Sunday, 24 April 2016

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare. You know that completely extraordinary poet and playwright? Who is ever so slightly famous? Well yesterday marked the 400th anniversary of his death.    

As a literature graduate I have an awful lot of love/time for Shakespeare. I say that like I need an excuse to love him. As if! But in actual fact, I know there are plenty of students and graduates who aren't quite as enamoured as I am.

When I was a teenager I didn't really get him. And even as a first year student I hated studying Hamlet (still not a huge fan to be honest) but from there my love grew a little. It was the comedies that captured me and I love every single one them. In the summer of 2013 I went to The Globe to see my favourite, The Tempest, three times. And A Midsummer Night's Dream twice.

The thing about Shakespeare is that really you have to see it performed. And not only that, you have to see it performed well. The RSC is obviously the top choice (if you can manage to get one of those extremely sought after tickets to any of their performances), but any professional group would do. The thing which trained actors can often succeed at, where amateurs sometimes fail is they make him sound natural and completely normal.

Because that is ultimately what he is. Yes the language is dated and littered with little phrases such a thee and thou and whence which we don't use any more. But he is an English human being not an alien.

What actors have all managed in the performances that I have witnessed, is they have given his words meaning. They are not just words on a page any more, they have been given life. And when you start paying attention, you realise that Shakespeare is not so alien.

Last night I was watching the various fabulous performances in the Shakespeare Live programme and trying to work out what it was about Shakespeare that made him so great. Why has he been translated into every language on the globe? Why has his work been adapted into everything from film and ballet to songs and raps? Why is he very much still a huge part of our lives, 4 centuries after he died?

The answer is quite simple. Human beings haven't changed that much. And Shakespeare wrote about the simple, core emotions and events that were at the forefront of culture at the time: love, grief, murders, wars, history, kings, queens, mistaken identities, basic silliness...all things which are very much part of our lives now too. He looked around him and vividly depicted basic emotions and every day life. It was done so well and so honestly, that of course we can still relate. Because like I say, we haven't changed that much.  

You could easily turn around to me and say that you hated Shakespeare in school and definitely don't find him funny. Ok, I believe you. But go and find a production of Twelfth Night on YouTube or somewhere. Skip to the bit where Malvolio has turned up in Olivia's bedroom, showing off his legs that are clothed in ugly bright yellow stockings (thinking that she would find them attractive) and then wonders why she doesn't fall instantly in love with him before proceeding to chase her around the room. I challenge you not to find that HILARIOUS.

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Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Tea and Me

Recently I have been on a bit of regime to introduce more positivity into my life and on to my blog as well. And I had a MAJOR realisation. I haven't talked about the biggest joy there is in life, on the blog at all.


Wonderful tea.

I suggest if you don't like tea, you stop reading now. Because this post is going to be full of it. Also, I am not sure we can be friends. Tea is kind of essential to life and a bit of a big deal so if you are not going to even consider it, I am not sure how much we are going to have in common.

I'm only joking. But seriously. Tea = important.

I have noticed (well... certain colleagues have recently pointed out to me) that over the years I seem to have acquired a very particular set of habits and hang ups surrounding tea. Which I thought I would share for your amusement!

I do think that this is potentially THE most British post I have ever written!

1. Herbal/fruit/green tea does not count as real tea
They are all so gross and anyone who says they are a tea-drinker yet this is all they drink...well you don't make the cut I am afraid. Tea is a brown lovely liquid which makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Other forms of tea do not have the same effect.

2. I actually get quite angry with fruit teas
Why do you smell so good and taste SO bad?! I dislike you a lot.

3. Peppermint tea is kind of magic
I do slightly exempt peppermint tea from number 2. Because it is a miracle worker. It solves everything: aches and pains and sore throats and stomach aches...anything you can throw at it basically.

4. There should be no sugar in tea! 
I would have no teeth left if I put sugar into every single mug of tea I consumed.

5. And milk should be minimal
These people who dunk the tea bag in for two seconds, take it straight out and then pour in half a pint of milk and 5 sugars...that is not tea. That is milk and sugar and water. You are not a real tea drinker.

