Despite doing an English degree and so having spent many hours of my life immersed in the Bard’s iambic pentameter, I had, until last week, never seen Julius Caesar on stage. In fact, my encounters with the play had never got beyond a grainy Marlon Brando proclaiming in a toga. Luckily, Nicholas Hytner’s superb new production at the Bridge Theatre was worth waiting for.
The current political climate has led, inevitably, to a spate of modern stagings of Shakespeare’s text, the most infamous being the 2017 production at the Public Theater in New York, which portrayed Caesar as a swaggering politician in an unmistakable blonde wig. This production, too, is set in the 21st Century but by combining bold staging with nuanced, clearly delineated performances, it retains a subtlety and emotional punch that sets it apart from recent reincarnations.
It was the theatrical event of the summer – but almost nobody actually got to see it.
By bringing together the irresistibly British pairing of luvvie icon, Kenneth Branagh, and heartthrob du jour (if a little more divisive post-that Taylor Swift vest), Tom Hiddleston, RADA ensured that their Hamlet joined the ranks of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Hamilton as a production designed to generate the same levels of hysteria as a One Direction concert crossed with a really, really cute puppy.
This Hamlet was produced to raise money for the world-class drama school, with profits going towards projects such as a major refurbishment of the estate and access schemes for budding actors. Running in RADA’s Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, which only has 160 seats, tickets were allocated through an online ballot and were enormously over-subscribed. Those of us who had managed to beat the odds congregated in the foyer well in advance of the 7.30pm start time, clutching our paper tickets with a mixture of unbridled glee and terror that we’d somehow be refused entry at the last minute.
‘It’ faces an inherent dilemma: it is in danger of becoming a parody of itself. Set in a small town in Maine in the 1980s, where awkward adolescents cycle down wide streets, facing off against unknown evils, ‘It’ is immediately reminiscent of another recent drama: Netflix’s Stranger Things. Yet, while that series was an unabashed Spielberg homage filled with deliberately overt references to the era’s iconic pop culture, ‘It’ is both the originator of said tropes and taking advantage of their resurgence, seducing modern audiences by tapping into our collective nostalgia.
Based on Stephen King’s 1986 novel, the story of ‘It’ is better known by many from the 1990 TV adaptation. Now, 27 years after its last incarnation (in a nod to the lifecycle of Pennywise himself), ‘It’ is back.
In January of this year I wrote a blog post laying out my intentions for the year. Or, more accurately, my intention, singular: to start looking outward.
One of the small steps to which I committed (in writing) was to volunteer at TEDxEastEnd. Well, dear readers, I’m here to tell you that I kept my word. I rocked up at Hackney Empire at 9am on 25th February and threw myself headfirst into the chaos. And it was fabulous.
There’s a particular prestige that accompanies the TED brand. In the build up to the event, whenever I mentioned my volunteering plans, the mere mention of ‘TEDx’ was followed by widening eyes, a respectful nod and, more often than not, an awed ‘Oh wow!’. To those who are less familiar with the hundreds of viral fifteen minute talks that bounce around social media, TED is a non-profit organisation committed to ‘ideas worth spreading’. While TEDx sits under the TED umbrella, TEDx events are organised entirely by independently from the main TED organisation. The idea is to create local events, with local speakers, run by local volunteers.
I recently saw Yerma at the Young Vic, directed by Simon Stone. I’m a little late with this review (the play has been running since late July and recently closed) but it had a significant impact on me, and I wanted to share my thoughts nonetheless.
As Spanish speaker, I was nervous. Lorca is notoriously difficult to translate. His texts are rich with strong imagery and cultural resonances, and the rhythm of the lines heightens the emotional intensity of the language. His plays are beautiful to read aloud in Spanish; even if you can’t understand the words, meaning is conveyed through the flow of consonants.
I needn’t have worried; watching Yerma, I was thrown straight into the world of the play. Despite being written and set in Catholic Spain in the 1930s, it felt unnervingly fresh and relevant.
Bookshops are my happy place.
Nothing delights me more than perusing shelves, reading title after title, pausing to select the ones that intrigue me, to examine covers and read opening sentences, feeling the weight of the stories they contain, taking a moment to appreciate the work that’s gone into each and every edition.
Bookshops are my panacea, the mysterious elixir with the power to uplift, intrigue, excite and reassure. There’s nothing like the familiar sight of rows and rows of Penguin classics to settle my anxious mind.