Shakespeare the sailor man

Shakespeare the sailor man

Many of the world’s most prominent Shakespeare academics are meetings this week in Stratford-upon-Avon for the invite-only International Shakespeare Conference. A highlight of the first day was the screening of Shakespearian Spinach as part of the paper by Professor Peter Holland. This 1940 Paramount animation features Popeye and Olive Oyl as Romeo and Juliet – and it is rather special. Here it is as today’s treat…

Post-hols stripped-back Sunday links

Post-hols stripped-back Sunday links

Welcome home – to sunshine, a much-neglected blog and more than 1,700 spam comments that need (rapid) reviewing. Here is a developing list of some of the things I’ve found interesting in the past few days since I have been back from a wonderful time in Italy.  With apologies for not giving credit where it’s due for the pieces I didn’t discover myself.

NOW THEN: a new batch of brilliance from Adam Curtis.

The down and dirty history of TMZ: a completely compelling profile of the above by Anne Helen Petersen for Buzzfeed.

The pervasive power of Rupert Murdoch: an extract from Hack Attack by Nick Davies, courtesy of the Guardian.

‘Hollywood Exiles in Europe’ – feeling alienated and anxious: Kenneth Turan for the Los Angeles Times on a UCLA season of movies made by those who driven away by the Red-baiting of the 1950s.

Excerpt from Crying at the Movies: a section of Marion Sprengbether’s ‘film memoir’, published in 2002.

Insomnia – unbearable lightness: Jonathan Romney for Criterion on the 1997 Norwegian thriller.

Moonrise Kingdom – Wes in Wonderland: David Bordwell on current notions of auteurism as highlighted by Anderson’s film.

Hollywood transformed: Tom Shone for the Financial Times on China and the contemporary cinema.

Edinburgh 2014 – brain benders of the Black Box: Harriet Warman for Sight & Sound at the EFF showcase of experimental moving images.

Andrew Dickson on Shakespeare in the Wild West: great podcast.

• The Nether ”trailer”: a smart interactive experience for the show currently at the Royal Court.

Mastersinger: Alex Ross profiles Joyce DiDonato for The New Yorker.

The all-American expo that invaded Cold War Russia: Matt Novak at Paleo-future on the American National Exhibition in Moscow, July 1959.

Prefab, post fab and just fab: John Grindrod visits Catford’s Excalibur Estate of post-war pre-fabs.

No moral, no uplift, just a restless ‘click’: Holland Cotter at The New York Times on MoMA’s Garry Winogrand retrospective…

In transit: … and a very fine Geoff Dyer piece on Winogrand from the London Review of Books archives.

Musical gold: a fine Rebecca Mead New Yorker piece on investing in Stradivari.

Brief lives: Luke McKernan on writing for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which I’ve also been doing recently)

At the crime scene: a remarkable London Review of Books essay by Adam Shatz on the sado-masochism (and more) of Alain Robbe-Grillet.

What is the great American novel?: for TLS Sarah Graham reviews Lawrence Buell’s The Dream of the Great American Novel.

Big air: The New Yorker‘s Ben McGrath at the X Games.

BBC R&D at the Commonwealth Games 2014: the future of broadcasting is here – or, at least, it’s in Glasgow.

• Beyond digitisation – new possibilities in digital art history: James Cuno for Iris at The Getty.

Citizen Bezos: Steve Coll on Amazon for The New York Review of Books.

Understanding the participatory culture of the web – an interview with Henry Jenkins: … by Trevor Owens at a Library of Congress blog.

‘Let wonder seem familiar’

‘Let wonder seem familiar’

There’s something a bit superfluous and a bit naive and a bit daft about this post. But after last night and this afternoon I just want to express how much at present I love the theatre. Of course I am deeply involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the thrilling and thoughtful and hilarious pair of Henry IV productions (coming soon to cinemas on 14 May and 18 June). But I want here to hymn two other productions that have excited me and moved me and provoked me and prompted tears from me over the past twenty-four hours. One is A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, directed by Ivo van Hove (the link is to an excellent Guardian backgrounder) and still in previews at the Young Vic (until 7 June). The other is Much Ado About Nothing which is directed by Maria Aberg and has just opened at the Royal ExchangeTheatre, Manchester (until 3 May, above). Both, in their different ways, left me touched with wonder.
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Links to catch up, 2

Links to catch up, 2

A explanation, of sorts, for my absence, is in the complementary post to this, as are recommended film and TV links from the past month or so. Today, before we get back to the blog in earnest, here are further links, of literature and Ladybird Books, of peep shows (as above) and digital culture and more.