6.Tea should be properly brewed
There are two ways you can reach the appropriate level of brew. Either you can leave the tea alone for around five minutes so the brewing has a proper amount of time to take place (this has the added bonus of the tea then being the correct temperature to immediately start drinking once it is ready) OR you can simply leave the teabag in. Either are acceptable.

7. Teacups should only be used if you are having afternoon tea 
This is pretty self explanatory. Teacups are lovely occasionally but you wouldn't consume the correct amount of tea if you always used them.

8. Mugs are the best way to drink tea!
They have to be rounded, bigger than your fist and be able to fit your hands around them. A big handle is also necessary.

9. Morning and Post-Work tea are essential
I will never say no to a cup of tea but all others are optional and I see them as a bonus. Only those two cups are necessary for the well-being myself and all those around me.

10. One mug of tea can give you roughly 1000 words of productivity
Ish. Obviously there are various other conditions that effect this, but on average this is how much writing I can do whilst sipping my tea.

11. Biscuits are acceptable accompaniments to tea.
Dunking however is not. I don't understand those people who like to have bits of biscuit as an added feature.

12. Tea and cake is the best 
And of course, you could add scones if you wanted to go the whole hog.

13. Drinking tea at mealtimes is risky
It's best to leave it separate really. Breakfast is obviously ok - things like toast or cereal. But if you are thinking about lunch or dinner, I wouldn't bother. Mixing temperatures (eg. a cup of a tea and a salad) is not cool. Stick to cake and biscuits if you want to be safe.  

14. And the best brand of tea? Yorkshire!
Obviously. PG Tips and Twinings are ok too! Supermarket brands are not.

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Friday, 1 April 2016

Are book adaptations more suited to TV or Film?

I love books.

Yeah ok...I will tell you something you don't already know.

As a self-confessed book nerd (or addict or lover or geek or whatever other noun professing strong love you would like to insert here), when I am not reading them, I am discussing them. And when I am not discussing the books themselves, I am discussing something book-related such as their adaptations.

Now there are a lot of adaptations out there but the most common way is via film and TV. And in film I swear the cinema is swamped by them. You can't visit it without there being at least one adaptation in there. For instance at the moment there are not one, not two but four books in the film world -- most notably Allegiant, Batman vs Superman (based on Marvel comic books so kind of counts. Kind of), High Rise and The Huntsman: Winter's War (loosely based on Snow White).So even though I have got two kind-of ones, there's still two more actual proper novels.

I have to say that I am not always a huge fan of film adaptations. Without fail, they never ever live up to the book. Two hours is just not enough time to attempt to fit all that emotion in and to portray those wonderful characters in a way that actually does them justice.

I do watch most of them and every time I really hope I am proved wrong. But I never am.

That's not to say they are bad films. In fact, I find if you try to ignore the book they are based on, you can actually enjoy them more. Or if you don't read the book at all. This is what I did with the Divergent films and as a result I have actually really enjoyed them.

TV adaptations I am a little more positive about. In the past three months alone there have been two major book adaptations screened on the BBC - War and Peace and The Night Manager. And I absolutely adored both of these.

In a TV series you get a lot more freedom in that you have loads more time to play with. The Night Manager spanned 5 1-hour episodes and in War and Peace there were 6. You obviously can't have a five or a six hour film.

This extra time allows the actors and the directors to explore the story more deeply, recount more of the events of the book and to delve into the characters fully. Throughout those weeks you spend watching the characters grow and progress, they actually start to become a part of your life, almost like the real family and friends who you know and love. There's no way you can achieve that in a two hour film, however great the acting/writing is.

To be honest, although I prefer TV to film and although I prefer the book itself to TV (OBVS!) I am never going to complain about any book adaptation. There are just so many wonderful books out there which the majority of people won't have the time to read or won't know about. Both TV and film reach fresh audiences and might encourage the person to locate the book. And that could never be a bad thing, could it?

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