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! Read more...

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! Read more...

Drunk Theatre: “HVI: Play of Thrones” at the Union Theatre

play of thrones ft

The Union Theatre isn’t technically above a pub, though it feels like it might as well be. It is, however, just around the corner from Baltic, a restaurant/bar that does very good cocktails, so good that before heading to the theatre, Louisa and I had four. (Between us. We’re not total animals. Yet.)

Exploring connections between the Game of Thrones series and the historical Wars of the Roses isn’t new. There’s a really excellent site History Behind Game of Thrones and an upcoming book entitled, er, Game of Thrones and History. What Phil Willmott, director and adapter of HVI: Play of Thrones, has correctly picked up on is that there is also a strong literary similarity between the Game of Thrones series and Shakespeare’s trilogy of Henry VI plays, in that they both go, “Oh, the Wars of the Roses? Sounds great, let’s add some pirates, magic, adultery, witches, over-the-top gore, bad jokes, zombies and/or robots and basically just go totally bonkers with it.” Read more...

Reading Shakespeare at Crisis at Christmas

Christmas in London is really impossible to not take part in. Even if you don’t go into shops, drink in a pub or bar, work in an office or watch TV, it’s all over the streets, and good luck going anywhere because transport shuts down for a day and a half. I used to be stroppy about this and feel very self-righteously oppressed, since I grew up in the US, where public Christmas actually is about public Christianity. But in the past three years or so I have got over this and come to appreciate that the general British aversion to public religiousness extends to this holiday, and in London especially, ‘Christmas’ in practice is really just a secular festival about light, booze and food, all things I can well get on board with.

This year I signed up to volunteer at Crisis at Christmas. Over 23-30 December, the homelessness charity Crisis takes over donated buildings (mostly schools and colleges, which are closed over the holidays) and turns them into centres where homeless people can eat, socialise, be warm and indoors, and have free access to services like legal advice, dental and eye care and haircuts. Depending on volunteers, there are also things like manicures and massages, films, musical performers, yoga lessons, and football matches.

The volunteer sign-up form asks if you have any services or special skills you can offer, including an option for ‘leading performing arts activities’, and I decided to sign up to lead Shakespeare workshops. Two days later I got an approval email, for the three days I’d said I could do – December 25, 27 and 29, working shifts from 10am-7pm – as well as a general induction on December 14. Read more...

Drunk Theatre: “Henry IV, Part One” and “Part Two”, by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican

henry iv rsc ft

Last week I had three days off in a row (unprecedented pleasure!) and on Wednesday night I stopped by the Barbican ten minutes before curtain to see which Henry IV was playing, and whether there were any tickets left. It was Part One, and I got what I think must be the best seat in the Barbican. It’s AA3 in the upper circle, and I think it is the best because:

  1. It is £10
  2. The view is hardly restricted at all
  3. When you leave it opens straight out onto a martini bar.
Thirty seconds away from your seat.

  Read more...

Hamlet at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Hamlet Maxine Peake poster

Making friends in the day-ticket queue is such an excellent way to start a morning.

My friend Meg and I were in Manchester on Saturday, and decided to try for tickets to Maxine Peake playing Hamlet. We got to the Royal Exchange Theatre a little after 8am, where there were about 30 people in the queue for 34 pairs of tickets. The next people to join were a nurse who’d just come off the midnight shift, and a local man who comes to all the shows with his wife and queues so she doesn’t have to (we should all have such loved ones). Read more...