She sounded unimpressed. Hurt, even. I backtracked swiftly.
I live alone, and lead quite a solitary existence, truth be told.
But, and I suspect it’s a sign of madness, like JF Sebastian in Bladerunner, I have a number of inanimate buddies who I’ve named. I even say hello to them when I get in, sometimes, in a post-post-post-modern, ironically jovial way. Take my fridge, for example …
Lesson 1: Books, no matter how interesting, are not a girlfriend substitute …
PTS read through: Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act I
It feels appropriate to arrive at this play in the month when it seems you’re not a functioning member of society if you don’t add some kind of punishing denial to the post-Christmas blues: Dry January, the unappetising-sounding Veganuary, or in my case, the Walk 1,000 Miles in 2018 challenge (already behind schedule). Personally, I think we’ve enough to cope with, waiting for things to warm up and the nights to become appreciably longer.
Nevertheless, this is how the play opens – with a preposterous resolution by the foolish King of Navarre and three of his intimates to ‘abjure the rough magic’ of the fair sex. Unlike Rocky’s trainer Mickey, they’re worried about the intellectual rather than physical effects that women may have on them
I give them a maximum of ten minutes, stage time …
It often takes something (we consider) sub-human to remind us of our humanity …
‘… you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.’
Not that you needed me to complete the speech, I dare say … I’m also guessing you want to watch it again (I had to), so here it is.
The weekend brings an exciting reward for my ‘holiday’ week’s hard marking. On consecutive nights I’ll be watching Bladerunner: The Final Cut, and then Bladerunner 2049. And I’ve got my tattered copy of Philip K Dick‘s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep‘ (1968) out – the first non-Shakespeare/EMP book I have read in weeks, or perhaps even months …
Yet there is, because there always is, an opportunity for me to connect to Shakespeare.
If there’s another Shakespeare play in which dreams loom as large, I’ve yet to read it …
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 …
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.
‘To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub’ (HAMLET: III.i.64)
Titus Andronicus: Act II
What tragedy would be complete without some element of the supernatural, as I have already intimated? This dreadful (in the sense of being full of dread, NOT poor quality) act begins with that classic Shakespearean trope, the bad night’s sleep:
‘I have been troubled in my sleep this night.’ (TITUS: II.i.9)
And Titus has every reason to be subconsciously troubled: although he begins the act quite enthusiastically:
‘The hunt is up’ (II.i.1)
He cannot imagine who the ‘dainty doe’ (DEMETRIUS: II.i. 26) might actually be ..