Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Right Welcome Back

Forsooth, I have been too long apart. I fear reprisals 
And chastisement at my lack of fealty to this blog.
I pray thee forgive my tardiness as I cry
Thrice welcome to the lovers of the Bard, Billy-Boy!


As a precursor to trying once again to tackle this blog on a more regular footing in 2015 I felt a round up of the past year was in order.

I was fortunate to see two full productions this year in two very different but equally stunning locations. The first back in July was the Globe on Tour's production of King Lear performed at the Bodleian Library in Oxford prior to starting a tour across America. Joseph Marcell's portrayal of Lear was not the strongest I've seen but the company as a whole had the feel of strolling players; simple and rustic and with a small cast doubling or even trebling up on roles. The outstanding performance for me was Bethan Cullinane as both Cordelia and the Fool.



The second bout of Bard was 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by the Derby Shakespeare Theatre Company at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall. The August night out was finished perfectly with a beautiful moonrise joining the cast. The show had a unique 1950's setting which incorporated some marvellous costumes; from the changeling as an Enid Blyton style school boy in a Red Indian headband and feather to the fairies as colour co-ordinated housewives. A particular favourite part of the play for me was the other possible entrainments at the wedding feast - muses, tipsy Bacchanals, centaurs and an Athenian eunuch - all putting in amusing appearances during the course of the production.

In other news I have been slowly increasing my collection of Arden Shakespeares (I discovered all three parts of Henry VI in an Oxfam just this Saturday) with the tally now standing at 21 'Got' and 16 'Need'.

My hopes for 2015 include being able to finally catch up on the many movie versions I've missed in the pass few years. I also look forward with much anticipation to the return of 'The Hollow Crown' to the BBC plus the Beeb's adaptation of Wolf Hall (not technically Billy-Boy but close enough). And I'm signed up for another mini-MOOC in March with Future Learn this time regarding 'Much Ado About Nothing'. 

So here's to another year of blatantly brilliant Bard-like brouhaha!


Monday, 3 November 2014

The Hollow Crown (Season 2)


So looking forward to this after the enjoying the first season so much. And before he tackles Hamlet Mr Cumberbatch will be Barding it up as Richard III.

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Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Shakericks - Richard III

A Duke with a back, bent and bony
Was crowned due to bunk and baloney;
He’d pushed past both his brothers
His nephews and others
But lost it for want of a pony!

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Shakespeare is Everywhere: Christopher Gaze at TEDxVancouver

Monday, 3 March 2014

MOOCy-Boy Bard

Time for my second MOOC on Billy-Boy Bard!

This time FurtureLearn is taking me on a longer journey with 'Shakespeare and his World' (coordinated by the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust)

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

“To Not Be, Not To Not Be" (Explained)

So this is how I explained the whole “To Not Be, Not To Not Be” to our Betty on the way back from the first night of Hamlet…

Life or death! That’s what it boils down to. 

Is it better to put up with all the bog-water what people drop on you? Or to take a swing at them even if they end up knocking your block off! So basically “Put up or be shut up!” As dead as a doornail, pushing up the daisies and resting in peace. No, better than resting. Completely free from all the pains you get in life - like when your back gives out if you do any heavy lifting (or like my having to listen to you going on and on about it) 

(Course I didn’t say that bit to her)

Now, there’s something I wouldn’t half wish for! To be dead and having a right good kip! And while kipping having some lovely dreams (Like that one I have about me and the barmaid from the Duke’s Head!) 

(Didn’t say that bit to our Betty either or else there would have been a whole world of pain!) 

Ah! But then that’s the problem ain’t it!  Exactly what do we dream about when we’ve popped our clogs? Makes you stop and think don’t it! And it’s that stopping and thinking what makes living to a ripe old age be such a ripe old pain in the Arras! 

Think about it! Would you put up with all the problems we have in life? Like Old Man Turner always having a go at us for not paying the rent? Or Nelly Punkwit making out she’s so much better than you just cause she’s still got five of her own teeth? (Or the barmaid at the Duke’s Head slapping me every time I so much as say hello!) Or Paying taxes or cow towing to all those toffs swanning up here from the West End? Why put up with all that when one quick slash from a naked blade would set you up with a nice quiet after-life?

