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.
The works of infamous playwright Noel Coward seem to be firmly stuck in their time; his characters burst onto the stage in a whirl of one-liners, cigarette smoke and champagne. Yet, for all its 1920s glitz and glamour, Hay Fever deals with universal themes. If you’ve ever cringed at the actions of a parent or attempted to outdo a sibling, the events of the play will seem strangely familiar.
When it comes to literature, I am a compulsive consumer.
Whenever I finish a novel/play/poetry collection, I allow myself a moment to savour the final sentence, with a strange sigh of relief and inspiration and sorrow and optimism. Then I think, ‘Right. What’s next?’
This morning, just as I reached my tube stop, I finished reading Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar. After the familiar sigh had shivered through me, something unusual happened. Instead of mentally scanning my shelves for my next literary adventure, I wanted to flick back to the beginning and start again, devouring the words with a new understanding. I wanted to grab the person behind me on the escalator and implore them to read it. I wanted to buy 50 copies of it and send one to everyone I know.
My finances not permitting that final impulse, I settled for a more sensible option. Blog post.
Photo by the Royal Court theatre
‘So what’s this about then?’ asked the friend who I’d enlisted to accompany me to the theatre. ‘Well… it’s got Maxine Peake…and I think it’s about sisters? And something to do with immigration?’
I must have read the description of the play on the Royal Court’s website five times in the week leading up to the performance. Truth was, I just couldn’t retain the information. I had absolutely no idea what the play was about.
Writing this now, I’m only marginally more confident.
At the centre of the play are two sisters, Dana and Jasmine, who live in Berlin. When the play opens, Dana has just slept with a man who may or may not be the devil and who may or may not have just cursed her for refusing payment for sex.
Somewhat predictably, it’s all downhill from there.
I’ve written a guest post for the brilliant E&A, a bilingual blog focused on presenting the best of fashion and art in the UK and France.
My contribution is a review of the Women Fashion Power exhibition at the Design Museum in London (well worth a look) and my general musings on the politics of getting dressed. Enjoy!