Stamps again – though not from Paris


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Once upon a time, I wrote a post about a game I’d played with some friends during a Parisian holiday: every night we’d each choose the one thing that stood up for that day, and tried to put it in one sentence. It could be anything, as long as it could be conceivably scribbled on the back of a large postage stamp. Continue reading


Leslie Banks



Today would be the 128th birthday of Leslie Banks – Shakespearean actor, director, and screen villain – who managed to turn his potentially career-crippling war injuries into an element of versatility…

He played, among many other roles, the unpleasant Uncle Joss in Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, and the Chorus in Laurence Olivier’s Henry V. He also played a memorable Captain Hook in New York, and the eponymous Clive of India.

Here you can see him as the Earl of Leicester in the 1937 film Fire Over England.

Yet a While – or, Kit Marlowe’s Art of Fear


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I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all begged for one more minute as children: one more minute of play before bedtime, before going to do our homework, before  being given an injection… As though that “one more minute” might somehow change things…

As we grow up, it takes small, everyday forms – such as the “snooze” button of the alarm clock, or lingering a little over a coffee break before that unpleasant meeting, or procrastination in general. Or else, in really bad moments, we revert to that kind of panicked, irrational craving for “one more minute”, just to stave off the bad things a little longer, to keep them away – no matter how little – to not have them happen just yet. Continue reading

What Ought to be Truth


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I’ve always loved to bits this line of Blanche’s from A Streetcar Named Desire:

I don’t want realism. I want magic. Yes, yes – magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don’t tell truth. I tell what ought to be truth.”

Truth, reality, misrepresentation, what ought to be truth… Are we all Blanche, in some way or other, when we tell stories? One of these days I’m going to have a pendant made with this line on it.

The Way of the Light-Board


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It’s taken me a surprisingly long time to become aware of the kind of image you see here on the right. I mean, now that I know, I’m finding that the Internet is a-swarm with them – especially Pinterest, where I spend far more time than is good for me…  You type “backstage” or “theatre” or anything remotely related, and up they crop by the dozen.

So far, I’ve discovered to kinds of them: the peacock preening in front of a colourful background, for actors’ problems, quirk, and general lore; a badger against a black and gray background is for the backstage crew. Fitting, isn’t it?* Continue reading

On the Pointlessness of Losing One’s Temper


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So… the day after tomorrow we go onstage.

The School Play, I mean. In theory, we should be doing last-minute tweaks, fine-tuning… In theory all should be well and as good as ready. In theory it should be time of a tech rehearsal, dress rehearsal, and then curtain-up…

Except, well – you know… theatre. Continue reading

Shakespeare and freedom at the SQ


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And then there is the Shakespeare Quarterly, the Folger Library’s journal – that has a double life, as a physical publication and as its web version. No need to stress that the SQ is always full of interesting essays, articles, insights, interviews, and is a great way to have to pulse of ongoing Shakespearean research.

Have a look, for instance, at this conversation with Ewan Fernie and Paul Kottman about freedom: Shakespeare and freedom, freedom in Shakespeare’s works, freedom and Shakespearean studies – together with a good hint at the always interesting question of how, apparently, no time can help the temptation of building its own Shakespeare.

Well worth a look – and an exploration of the good amounts of SQ material available online.




The thing with tenors


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I’ve had for years No Tenors Allowed, this lovely CD of opera duets for bass and baritone, with Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey singing a variety of pieces, from comic to dramatic to downright tragic – and clearly having great fun with the whole thing.

I love it to bits – but then again, not only Hampson and Ramey are two of my favourite opera singers ever, but I have always had a soft spot for bass and baritone voices – and characters. Continue reading