clean sweep (though obviously still unbeaten). So by the end of lunch it was just Shakespeare left! And perhaps a bit of Queen, as I finally had some time to dig into my News of the World boxset…

Today’s play was Coriolanus, so I decided to go for the Ralph Fiennes film version from 2011; set in modern-day eastern Europe, it actually had me hooked from start to finish – which is incredibly rare for this play, as it can be really difficult to get into. The style & setting made it easy to for me to follow and understand, where previously I’ve struggled (with the notable exception of TSMGO). Sometimes a concept or modernisation can overwhelm a Shakespeare play, or detract from its meaning & nuances, but other times it gets it absolutely right. Fiennes does a Branagh, directing & starring, but gets it absolutely right (leaving Rigsby at home); Gerard Butler’s Tullus Aufidius is a good opponent for Fiennes’ Coriolanus, and Jon Snow’s inclusion is excellent.

#ShakespeareSunday

“Thou art a boil,
A plague-sore or embossèd carbuncle
In my corrupted blood. But I’ll not chide thee.
Let shame come when it will. I do not call it.”
King Lear, King Lear (Act 2 Scene 4)

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Madness

Monday 5 July 2021
Eased my way into the work & challenge week combo by working from home – useful not having any teaching session to go in and help out with! Plus I was supposed to moderate a Zoom webinar in the afternoon, but the trainer had to pull out so that meant I could bring my Shakespeare-watching plans forward slightly; an extended (late) lunch break is always good, and I still managed to get all the work done that I had planned. Win-win!

I saw the Cumberbatch Hamlet at the Barbican back in 2015 and wasn’t convinced by the production, but as it’s included in Prime Video at the moment I thought I might as well give it another go. I still thought the performances were superb, and the set design absolutely breath-taking, but I may actually feel less favourable towards it than six years ago. The main issue is the lack of direction, really – plus now I’ve seen it several times (this was my first production of the play) the strange order of some of the scenes did bug me. My review at the time is not the best example of my work, as I was still in the early stages of blogging and clearly had to shoe-horn Sunny Afternoon into everything, but the basic points are there.

“Tonight thou shalt have cramps
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up”
Prospero, The Tempest (Act 1 Scene 2)

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Leprosy

Tuesday 6 July 2021
Back to the usual working arrangements of heading in early in the morning and then coming home after lunch to finish off some work – annoyingly my 4-mile walks were thwarted in both directions as it decided to chuck it down. The weather really has no sense of timing! Thankfully I still managed to get some podcast catchups in (I really do have too many on my list now), but I definitely missed the endorphin hit.

There was only one thing to do in terms of Shakespeare today: The Show Must Go Online! I obviously could easily have just rewatched their readings every single day this week, but I felt that a bit more variety was needed. It was great to go back to one of the earlier efforts (Henry VI, part two) with the benefit of over a year’s worth of material behind them now – and even though the team were just learning the ropes at that point, it’s remarkable how brilliantly it stands up against some of the more recent efforts. Jack Baldwin’s red nails and Doireann May White’s sword remain highlights.

“Now, the rotten diseases of the south, the guts-griping, ruptures, catarrhs, loads o’ gravel i’ the back, lethargies, cold palsies, raw eyes, dirt-rotten livers, wheezing lungs, bladders full of imposthume, sciaticas, lime-kilns i’ the palm, incurable bone-ache, and the rivelled fee-simple of the tetter, take and take again such preposterous discoveries!”
Thersites, Troilus and Cressida (Act 5 Scene 1)

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Blood

Wednesday 7 July 2021
I finally got my morning walk in! It honestly makes all the difference, and an hour of stomping from Victoria to Hammersmith flies by with the right podcast in your ears. The same goes for the walk from there to Paddington, and then the walk from Paddington to Leicester Square for the evening’s revelries… All in all I must have totted up about 13 miles today, which is a little mad (I shall be taking it down a notch tomorrow), but it’s the only exercise option I’ve got – plus it saves me money on public transport into the bargain.