Thousands of years of visual culture made free through Wellcome Images: it’s wonderfully welcome news that the Wellcome Foundation has made freely available more than 100,000 images under a Creative Commons license; the details are in this post, and the full credit for the wonderful image above is as follows:

L0031022 Looking at a Peep show in the street, Peking (detail)
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
images@wellcome.ac.uk     http://wellcomeimages.org
A Manchu girl, wearing platform shoes, and a Manchu bannerman, in
his sheepskin coat,stand looking at a travelling Peep show.
The showman is wearing winter dress made of coarse cotton cloth.
Peking, Pechili Province, China.
Photograph 1869 By: John Thomson
Gold and Platinum-toned albumen print by Michael Gray, 1997
Published:  -
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 2.0


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‘This day of triumph’ #AAoK

‘This day of triumph’ #AAoK

Last week the first shrink-wrapped copies of Illuminations’ DVD release of An Age of Kings arrived at our offices. The event marked the culmination of at least two years’ work by my colleague Louise Machin and I, along with our designer Loic Leveque, and the essential support of Todd MacDonald and Tom Allen. It also represents, given the advance paid to BBC Worldwide as well as the design, sub-titling and duplication costs, a significant investment by the company. So go here to buy your copy for the bargain price of £34.99.

We very much hope that An Age of Kings will be the beginning of a major new project to release great television adaptations of classic theatre plays, which we are conceiving in conjunction with the AHRC-funded University of Westminster research project Screen Plays. Before I explain why I believe An Age of Kings is so significant, and how we plan to promote and support the release, here is a taster:


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Mash to the future

Mash to the future

On Thursday evening Arena premiered the first of two films looking back at the history of the National Theatre. I am going to wait for the second to air before posting about them, but I do want to look today at significant developments on the Arena website. Initiatives there seem to me to be pointing towards the future of British television.

First off, there are two mash-ups of Shakespeare speeches, both of which I have embedded across the jump. (Yes, embedded – that I think is a first for BBC content.) And it’s worth musing on each of these for a moment. One, perhaps inevitably, is Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be…’, the other is Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene. Both feature extracts from Illuminations productions, and part of why I am writing this post is to help me work out quite what I feel about that.
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‘Praises, of whose taste the wise are fond’

‘Praises, of whose taste the wise are fond’

I said that I am not going to post a ‘review’ of Richard II, which opened to a wonderful reception last night in Stratford-upon-Avon (with live cinema broadcasts on and after 13 November). And I’m not. Nor am I going to answer the question, is this the best Richard II you’ve ever seen? Deborah Warner’s National Theatre production with Fiona Shaw (which we helped translate to BBC2) was extraordinary. So too was Steven Pimlott’s RSC staging with Sam West. I am also a fan, albeit a cautious one, of Rupert Goold’s television film with Ben Whishaw for The Hollow Crown. But having now seen Greg Doran’s production with David Tennant three times, plus a run-through in the rehearsal room, I am prepared to offer a brief and not in any sense complete list of ten things that I really really like about the production – and as you read the thoughts of others they might give you a sense of why I am excited.
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Time for ‘An Age of Kings’

Time for ‘An Age of Kings’

We are thrilled to confirm that Illuminations is to release the BBC cycle of Shakespeare’s History plays An Age of Kings as a 15-episode, 5-disc DVD set on 8 December. You can place your advance order here.

An Age of Kings has never previously been released for home video in the UK and it has been seen only very occasionally since the single repeat of the series in 1962. Yet it is a wonderful compelling account of all eight of Shakespeare’s histories, with a stellar cast including Robert Hardy, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Sean Connery. This landmark production was broadcast live from, first, Riverside Studios and then Television Centre, on Thursday evenings once a fortnight from April to November 1960.

First details about the release are here. Then over the coming weeks on this blog we will feature lots more information about the series and about our release, and we will be developing a range of online resources, starting with our new Twitter feed @AnAge of Kings; do please follow that for all the latest news.

Links for the weekend

Links for the weekend

I am not sure if Jonathan Bate’s list of 100+ of the Best Books on Shakespeare has been around for a good while, but it’s new to me – and that feels like sufficient reason to feature it at the head of today’s Links. (Apologies by the way for absences in the past couple of weeks; I’m back for the start of the new term.) Bate is among the very best Shakespearean scholars writing today and one of the editors of The RSC Shakespeare Complete Works from Palgrave Macmillan (this is the one-volume edition I use most frequently, although nothing beats the individual volumes in the Arden series). He is also the author of The Genius of Shakespeare (1997), which if I had to recommend to someone just a single book about the Bard, this would be the one. It is described here as ‘a biography of the idea of Shakespeare and perceptions of his greatness’. Fortunately, we can all read many more than just one – and this list is a great place to start. There are many more links below, with thanks this week to @AndyKesson, @footage@cinetourist@KarlinMarc@zilkerfilms@filmstudiesff and @Z.
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‘Thus play I in one person many people’

‘Thus play I in one person many people’

Rehearsals for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new Richard II with David Tennant start a week tomorrow, Tuesday (the cast get the Bank Holiday off too). And we deep in the preparations for the Live from Stratford Upon Avon broadcast to cinemas on 13 November. During the past seven days we confirmed our on-screen host (hurrah!), shot the trailer and began to film the weekly production diary which will start to appear online on 30 August. But before we begin things proper I thought it might be interesting to offer a little background about previous British screen versions of the play. To date, there has been no feature film – Rupert Goold’s highly cinematic treatment for television’s The Hollow Crown (2012) comes the closest, while the 1949 Ealing Studios film Train of Events features an amateur dramatics society performing the play’s last scenes. Including The Hollow Crown, there have been seven full-length small-screen productions so far.
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