King Lear: Live cinema broadcast from the Globe Theatre, London

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I have been to the Globe twice this summer (to see Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing) and enjoyed both times immensely. I’d never read either of the plays (just looked up the plots on Wikipedia) but I loved the experience of seeing them live.

So when this opportunity arose I jumped at it. My local cinema was broadcasting a live performance of King Lear – the first time the Globe Theatre has done so.

I was impressed – the cameras always gave you a clear view and you got a good indication of what it is like to see a production live. Obviously not as good as the real thing but the equivalent of standing in the crowd near to the front of the stage. Picture and sound quality were very good and you got to sit down in a comfy seat for three hours in the warm. There’s a lot to be said in favour of that on a chilly September evening.

All the actors were very good in their roles, with the main character of Lear being portrayed brilliantly. The play, despite being a tragedy, did have a number of barbed lines by the King that raised a laugh, mainly at the expense of his wayward kin. Maybe it’s the fact that I have daughters myself that made things ring true. Hopefully my vanity and conceit are not great enough to kick off events such as these.

When I booked my ticket it was around £18, which is only a bit cheaper for me than going to a performance if I bought a standing ticket and paid my travel costs. Still, that’s only because getting to the Globe is a possibility for me. By the end of the event I thought it was a fair price to pay, especially given the small number of people at the showing, the price of tickets to the event in general and the opportunity you are given to attend a show that you most likely would not be able to get to see otherwise.

I would definitely go to one of these cinema broadcasts again for other events and I would like the Globe to do this again for other productions.

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Much Ado About Nothing (The Globe Theatre, London)

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I’ve never had a particular interest in Shakespeare but earlier this year we did a family tour of the Globe Theatre, situated on London’s Southbank. We had an engaging guide and this led to taking my daughter to see a rather unconventional version of Romeo and Juliet. I had a rough idea of the plot, but in that moment the play came alive.

The one problem we had was that – despite paying for pretty expensive seats – we had an obscured view. A wooden pillar a couple of rows in front meant that I spent most of the time leaning to the right a bit to make sure I had a good view of the stage.  The person next to me was very obliging.

Still, in the afterglow of the performance I booked to see Much Ado About Nothing.  This time I wanted to be in the midst of things, in with the crowd, exposed to the elements, up close.  This meant a couple of things:

  • I got a ticket for £5 (!)
  • I went on my own as my daughter refused to stand for 3 hours

Anyway, I got my clear viewpoint:

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Being that close is a fantastic experience, a visceral connection.  You get a face full of smoke.  The gunshots ring in your ears.  At times I had to shuffle forward as the cast passed through behind me to get to another stage in the crowd.

The performance was stunning, vibrant, poignant, funny.  The play is set in Mexico, 1914, and was performed with such energy I completely forgot that it was in Shakespearean English and just enjoyed the spectacle:

At the end you feel elated and with the sense that you must have just seen the best show in London.

At the time of writing (mid September 2017) there is still time to see the production.  If you can get tickets, I urge you to go even if you think that Shakespeare isn’t your thing.  After seeing this, it will be.

Next year I will be back, regardless of what is showing.

Mini review: “Dodgers” by Bill Beverly

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I came across this by chance and just could not resist given the reviews and the awards it won last year.

It is the story of a group of young black guys from a rough part of Los Angeles who are sent on a road trip across America to kill a judge when their narcotics operation is busted by the police.

Its pared-back tone belies the book’s emotional impact. This is more than a journey in a van for the main character – it is a rite of passage. I read through the second half of the book in one sitting one evening and found myself thinking about it all the next morning.

Somehow I managed to miss the fact that there was an audiobook version (it sounds good too…), so I went with the paper version.

Given that the book clocks in at only 300 pages there is a lot of story and character development built in.  A number of twists happen out of the blue and without fanfare that mess with the boys’ mission.

I wondered about the plausibility of such young characters being able to do what the plot asks of them but it becomes clear as the story progresses that it wouldn’t be difficult for people to disappear through the cracks of society and never be found. If anybody actually cares enough to look for them in the first place.

Take care if you are sensitive to sometimes harsh language. These are young guys gassing amongst themselves in a confined space. Reflect on this and decide accordingly.

I’m very pleased that I chose to hitch a ride on this particular literary adventure and would highly recommend it.

Wouldn’t fancy doing it for real though.

Spare Cycles turns ten…

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This lovingly crafted blog is celebrating its tenth birthday. A beer (or ten) is cooling in the fridge to toast the reaching of a milestone. Happy birthday!

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns nine…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns eight…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns seven…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns six…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns five…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns four…

• Spare Cycles: Spare Cycles turns three…

Film review: Dunkirk (IMAX 2D)

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This film packs a powerful emotional punch.  Actually, it gets you in the gut.

If you get the chance you should see this in IMAX.  The big screen and massive sound give you the feeling that you are right up close to the action.  Each bullet sounds deadly and the aircraft engines vibrate you in your seat.  The story deserves to be told on this scale.

• The Guardian: Dunkirk review – Christopher Nolan’s apocalyptic war epic is his best film so far

Mini review: “The Final Empire (Mistborn Book 1)” by Brandon Sanderson (audiobook version)

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A while back I was in the mood for reading some fantasy (not something that happens very often) and I considered starting Game of Thrones but that seemed like the start of something far too big to be practical – there’s so much of it and ultimately it is unfinished.  I had checked out the first chapter of the audiobook and couldn’t imagine myself listening to the whole book.

So I looked elsewhere and having seen this recommended online I gave it a try.  It is the first book in the “Mistborn” series.

The story involves a plot to bring down the Lord Ruler, the ultimate evil power controlling the Final Empire, thought by many to be an immortal god.  The environment has been ruined, with ash coming down from the sky and mists coming at night.

I think that this is a story aimed at a young adult audience but is a good read for everyone – I certainly enjoyed it.   This is a story that could appeal to people who don’t want their fantasy too violent or graphic (Game of Thrones?) or too filled with dwarves and elves (Lord of the Rings).  Spoiler: there are no dragons.

The author has come up with some good ideas – principally that there is a race of people who have the ability to ingest and “burn” metals to give themselves enhanced physical abilities.  I always think these things sound a bit strange when discussed outside of the world that has been created but the “magic system” is plausible and works well – the details can be found here but don’t rush to read it if you are interested in reading the book.  It won’t spoil anything but the book does a good job of explaining things.

A note on the narration of the audiobook: I had never heard of the narrator (Michael Kramer) before but he does a brilliant, flawless job.  It was a pleasure to listen to. He is a professional audiobook narrator and it shows.  I’m very impressed.  I’ll be looking out for his name in the future.

This is a long book – nearly 25 hours for the audiobook – but the story never lags or seems padded out.  There are another two books after this one (and that is just the first trilogy of the “Mistborn” series) but there does seem to be a lot more story to tell.  I’m sure I’ll return to the series at some point but the next books are even longer than this one so they will have to wait.

Still, this is a slice of fantasy I can recommend.

 

New York 2017: Thomas Hart Benton’s “America Today” Mural at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Fifth Avenue

In March 2017 I made my first visit to New York – a mammoth weekend of exploring, eating and freezing my ass / arse off in temperatures of -6C (wind chill -12C).  A non-stop, full-on joy-fest with my brother that took in a lot of the main sites.

But of everything I saw, one thing stopped me in my tracks.

We went in to the Met museum and whilst exploring the Modern and Contemporary Art section I came across “America Today” by Thomas Hart Benton. I was not familiar with either.

Read more about it here.

If you find yourself in New York, do not miss this mural in particular and the museum in general. Both are superb.

Feast your eyes on the following…

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