PTS 07/043: The Bad Death of Eduard (Delacroix) IV

What could be worse than dying, believing that you’re going to hell?

BH eduard delacroix
No trigger warnings, sorry …

PTS read-through:  Richard III, Act II, scene i

June 27, 1996.  George Street, Luton, at a bus stop opposite the town hall. Genuinely nauseous to the verge of throwing up.  Could I have torn my eyes up from the book I was reading, I would broadly have seen the image below …

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PTS 07/042: Mr Sandman, Dream Me A Dream …

If there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …

BH Paul Berry sandman
A still from Paul Berry’s wonderful short film

PTS Shakespeare read-through – Richard III, Act I sc iv.

Back in early 1997, I discovered that my eldest son was on his way.  The pregnancy was unplanned, and to say the least a shock to a frankly very immature young man who was focussed on nothing but wine, women and song – not necessarily in that order. To be fair to him, books sometimes made an appearance, too.  He was, I like to think, a completely different person to the one who’s writing this evening – I look back on him with some shame (on sleepness nights), listing the apologies I owe people.

Anyway, that night, I dreamed that I was eating scissors – large pairs, practically garden shears – but as I chewed them, they transformed into soft, grey liquorice (which I happen to enjoy, luckily).

Disturbed, I went to my mum, who has the folk wisdom of the ancients in some things, and absolutely no common-sense when it comes to others (oh, the stories I could tell).  She does, though, have an almost medieval belief in dreams.  I told her my dream, but not my news. And she told me that although I was expecting, dreading hard times ahead, I’d find that what I feared would actually be far, far better than expected.

She was right …

So I’m interested, with a lower case ‘i’, in dreams, with a lower case ‘d’. I have many very lucid dreams, and lots of nested dreams, a bit like the film Inception, where through effort I can transfer from one dream to another. They fascinate me, even as they unsettle me.

And if there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …

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What Would Shakespeare Say?

BH lego WWSS
Photo by me …

I think I might finally have achieved critical mass.  One of my students (thanks, Struckers) pointed out today that I’ve got a Shakespeare quotation for every occasion.  That pleased me quite a bit, in the way that only an unabashed nerd can take pleasure from their weird obsession being recognised by others (even if they are being gently mocked) …

What was this occasion?

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‘Dews of blood’: Hurricane Ophelia, 16 October 2017

BH ophelia 2Working in a school, of course I met several people who seemed genuinely frightened by the eerie sky that only half-illumined our collective journey to work on Monday – some, only some, of them were pupils …

Conditions really were awe-inspiring up here in the frozen North of England.

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PTS 07/041 The Bitch Is Back …

BH elton john bitch is back
I entertain by picking brains
Sell my soul, by dropping names (Elton John, 1974)  Photo:  Terry O’Neil

Richard III: Act I, Sc iii (Ponytail Shakespeare read-through)

Richard has been a part of my life, a surprisingly large part, for about six years or so.  In fact, we might call him part of the ‘soundtrack of my life’, since I turned 40.  So whilst I try and inevitably fail to do the play justice in these posts, one of the things that’s already settled is the Shakespeare’s Jukebox ‘Soundtrack Album’ that I publish at the end of my amble through the play.  Some songs have been ringfenced, so that I don’t use them for any other play … this is one.

If there’s a decidedly ‘camp’ flavour to the jukebox, in fact to these posts (I mean:  Mercury, Hasselhoff and now EJ?), it could be down to two factors:

  • I’m teaching Edward II, to two classes, at the moment (conspiracy theorists, and I like one as much as the next person, will note that these two plays were probably written within months of each other, if not simultaneously); and
  • this is a camp play.  At some stage I might get stuck into the relationship between Richard and Buckingham (a personal theory that causes wide-eyed incredulity in my classes, more often than not)

I’ve often described it as a pantomime for grown-ups.  Ironically, because a child’s pantomime is possibly the worst way I can think of spending an evening. Perhaps this takes on board the criticisms of those who favour other, more mature or ‘intellectual’ plays.  Richard is gleefully childish and petulant, at least until he becomes king, and there are several times where I want to shout:

He’s behind you!

or similar, at members of the cast:  Clarence, Hastings, the young Duke of York, the hapless Burghers of London, at the very least.

But … having ambled through the HVI plays for the first time this year, I have a completely different understanding of and respect for this play.  The Bitch is back in Act I scene iii, and there can be only one Bitch (capitalisation intended), as we saw in The Hollow Crown

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PTS 07/039: (Find Me) Somebody To Love

BH freddie mercury

Ponytail Shakespeare read-through – Richard III (Act I, scene i)

Larger than life.  One of a kind.  Brash on the outside, to mask an inner vulnerability.  The ultimate showman, whose memory lives on long after his death.  Freddie Mercury is all these things, too

I’ve arrived at Richard III, the first play in my read-through that I know well, with a sense of awe, almost a fear of not doing him justice.  Unusually, I’m as tentative as I might have been had I met him with a pathetic autograph book in my hand (or Mercury, whose death in 1991 touched me as few other celebrity deaths have:  Prince and Sir Terry Pratchett are the only others that I register, emotionally).  My relationship with Richard grows more obssessive and complex every time I teach him, and my recent book-buying seems unconciously centred round the historical Richard and the major players in his accession and downfall.  I’ve also realised there is no way I can do this in the usual 1,000-ish-words-per-act format, so all I’m going to do is try to avoid 1,000 words-per-scene, if I can.

How has Shakespeare done this to me?

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Sir Peter Hall (1930-2017)

BH sir-peter-hall_1752213c

I won’t hypocritically pretend that Sir Peter Hall was a friend or indeed someone I knew very much about.  I might have been to one of his productions over the years, but for most of the time it’s not been the sort of thing I took careful note of – let’s face it, I was probably under 10 when I saw my first Shakespeare.  It would be churlish, though, on a blog like this not to mark his passing.  He’s one of those people whose life influences yours at one remove …

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