a rough tweet review of the RSC “Antony and Cleopatra” at the Barbican

The RSC Antony and Cleopatra at the Barbican tonight was probably in the bottom 5 of Shakespeare performances in my life, &I’m counting all the amdram, Fringe shit, etc. The direction was so bizarre I don’t want to say that Simon was unequal to the role, but she was doing a weird Eartha Kitt impression the entire time, like that was her Character.

They played it as a weird farce, like Ayckbourn’s Season’s Greetings, which dramatically shifted the stakes, but simultaneously wanted to keep the gravitas of the important moments. The farce thing isn’t bad as like a thought experiment, but as a whole staging?? Antony’s death was supposed to be hilarious in this. It didn’t work (I’d have more sympathy if the comedy had ever *worked*), but that was what we were doing. Over Anthony’s dead body Cleopatra makes a sad hand gesture that resembles wanking his corpse off—is it supposed to? WHY? At one point when they were kissing ages a kid was like gross!! and all the bougie attendees were SO PISSED but tbh /you trained audience expectations for a farce/. Also if u freak out at audience reactions early modern theatre is not the fuck 4 u go watch netflix alone again.

The language, which I’m typically really down with, was super difficult to follow here. The music started comically atrocious, but then segued into a good initial bit! I was like, ‘maybe it’s okay!!’ but then they played like a 1950s movie ROMANS!! leitmotif everytime they showed up and I was like are you the fuck serious. The set was so fucking expensive but terrible. Lots of LEVELS. Guess something in the production had to have some. The Barbican is always an awful venue too, I mentally dock 5 points for shit being there, either hall.

Cleo does an affected baby voice to mock someone like 3 times, it becomes some kind of weird Thing she does. You could play her as WAY more rational, idk. She also kept interrupting people with relevant info, I felt it as a bit of an ‘aha women amIrite??’ The focus fell primarily on the Romans&only minimally on Cleopatra, &because she was always erratic she came off shit. Anthony wasn’t compelling really, sort of a weird Russel Crow as played by Mark Gatiss thing. Cleopatra’s preparing for death was good but too little too late.

We were supposed to like Feel Something re the slave dying for Antony but Antony manhandled the shit out of him&got violent 5 seconds before, soooo? For no reason the slave death scene was super homoerotic, though we’d had 0 of that before. I AM ALL FOR HOMOEROTIC SHAKESPEARE HELLO HAVE YOU MET ME but u need an arc&shit, all the characterisation&blocking felt impressionistic&disconnected, I was like ‘bitch did you DEVISE THIS?’

Someone told them the Globe went bawdy so they tried that but it ended up at just like, weird humping all the time. Octavian is punchable as ever, but also they play his sadness over Anthony as super earnest rather than a political posture?

SERIOUSLY wtf is this a review OF??

I started to wonder whether based off the 1 ‘eh’ Globe staging&this it’s actually a truly awful play about awful fucking morons no one could care about with a handful of good lines. Why the fuck are these people in love?? They just come off as like—’in lust bc they are in lust; which is no goddamn answer. Katy’s like ‘well they both like a good time’. Ok sure, but is that the stuff epic passions are built on?

Cleo’s like oh the cool things about Antony were—*lists a bunch of generic Roman shit* Girl that’s never what you liked about him?! You got pissed w him for doing it, barely participated &fucked it up? Why is your big list of reasons Antony was great all about shit that idk you didn’t want him to do but then it ruined your life idgi. Also you’re weirdly listing like Caesar ass shit so ??? ‘Good at conquering’ um Marc Antony? I—guess??

By the end I was just like ‘oh my god could like literally every character? also die??’

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a terrible journey into really really digging ‘nirvana in fire’: episode summaries, part 1

EPISODE 1:

Just watched Nirvana in Fire ep 1&HOLY SHIT, fill up the big pipe, this is the crack for me

EPISODE 4:

Nirvana in Fire has salted the slugs, it has fertilised my crops. I used to have TB but this show cured me.

EPISODES 9 & 10:

Watched 2 eps of Nirvana in Fire. In the first Mei told Jing his army wasn’t well-disciplined and Jing wept with shame on the inside until he drowned.

Also if you’re a person who liked the Gallifrey audios, I’d get in on Nirvana in Fire for the next-level backstabbing&reveals!! action.

EPISODE 12:

This week on Nirvana in Fire, Nihuang finally called Mei on his metric ton of bullshit, then cried a lot. Jing was super keen on exposing tax evasion in shipping. The Ministry of Personel is trying to dodge an audit bc Civil Service is ancient&forever.

