The British Library

One of the most pleasurable parts of writing my book proposal has been spending an evening or two a week propping up a desk in the British Library, which is surprising, because when I was an undergrad, I HATED it here. I spent a horrific spring term at the BL nine years ago researching my dissertation, which for some reason I’d decided to write about accents and ‘corrupted’ language in 18th-century northern Irish theatre (attn 20-year-old me: what?). Most of the plays I was looking at haven’t been republished since they were first printed, for the outstanding reason that they are not very good, so I had to go to up to Euston to read them in first editions.

And the building was just horrible then – there was no natural light, the air was weirdly still, the cloakroom queue took forever, the chairs were too big, the tea in the cafe was so expensive, and everyone seemed to know what they were doing except me. (Had the physical building become a kind of focus point for all my dissertation-related stress, including about how I’d literally be kicked out of the country if I didn’t do well enough? Surely not.)

So I was surprised when I came back last year, renewed my card (“Er,  I’m writing a book-” “You poor sod. There’s a bar on the ground floor.”) and started a weekly date in Humanities 2, and it was lovely!

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Back to school

Berowne: What is the end of study, let me know?
King: Why, that to know which else we would not know.

I just finished a weekend at the Open Talmud Project, an annual community-run weekend aimed at Talmud study for everybody. It was a bit of a shock as I haven’t done Talmud properly for a few years, since my hardcore phase just after university when I was missing academia.

What I like best about Talmud study is that it’s very difficult lifelong learning that doesn’t have a point.

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Drunk Theatre: June-July 2016

I’ve been seeing so many plays and not writing about them! Here are a few.

Shitfaced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice @ Southbank Udderbelly: I was so looking forward to this that I got massively shitfaced myself ahead of time, at my friend Ken’s birthday drinks, at a wine bar in the City, where another friend Jo and I had to – had to, for a tenuous reason I don’t remember very well – buy wine by the bottle instead of the glass. Anyway, I knocked back a litre+ of rosé and lost to Ken at pool several times, then tottered over the river to the South Bank Udderbelly and bought a double rum and tonic (“YES, WITH TONIC“) for £7.40, and waved it in front of the Shitfaced Shakespeare MC, who is responsible for keeping the show relatively on the rails. He also hands out gongs to the audience to ring if we feel the drunk actor is sobering up. I got a gong!

The interesting thing about “Shitfaced Merchant of Venice” was going to be how to do a weird tragedy with the structure of a comedy, which historically has been very hard to do without accidentally or intentionally being terrible about gay people, or Jewish people, or women, or black people, or…, in the style of Shitfaced Shakespeare, which is basically ‘loosely controlled anarchy, and booze’. It failed much less than I was dreading! (PR guys, you can use that on the posters if you like.)

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Tudor Brexit

Hello! How are you? I was working on a book and then a bunch of ostentatiously horrible political stuff happened, so instead I’ve spent the last three weeks drinking constantly and refreshing Twitter. Ha ha ha! [MUFFLED UNCONTROLLABLE SOBBING]

It’s become apparent that the leaders of the Leave campaign had zero plan, and either never really expected to win, or assumed everything would just turn out OK: I think possibly one of the reasons so many people went “yeah, sure, let’s leave the EU, no idea what will happen but it will probably be fine!” is that it taps into one of the main stories England tells itself about itself, about that time we told Europe to fuck off and it went great.

The story goes something like,

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A Shakespeare haggadah

Okay, I ended up doing something for HASHTAGSHAKESPEARE400 after all!

Tonight is also the second night of Pesach (Passover), and I put together a sort of Shakespearean accompaniment to the haggadah (the big book that everyone at a seder will have a different version of). It’s not a full haggadah, but you can read it along with most parts of the seder.

There are some bad jokes and probably some mistakes too. Any corrections or comments very welcome!

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Tabletop Shakespeare: Henry VIs and Richard III, Forced Entertainment

I first saw Forced Entertainment’s Complete Works, where they perform 36 of Shakespeare’s plays by moving household items around, on a livestream from Berlin. A lot of the Shakespeare Twitter people were watching and it was an excellent international play-watching experience thing (a bit like the Almeida’s Iliad and Odyssey – I really do love these and again cannot wait for the MA thesis on them). When Forced Ents took it to the Barbican in March, I got tickets to the Thursday night, which was the Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. Each play started about on the hour and took about 50 minutes.

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In the Barbican Pit there were metal frame shelves of the props (actors?) for each play, labelled with sticky tape. You could look for the two pairs of twins for the Comedy of Errors, or the four ladies and four lords in Love’s Labour’s Lost. I was there with friends Steve and Meg, who have been going to Forced Ents stuff long enough that the performer Richard recognised them and came over to say a quick hello before the show, brush with fame!

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