Saturday, 6 February 2016

Saturday Evenings: Stay In Sit Up and Switch On

The mark of an epoch-making writer is usually measured in the effect they have on generations: past, present and future. If those who are yet to come can take ownership of a text in the same way of those who have come and gone, then the writer will have succeeded.

William Shakespeare is one of those writers.
May I peer into your soul?

This is not a post about the Bard, well; it is not a post about him in the sense of an essay or scholarly text. If that were the case the result would be a faux-scholarly treatise for I still am a novice when it comes to Shakespeare.

This column tonight is more about a fascinating new project The Guardian just put together. To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death some of the more outstanding and versatile British actors were filmed performing speeches from some of his more famous plays to the camera. The outcome is mesmerising for many reasons. One was the delivery. Each actor/actress had a unique approach to Shakespeare but there was a common thread running through their performances. A beautiful common denominator that united them all. Two were the expressions. They ran the whole gamut of facial phraseology, a stunning display of rainbow-like human emotions. I switched the volume off at some point and just watched their eyes, mouths, noses, hands silently (the only sound was the constant purring of our washing machine in the background). They said as much as the words they uttered. Third were the props they used or lack of them thereof. Eileen Atkins’ glass of wine at the end of her scene is as powerful as Adrian Lester’s prop-less one-second pause after “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing end them.

To watch these first six films (I believe The Guardian has commissioned more) is to be exposed to Shakespeare’s intricate nuance. The beauty of his plays was that they were rarely black-and-white. Lester’s Hamlet (below) is a good example. I love the way he plays this renowned soliloquy. He is knackered. Hamlet is beyond exhaustion. His father has been murdered by his uncle with whom his own mother is consorting. That is enough to send anyone over the edge. “To die- to sleep- /No more; and by a sleep to say we end/The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks/That flesh is heir to.” How many of us have not felt like that, at the end of our tether? Life pulling us in different directions?

I wish I had done Shakespeare properly in uni. I wish I had taught Hamlet properly, too, when I had the opportunity. The Bard not only wrote for an audience, but for the mind. The evidence is in the amount of people who read his plays without necessarily looking to attend a stage production. We all carry an internal Will. Do yourselves a favour, click on the link (in red, above) and enjoy once more this epoch-making writer.

© 2016

Next Post: “London, my London”, to be published on Wednesday 10th February at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Urban Diary

The smell hits me as soon as I come out of Cartridge World: dried salt cod. It is not just the instantly recognisable waft, but the memories it evokes. For a split second I am back in Havana as an eight- or nine-year-old in a fun-packed, baseball game in the courtyard behind the fishmonger’s five or six doors down from my bloc of flats. All of a sudden it is all makeshift baseballs again, using a tennis-ball base and plenty of string and Scotch tape wound around it, a wooden, dented bat and sewn-up gloves.

However this is not Havana in late 70s but London, E17 in 2016. Walthamstow on a Saturday winter morning. Minus the winter. The local postie sees to that. The January-defying dark grey shorts, red jumper, rolled-down thick socks and trekking shoes have been a common sight during this climate-change-ratifying weather. He walks just ahead of me on Hoe Street towards the intersection with Lea Bridge Road and High Road Leyton; his single-strap, yellow-and-red bag banging repeatedly against his side.

An avenue of people stands beside me at the traffic lights. It looks busier today. Perhaps because it is Cup day. This is deep claret-and-blue Hammers territory with Upton Park a stone’s throw away. Although it is only noon and West Ham are not due to play Liverpool until later on in the evening, some of the locals might already be on their way to their local boozer for an early pint and some pie and mash. Sandwiched between Lyca- and Lebara-decked shop fronts their nasal Cockney twang mixes with heavily rolled Somali “Rs” and agglutinated Polish consonants.

I make my way to Tesco Leyton Superstore where I have left my car. I drive out, turn left onto High Road Leyton and at the traffic lights I am forced into a stop by another vehicle stationed in the middle of the street, at this box-junction-free intersection. Julie Fowlis’ “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird A' Chuain” is a perfect companion for this mild, cloudless Saturday winter morning. As my car slides down Hoe Street, the rolled-down window lets the smell of dried salt cod waft in again. Baseball-filled memories flood back.

© 2016

Photo taken Property Link

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 6th February at 6pm (GMT)


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