A Very Shakespeare Weekend

This Saturday, April 23, 2016, marked the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. In this day and age I find it remarkable that a playwright who has been dead for centuries can still capture people’s hearts and imaginations with his words.

All over the world, events and performances ranging from youth theatre and theatre workshops to practical demonstrations of Elizabethan society and customs took place to celebrate the life and work of the bard from Stratford-upon-Avon. It culminated in Shakespeare Live! from the RSC, a televised, star-studded event showcasing the influence Shakespeare continues to have on the performing arts, which was live broadcast to cinemas all over the globe.

I spent this weekend re-reading my favourite Shakespearean play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, watching Shakespeare Live! from the RSC at the Cinestar in Düsseldorf, and then I spent a lazy Sunday watching David Tennant first in Hamlet and then in Much Ado About Nothing.

Hamlet David Tennant

David Tennant has spent the last 20 years appearing in Royal Shakespeare Company productions, and watching him perform with such passion is always a treat. Watching two of his performances back to back also gives you a chance to see his full acting range.

MAAN

Personally, I was quite late in discovering Shakespeare for myself. While I liked a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I had seen in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2001, my next encounters with him were in Grammar School.

As is often the case, learning about Shakespeare – especially when English is not your first language – was a chore. We read Macbeth and Hamlet and watched the Mel Gibson film, but our teacher was less than enthusiastic. Shakespeare, to me, became what I dreaded most: another dead poet and playwright we had to analyse to death. But I loved the sonnets. In an exam we even had to write our own sonnet – in Elizabethan English (and while we were treated like native speakers, we weren’t) – in reply to sonnet 116. I remember our teacher collecting the best ones because he wanted to build a collection to give to us at graduation. To this day I have never seen that exam paper again, nor did we get a booklet of sonnets when we graduated. I’d love to know what I’ve written.

Over the years, I began to take more of an interest in Shakespeare. Now that the constraints of school were gone, I could enjoy the work and not just cram to get a good grade. I began to see how much of the popular culture around me is influenced by William Shakespeare. I re-read A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Blessing of the House is still one of my favourite final scenes.

But I think it was experiencing a professional play (as opposed to a school play) that really convinced me. In the summer of 2014 I went to London to see Martin Freeman perform the title role of Richard III at Trafalgar Studios. And it made a profound difference. Stellar acting, an intimate venue. The front row was on stage and as far back as fourth row (where I was sitting at eye-level of the performers) got covered in fake blood. And I came away with a sense of awe.

Since then, I’ve soaked up all I could. I went back to London to see Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet at the Barbican in 2015, saw NT Live and Encore screenings of Coriolanus, and As You Like It, and the recordings of Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet (starring David Tennant) and Richard II. And I’ve read more of his works. Plus, listening to Tom Hiddleston recite sonnet 18 doesn’t hurt either…

A selfie with my bilingual copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann's co-writer, apparently likes this picture of me, if you can trust his verified Instagram profile. :) ©Literati Girl

A selfie with my bilingual copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann’s co-writer, apparently likes this picture of me, if you can trust his verified Instagram profile. 🙂 ©Literati Girl

 

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Review: Shakespeare Live from the RSC

Today’s star-studded event Shakespeare Live! from The RSC in honour of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death really highlighted what an impact William Shakespeare has had on language and culture over the last 450 years.

Noted actors David Tennant and Catherine Tate, who both previously performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and starred together as Benedick and Beatrice in a production of Much Ado About Nothing, hosted the show expertly, as it was broadcast live from Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare was born to TVs and cinemas worldwide. Especially David Tennant’s excitement was palpable, looking as giddy as a kid in a candy shop as he walked on stage.

Shakespeare Live! not only featured some of Britain’s most famous Shakespearean actors of our time, it also showed the influence Shakespeare continues to have on the performing arts. While the show featured a huge variety of speeches and soliloquies, it also included everything from ballet and opera to musical theatre and jazz. Performances ranged from beautiful and gracious, to funny and moving, and even included social commentary written by William Shakespeare more than 400 years ago which is sadly still current today.

