Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: The Tempest

It seems rather fitting that the last of the four late romances I’ve attended this long weekend is The Tempest, which is not only presumably Shakespeare’s final solo work (he ended his career with a few collaborations, including Pericles), but also the final Globe play under the direction of the outgoing artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, who’s held the position since 2005. While I’ve always appreciated the artistry of The Tempest, I’ve never felt particularly connected to the play, and have had a number of reservations: Prospero’s treatment of Caliban and Ariel, Prospero’s general machinations, the super duper problematic “romantic” relationship between Miranda and Ferdinand, and so on. I suppose the main reason I’ve never taken to the play is my lack of a favourite–or even just a preferred–character, which then means I tend to lose interest in the plot. The high incidence of music and physical comedy also makes it difficult to sit and read off the page, which meant that although The Tempest is not at all my “go-to” play, I always look forward to discovering how stage productions make use of the play-text.

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: Pericles

Pericles is one of the few “Shakespeare” plays I hadn’t seen, so I jumped at the opportunity to catch it at the Globe with the other late romances. Having attended Cymbeline and The Winter’s Tale in a standing spot, I’d opted to have a seat (albeit restricted by a pillar), which was definitely the right choice, given how much my legs (and poor, PhD back) were protesting.

There’s been much speculation on Pericles‘s authorship, with general agreement that George Wilkins was Shakespeare’s collaborator. While I’ve read the play before (during a three-week pre-PhD frenzy of tackling the Norton Shakespeare from cover to cover), only a few key moments remained with me (namely, the climactic father-daughter reunion). In this sense, I went into the performance as a novice, a feeling in which I luxuriated because there are only so many times one can experience a Shakespeare/Shakespearean play for the first time (38, to be exact).

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: The Winter’s Tale

In recent years, I’ve grown especially partial to ideas and works that, by whatever means and through whichever combinations, exhibit and embody a perfect balance. While perceptions of “balance” (and indeed, “perfection”) may be rather subjective, I’d like to think some fundamentals apply, such as the prevalence of opposition in relatively equal proportions. And I’ve always thought The Winter’s Tale a prime example of this balance, with its two halves containing contrasting themes, language, characters, and locations, which, when seen as a whole, are revealed as gloriously complementary.

All this preamble is to foreground my fangirly gushing for the Globe’s performance of The Winter’s Tale under the direction of Michael Longhurst, which, overall, is the best production of the play I’ve seen so far. Leontes (John Light) always bugged me, but here, his explosive reactions to the “perceived” affair between his wife and BFF had me fearful for their lives. Hermione (Rachael Stirling) was exquisite, and, in contrast to Leontes’ rage, her dignified sotte voce deliveries had my heart bursting with simultaneous agony and admiration. I was also very much taken by Camillo (Fergal McElherron), whose devotion was not only beautifully steadfast, but also reminded me of the faithful Pisanio in Cymbeline. In fact, The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline share similar themes of jealousy, wronged women, and (undeserved?) loyalty, which were all made more apparent by watching one after the other.

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Late Romances Bardathon Weekend: Cymbeline

After heading to the Globe straight from the airport and spending two delightful hours with a friend over lunch (which was actually afternoon tea, with copious sandwiches, scones, and cakes), I entered the Sam Wanamaker indoor theatre for the first of my Shakespeare marathon: Cymbeline.

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Shakespeare 400: Monstrous Little Voices (review)

Remember this book I mentioned a few days ago?

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Well, I’ve finished it, and here are my thoughts! Spoiler-free, because at least with spiders, I can ring my neighbour’s doorbell; with spoilers…just, no.

Blurb: It is the Year of Our Lord 1601. The Tuscan War rages across the world, and every lord from Navarre to Illyria is embroiled in the fray. Cannon roar, pikemen clash, and witches stalk the night; even the fairy courts stand on the verge of chaos.

Five stories come together at the end of the war: that of bold Miranda and sly Puck; of wise Pomona and her prisoner Vertumnus; of gentle Lucia and the shade of Prospero; of noble Don Pedro and powerful Helena; and of Anne, a glovemaker’s wife. On these lovers and heroes the world itself may depend.

These are the stories Shakespeare never told. Five of the most exciting names in genre fiction today – Jonathan Barnes, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Emma Newman, Foz Meadows and Kate Heartfield – delve into the world the poet created to weave together a story of courage, transformation and magic.

Including an afterword by Dr. John Lavagnino, The London Shakespeare Centre, King’s College London. (From Goodreads)

Release: 8 March 2016 for the collection, but each story is released separately. See the publisher’s site for more details.


Disclaimer: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. I also have an academic background in Shakespeare studies, where my research is focused on film adaptations.

Having worked so extensively on Shakespearean adaptations, I’m always ambivalent about approaching works based on or inspired by Shakespeare. While I do read and write plenty of fiction, I find it difficult to switch off my ‘academic mode’ when it comes to Shakespeare, and was admittedly a little cautious about reading and reviewing this collection. In my experience, it’s almost impossible to achieve the ‘right’ balance between the most ‘critically successful’ and ‘enjoyable’ adaptations, and when you throw my own personal tastes into the mix, things can get even more interesting—as it certainly did here.

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