Yesterday I went to see a production of Antony and Cleopatra by the Bell Shakespeare Company. What a fantastic set! Very simple, very flexible and visually pleasing.
The sets are a big part of why I like Bell Shakespeare productions, because they are always interesting. In this case I particularly liked the use of a gauze curtain between the players and the audience for changing the mood and for displaying projected text.
Costumes… modern… used as a way to express character… worked well, though I did wonder why there were so many pairs of ankle breaking heels for the ladies. I did like that Antony and Cleopatra were dressed as equals (ignoring the stiletto heels) in simple black and white.
It is a bit of shouty play, with lots of big emotional speeches, but I personally don’t like shouty delivery, so I’ll say that wasn’t may favourite aspect of this production. Overall though, I thought it was well done. Nice bit of gender flipping, good use of props, casting that worked well and I liked how the violence was handled.
In fact the physicality was something fun; lots of people moving in slow-mo.
Also Nick Cave tracks. Liked that!
There’s something inspiring about seeing the sheer range of approaches to staging a play. The subtle effects of a set choice or props. How little or how much it matters when the gender is changed. Choices to include or drop particular speeches. Always fascinating.
I read Altered Carbon when it came out and loved the ideas in it. Given the story is such a logical one for adaption to the screen, I wasn’t surprised to see the poster for the TV show. Though a movie would make more sense to me for the type of story…
All I hope, is that the writers remedy what was very wrong with the book – and why I never bothered with the author’s other work – which was a disappointing treatment of the sexes. Particularly the idea that being in a woman’s body makes being physically tortured worse. *sigh*
The trailer for the series looks interesting and I was glad to see Joel Kinnaman is in the lead – he’s an actor I have a lot of time for. Not sure when I’ll get to see it as I don’t have the streaming service that’s created it, but I look forward to having a peek when it happens!
I’ve now seen my 10 Studio Ghibli movies and it was such a treat! Pom Poko is still up there for being great storytelling, but I have added another new favourite: When Marnie was There. Unsurprisingly it’s another spec fic story, though subtly so and like the wonderful Howl’s Moving Castle is based on a British novel.
What Studio Ghibli has done across many of films is show uncomfortable realities and that’s what When Marnie was There does. In fact it pretty much opens with the protagonist telling us she hates herself and feels completely cut off from normal life, which in a child character is full-on.
That she finds real friendship and develops trust with a girl who – not really a spoiler – isn’t there, makes it heartbreaking when Marnie vanishes from her life. The lovely spec fic element of who/what Marnie actually is makes being put through the emotional wringer worthwhile.
I’m on a mission now to read the book to see whether I like it as much as this gorgeous animated movie.
Of the Studio Ghibli movies I’ve seen so far in the festival Pom Poko really caught my attention. Aside from anything else I liked about it, it is just great storytelling. It takes us through the effects of urban development on wildlife – specifically tanuki (racoon dogs) and foxes – through a mix of realism and fantasy, drawing heavily on folklore about these animals.
The tanuki try everything they can to fight against humans – including killing – and their community is divided into factions favouring different methods. Ultimately they don’t succeed and many die. A hard-hitting message, but given with huge doses of humour and using an ensemble of well defined characters who you can relate to.
Part of the appeal of the movie for me was the folklore of tanuki. They are fun loving and food loving, mischievous critters who can shape-shift! The males also have interesting uses for their testicles which leads to some of the hilarity. To have these ideas woven into a contemporary story (made in the 1990s) without – as far as I can tell – modern updates is interesting.
I found it provided a way to care about the animals through anthropomorphism without entirely removing them from their animal natures. (They aren’t written as humans who look like animals which is so common in animation.)
Another thing that appealed to me about Pom Poko was the mix of visual styles. Utilising the flexibility of animation, the way the tanuki are drawn changes according to the situation. When humans are likely to see them they are realistic representations, when away from human sight they are more cartoonish, and when they are indulging in pure fun they become highly stylised.
Back to the story telling though… it was startling for the way it moved from humour to sadness to hope and back again repeatedly. Pom Poko really takes the characters and the viewer on a journey.
And if you’ve never seen a tanuki then here you go!
Tanuki (racoon dog)
I was in Manchester last weekend and it was a curious thing to be out in the city where everyone was going about their lives on warm spring days as though nothing of note had recently happened there, and yet the bombing the previous weekend did cast a shadow… of defiance and love.
The very fact the athletic carnival and fun run went ahead on the days we were there, with big crowds cheering them on, was defiance, but there were many other instances too. The buskers were wearing “I love MCR” tshirts, as were all the charity collectors, and there were messages of love and support at the memorials around town. And this outside the Waterstones book store:
In a strange way, what had happened that night in Manchester was almost less present in Manchester than it had been for us before we got there, because in a pub in Kirkwall a few days earlier, where everyone had been hoping Man Utd would win the Europa League Final (which they did), when the stadium in Sweden fell silent before the start of play out of respect for Manchester, so did the pub.
I have no personal experience of war, but every time I hear “age shall not weary them” it touches me. There’s something haunting about the lines and their being followed by the Last Post.
The Ode of Remembrance draws from a longer First World War poem called For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon and, while often you only hear the 4th stanza, I like it when you hear the 3rd and 4th:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Last book club was fun for all of us chatting previous and about up coming travel plans and the fact we’d all had a bit of a chuckle from the book, which was Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I have to say it struck me as typically Prachett; quirky and absurd with a dash of surreal.
What caught my writer’s eye though, was the point in the text at which a crazy number of strands suddenly converged into one narrative. Up until then it was either intriguing or annoying depending on how you react as a reader to the constant and isolated introduction of new characters!
The bookclubbers were a bit divided depending on whether they’d made it past that point or not, and not everyone found it as funny as I did. Though they did all have a laugh at me as I retold the scene where a big, nasty hell-hound turns into a tiny, jack russell type dog, complete with inside-out ear and chuckled a lot.