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#WeekendCoffeeShare: If We Were Having Coffee… On April 23

Hello book lovers!

Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, a blog hop by the lovely Diana over at Part Time Monster. Every weekend we get together for virtual coffees and a little casual chat.

If we were having coffee today, we’d sit inside sipping a hot brew. Even though temperatures reached 20°C here this week, today it’s back down to 8°C. How have you been this week?

If we were having coffee, we’d be talking about the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. Today is the 400th anniversary of his death, and there are Shakespeare celebrations everywhere. In fact, tonight, I’ll be seeing the star-studded live screening of Shakespeare Live! at the RSC from Stratford-upon-Avon.

I’ve been to Stratford twice before. My grammar school actually had an exchange programme with the Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls and in 2001 I had the chance to participate. It served as my introduction to Shakespeare and his works, though back then, all we did was read his works. I confess, I may have gotten into Shakespeare earlier if we’d seen some of his plays. I went back in 2010, to revisit Shakespeare’s birthplace, New Place and take a short trip out to Shottery to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage.

I think I really started to fully grasp Shakespeare when I saw the production of Richard III at Trafalgar Studios in London, starring Martin Freeman in 2014. If my first introduction to Shakespeare had been that play, I’d have been a convert immediately. It was updated, set in the 70s, performed in an intimate theatre, incredibly well-performed and so full of energy you didn’t feel the time pass at all. Since then I’ve made it a point to see more Shakespeare plays, like Hamlet at the Barbican last year, screenings of Richard II, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and Coriolanus.

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play? I can’t decide. I’d probably say A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but I have also found that in terms of theatre, I do like Shakespeare the better the gorier it is.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you I’m still catching up on the A to Z Challenge posts and hoping to be all caught up by tomorrow. So far I’ve reviewed: A Study in Scarlet, Bonjour Tristesse, Cross Bones, Down Under, Everything is Illuminated, Fahrenheit 451, Gulliver’s Travels, Holy Cow, Into the River, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Kim, Lucky Man, Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Neverwhere, On the Road, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies as well as Quite Ugly One Morning

I’m afraid this is where I have to leave you today. I still need to drive to Düsseldorf to get to the cinema in time for the screening.

Thank you for having coffee with me today. Same time, next week?

 

Intense theatre with unexpected hilarity – Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre, London

This review of Hamlet at the Barbican starring Benedict Cumberbatch was originally posted on Study.Read.Write on August 11, 2015. I realise this review was of a preview performance (as the likes of me did not qualify for Press Night tickets despite having Press ID), and subsequently, the dialogue has been moved around again, moving “to be or not to be” back to its rightful place.

I am republishing the review here in celebration of #ShakespeareDay on the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death.

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Energetic and intimate theatre – Richard III at Trafalgar Studios, London

This is one of my real-life writing samples. I’m a trained journalist, so I sometimes write theatre reviews. This one I’m particularly proud of, as it combined a trip to London (I’m based in Germany), my favourite actor and Shakespeare.

It’s a review of Trafalgar Transformed Season 2: “Richard III” at Trafalgar Studios, London, which ran from 1st July 2014 until 27th September 2014, starring Martin Freeman.

First published on Fernweh & Wanderlust on 27th July 2014, and subsequently on my other blog Study.Read.Write.

Republished here in honour of #ShakespeareDay,
celebrating #Shakespeare400 and all the Bard’s works.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books For Every Shakespeare Novice To Read

Top Ten Tuesday is the brainchild of The Broke & the Bookish. Every Tuesday, we compile a list of our literary Top 10, and then add it to the blog hop.

This week is all about our Top 10 Books For Every X To Read.

So it’s a free-for-all where X can stand for absolutely anything. As the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death is coming up on April 23, I thought I’d honour the bard himself!