First in-person theatre of the week, as I (perhaps unwisely) headed to Leicester Square Theatre for Shit-faced Shakespeare’s latest production: The Scottish Play! On one side my logic was pretty sound: it starts at 7pm & lasts just over an hour, so I can well & truly escape from most of the football madness. However, it simply didn’t register that it could affect attendance at the show – but luckily a group of fairly tipsy women sat near the front and more than made up for the lack of numbers! I have started to resent the amount of Euros-related stuff creeping into every facet of life, though I have to admit that Macbeth loudly telling everyone “IT’S COMING HOME” around the time their relatives died was an act of drunken genius – as was asking the Weird Sisters who was going to win the match. We were so close to getting “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” in its entirety, but at least Macduff finally got his happily ever after by becoming Queen of Scotland! This brand of Shakespeare honestly never disappoints.

“He had a fever when he was in Spain,
And when the fit was on him, I did mark
How he did shake: ’tis true, this god did shake.”
Cassius, Julius Caesar (Act 1 Scene 2)

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Pox

Thursday 8 July 2021
One of the problems with major football tournaments is that even people who don’t like football jump shamelessly on the bandwagon and want to talk about it – but then have trouble accepting the major issues with England staying in tournaments for the duration (domestic abuse, fans mobbing the streets of major towns & cities, etc.). So that was the first part of my morning; I don’t want to piss on people’s parade, but maybe if someone responds to “Did you watch the match?” with “Fuck no!”, go and talk to someone else about it. Aside from that, thankfully just the morning spent in the office today, so I could get home and watch England crush Pakistan in the first ODI while I got on with some other work.

As I only had a couple of new & in-person theatre trips planned for this week, I thought it would be a good idea to at least support a theatre by paying for a recording of a past production – and you can’t go far wrong with the Globe Player! Especially when you have a rarely played piece such as All’s Well That Ends Well to watch. I ended up with the 2011 John Dove production from the main Globe Theatre, starring the likes of Janie Dee, Sam Crane, Michael Bertenshaw, and Ellie Piercy. As the only in-person production of this play that I’ve seen was in the intimate, candlelit surroundings of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, it was a stark contrast seeing it out in the open and the groundlings tightly packed in the yard. This definitely allowed the comic aspects of the play to shine, as there was quite a jovial atmosphere for much of it, though not all the sadness & despair were lost by any means.

“In poison there is physic; and these news,
Having been well, that would have made me sick,
Being sick, have in some measure made me well.”
Northumberland, Henry IV part two (Act 1 Scene 1)

Broken heart

Friday 9 July 2021
Final day of office/challenge week combo! Not in the mood for a walk this morning, but I reckon I’m owed some quieter days by now – though, saying that, I had an afternoon walk in mind instead (which would be over twice the distance) so it was probably good sense to take it easy earlier on. Though it made sense to stay in the office all day, rather than go home & fairly soon after have to come back into town again, I was absolutely gutted to miss watching Cav ride to victory in the 13th stage of the Tour de France, as it meant he went level on stage wins with Eddy Merckx. The press night also meant I was missing England women’s and Somerset T20 games, but it was definitely all worth it to be back at the Globe.

Romeo & Juliet is a play that I don’t always look forward to, but some recent productions have definitely done their bit to convert me. And it’s not like I would ever turn down an invite to a Globe press night, anyway! The last time I was at Shakespeare’s Globe was January 2020, for the history plays in the Sam Wanamaker, and it’s been nearly two years since I set foot in the Globe Theatre (15 July 2019 – The Merry Wives of Windsor). I think what helped me to enjoy this particular version of Romeo & Juliet the most was that it pretty much rejected any thought of romance, focusing instead on social commentary & analysis of the play – it definitely gave me a lot to think about, and allowed me to see the play anew.

“My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music.”
Hamlet, Hamlet (Act 3 Scene 4)

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