Archive for July, 2015

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a long time, and I was very fortunate that my first (but certainly not my last) visit there was to see this wonderful production of one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies.

Briefly, the story of As You Like It centres on Rosalind, the daughter of a Duke who has been banished from his own court by his brother. Rosalind has been allowed to stay at the court because the new Duke’s daughter Celia (Rosalind’s cousin) and she are great friends, but the new Duke worries that Rosalind might commit treason and banishes her from the court too, but not before Rosalind has met and instantly fallen for Orlando, a young man who has been denied his birthright by his older brother. Rosalind and Celia run away to the Forest of Arden, with Rosalind disguised as a man named Ganymede, and Celia disguised as a servant girl named Aliena. There, Rosalind again meets Orlando, who is pining for her, but doesn’t realise that his new friend is in fact the girl he fell in love with at the court.

Meanwhile, young shepherd Silvius is in love with shepherdess Phebe, but she in turn has fallen for a young man named Ganymede (!) And there are also love problems for Touchstone, the court jester who has accompanied Rosalind and Celia on their adventure. I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that it all gets sorted out in the end, but there is  much confusion and – for the audience – much hilarity along the way.

As You Like It is one of my favourite comedies, and this production was simply superb. Michelle Terry was absolutely wonderful as Rosalind – captivating and funny, and frankly adorable. I also loved Simon Harrison as Orlando, and was not the only female in the audience to share in Rosalind’s delight when he took his shirt off near the beginning of the play! James Garnon, who will be familiar to many who have been to the Globe before (or who, like me, have watched televised performances from the Globe) played Jacques, the melancholy, cynical Lord, who lives with the banished Duke and his men in the forest. This character can occasionally seem surplus to requirements (apart from his famous All the World’s A Stage speech, and his Seven Ages of Man speech), but in the capable hands of Garnon, Jacques was not only enjoyable, but actually essential to the play. Special mention also to Ellie Piercey as Celia – who has ALWAYS been one of my favourite characters in this play – and Daniel Crossley as Touchstone. (Touchstone is another very divisive character, with many people finding him annoying or pointless; however, in this production, he was lovable, funny and – unexpectedly – a marvellous tap dancer!)

To say that the play was funny would be a huge understatement. It was actually hilarious, largely due to the gutsy and uninhibited performance of Michelle Terry, and the whole audience seemed very appreciative of the entire, excellent cast.

To sum up – a wonderful production, in a beautiful setting. If you get chance to see this play, take it – you won’t regret it!

(Click here for more information about Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, or this production.)

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This book has been compared several times to Gillian Glynn’s psychological thriller Gone Girl, and I can certainly see why – and if you liked Gone Girl, then I’d recommend this to you as well. The story is told from the point of view of three narrators, of varying reliability. The first – and main – narrator is Rachel, a young woman who is still grieving over the breakdown of her marriage and finds her only solace in alcohol. Every day she rides a train into Witney and stares into the gardens of the houses along the track. She is particularly interested in the couple who inhabit one of the houses – a couple she names Jason and Jess, and for whom she invents her own back story.

The second narrator is ‘Jess’ – or rather, Megan, as she is actually called. She is married to Scott, but is restless and uncertain about what she wants out of her life and her marriage.

Anna, the current wife of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, is the third narrator. She and Tom live with the baby daughter in the same road as Megan and Scott, and are increasingly frustrated over Rachel’s constant harassment of them.

However, when Rachel sees something shocking from the train, and one of the characters disappears, the lives of all three women and their families converge – and suddenly Rachel is no longer just an observer, but is right at the centre of the mystery.

Did I enjoy this book? I guess I did, considering that I read it in two sittings and genuinely did not want to put it down. However, that is not the same as saying that I think it was a masterpiece, or a perfect book. I did guess what had happened fairly early on, but there were still plenty of red herrings and surprises to keep it interesting. The author certainly has a talent for writing very ‘readable’ characters (despite the fact that not one of them was particularly likeable, except for a couple of minor characters) and situations, and it did race along at a fair rate of knots. However, I would say that while it is a great book while you’re actually reading it, it is not one that will stick in the mind for long once it’s finished. However, for fans of the genre, it’s definitely worth taking a look.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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After reading ‘Hatchet Job’ by Mark Kermode last year and thoroughly enjoying it, I was really looking forward to reading his other books, starting with ‘It’s Only a Movie’ which is his sort-of biography (in reality more of a collection of stories from his career; Kermode describes the book as “inspired by real events” and tells the stories as though they are part of a movie of his life – with Jason Isaacs playing the man himself).

For anyone who doesn’t know who Mark Kermode is, he is a well known and popular British film critic, and half of Kermode and (Simon) Mayo’s Film Review programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, and this book relates the story of how he got there, starting off as an enthusiastic journalist for various regional magazines – amongst other things, he describes being humiliated by Helen Mirren, a wholly unenjoyable and ultimate fruitless journey to Russia to do an on-set report about the film Dark Waters, and how celebrated director Werner Herzog was shot at mid-interview!

If anything I enjoyed this book even more than I enjoyed Hatchet Job. Kermode is a self-deprecating and often very funny narrator, with a tendency to veer off at tangents halfway through any given story, but he always comes back to the point he is making, and always in a very entertaining fashion. His passion for films – in particular splattery gory horror movies – is clear to see, and even if I didn’t always agree with his opinions on certain films, I certainly enjoyed reading them.

It’s an entertaining and easy read, and I would definitely recommend it, particularly to film fans.

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