Who would bear his fardels (certainly not me in my condition) and live with all that? Except… Except for the fact that if you were to top yourself something even worse might happen to you ‘after’ death! (Yes! Even worse that Nelly Punkwit!) Because let’s face it, when was the last time you had a chat with someone who’d passed over? 
“Oh! Hello our Nan! How are things with you?” 
“Oh, just fine dear! It’s lovely up here. I was only saying to that Angel Gabriel yesterday…”
You see it’s that not knowing that muddies the water. Call me a coward if you like but I say “You know what? I think I’d rather stick with Old Turner and his tongue lashing than meet Old Nick and his pointy pitchfork!” (Because I don’t want that anywhere near my fardels! Thank you very much!)

And so it is that no matter how red you get in the face you’ll always end up a cowardly-custard yellow! And why people heading for Peckham Rye often get lost in Acton! (Or summit like that!)

Daniel Smallpiece, Firkin Bottom Knocker (Retired), London 1601ish

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Monty Python - Hospital For Over Acting

Quote #039

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy"
Hamlet - 'Hamlet', Act I Scene 4

All the World's a MOOC

What's a MOOC?

It's a Massive Online Open Course (no joke) and I have been once more indulging my love of Shakespeare by trying one out with the relatively new FurtureLearn.

The course I'm currently enjoying is called 'Shakespeare's Hamlet' and is run in partnership with the University of Birmingham's Shakespeare Institute at Stratford upon Avon. My review of the first night of Hamlet in an earlier Blog entry was an exercise on the course. Unfortunately there are only two more weeks but you may still be able to join or if they should repeat it I would recommend it to anyone.

If not then there is also another Shakespeare course coming up in March called 'Shakespeare and his World' which is coordinated by the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

So if you want to learn more about Billy-Boy Bard come and join the party...

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Friday, 24 January 2014

First Night Review of Hamlet

Well, me and the misses went over the river to the Globe last night to see Billy-Boy Bard's latest - Hamlet, Prince of Dagenham (or summit). Now, as Betty will tell you, I'm a big Shakespeare fan (especially his early funny ones) but I’ll admit I had my doubts about going to see this. I'd been hearing rumours all over the shop that it was a remake of that other Hamlet play (not that I'd see it) and very similar to Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy” (not that I've seen that neither). But let me tell you – you can forget all about that other rubbish! This Hamlet was the business! 

There were some lovely scary bits. Right at the start there was all this goings on with a ghost and our Betty nearly had an accident at this other bit when Hamlet kills this old bloke behind a curtain. And as for Hamlet himself, he might start off as a bit of a Moaning-Minnie but once he start's acting as if he's “a few galleons short of an Armada” it gets well good - hats off to Burbage for that as he delivered in buckets as always. He was great at the whole “Will he? Won’t he?” bit about killing his uncle, the King. (Nasty piece of work that uncle - can't remember his name though) Course, if was me and he’d killed my father and married my mother I'd have just said “stuff it” and stabbed him right in the chapels!

All the players were up to scratch last night; all the lads and all the “other lads” (if I have to explain to our Betty once more that the women aren’t women she’ll be going for a swim with Ophelia, I’ll tell you!)  

Now the comedy was a bit thin on the ground. Personally I don’t find grave-diggers that funny – if he’d juggled the skulls or fallen into the grave a couple of times that might have got him a laugh! And I think Billy-Boy missed a trick not using that pair, Rosy-stone and Guild-his-whatsit, a bit more. Maybe like Fallstaff they should get their own play! Maybe a bit of back-story or something telling us what they got up to in England (but what are the chances of that happening).

I will have to admit that the play did get a bit befuddling at times. (I had to explain the whole "To Not Be, To Be Not Be" bit three or four times to our Betty on the way home) Especially confusing was the play going on inside the play (all a bit post-modern for me).


But that final scene was amazing! What with the sword fight and the poison and bodies everywhere! But then I'm a blood-thirsty one me. I just love Theatre-Nasties. Now, I don’t want to spoil the end for you in case you go yourself but basically in this one - no one gets out alive!

Daniel Smallpiece, Firkin Bottom Knocker (retired) 

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Friday, 10 January 2014

"Go Ask Shakespeare"-- Rufus Wainwright with Burt Bacharach



Sorry for the break in transmission... 

In the meantime here is some music...