EPISODES 13, 14, 15 & 16:

This week on Nirvana in Fire, @MollyRKatz begged me to stop calling the Artist Formerly Known as Tigger “Tigger”. ‘It’s Yujin! You can remember it like Eugene Wrayburn!’ This is absurd as they are nothing alike, so of course I will remember it until the day I die.

So it’s New Years, which is Mandarin for Christmas Special. Knowing this makes some sense of the sequences of all the regulars peacefully eating dumplings&idk seasonal shit. Once again I try to figure out how MANY people Dickens would have killed for this ‘write the novel, manage the TV show&do the Not Christmas Special’ gig as Yujin has touching reconciliation with Daoism Dad&an unexpected character arc.

What’s more Christmassy than a murder mystery involving dead palace eunuchs? Absolutely nothing. Meng gets flogged a LOT bc the Emperor is a crap manager, but flogging seems to be essentially a hangover. Meng spends many days v curious as to location of aspirin. Lady Detective is on the case. Prince Jackass (No the Reasonably Competent One) tries to get on the case, but trips over his own robe in doing so. Jing is still interested in civil service. The Empress decides to tighten security. Her assistant is like ok chief we got some low level skivers some poisoners, shit to look into, various degrees of unco–

‘FLOG THEM ALL TO DEATH’
um
‘Y E P’ (bc of course Yu’s adopted mom is Like This, should have seen it coming).

Mei is using Jingrui’s native goodness to force him to investigate his own family without realising he’s doing it. Meanwhile Yujin, OF ALL PEOPLE, is like heeeeey, what if–what if Mei? is not? actually on team Prince Jackass? What if he KNOWS Yu sucks?? They whisper ‘woah’ at one another in Mandarin for perhaps an hour.

Oh also there was a big Thing about Jingrui’s birthday and would Mei come, &Mei got his ‘I will 💯 ruin your birthday’ face on. Idk what the plan is but it’s not to jump out of a cake. We didn’t see what Jing was doing over New Year’s, but earlier hateful Yu invited him to his party, so i imagine that hilarious awkwardness went down.

EPISODES 17, 18&19:

Today on Nirvana in Fire, we watched like 4 episodes. Mei had a weird house party with a weaksauce game, &Fei Liu literally scared badass Banruo by jumping out at her. Meng&Nihuan didn’t respect my boy Jing enough&Nihuan left the narrative to get her hair done or something. Yu killed 125 people bc Banruo said it was an awesome opportunity, Jing did disaster relief & Consort Jing had to put up with her absolute bullshit husband’s self-indulgent crap.

Prince Start Some Shit from Southern Chu is here trying to get something going&powder his nose, with many holiday and Lady terms. Jingrui’s Mom may have fucked the Southern Chu ambassador back in the day??

The music swells&the last ep ends on the promise that Mei will INDEED fuck up Jingrui’s birthday 🍰 . WHAT THE SHIT IS HE GOING TO DO AT THIS PARTY 🎈 THAT MERITS A 4 EPISODE BUILD UP?!

I’ve learned a lot from Nirvana in Fire for ex if you’re having a conversation you’re not feeling rn you can stop it mid-sentence hell mid-WORD by just going ‘ninwaaaaaaaah’ & showing a picture of a ship.

EPISODE 20:

Well is was finally Jingrui’s birthday and never never ever invite Mei to your birthday party. Gong played an emo song, and [Jingrui’s] 1st mom felt the tunes. Then Jingrui’s 2nd dad nearly got exposed for murder. Then the Princess of Southern Chu said she was Jingrui’s sister bc 1st mom DID INDEED fuck Prince Ambassador.

‘But how does she know when Jing could be either family’s baby in the G&S-ass baby swap plot?’

BINCH U R MISTAKEN. Jingrui’s always BEEN 1st mom’s kid for realz&she may have switched the babies&gotten his–bro? doppleganger? her BFF’s son? KILLED ON PURPOSE? BC HER CRAY DUBCON HUSBAND WAS TRYING TO KILL THE ILLEGITIMATE SON IN HIS MERCILESS QUEST FOR POWER?? BUT HE ‘DID IT ALL FOR HER’??

So anyway Gong’s dad was the assassin, the Marquis has 800 soldiers of pissed, and Prince Fuckface Yu is parked in an alley like ‘sup’ LOVING this opportunity to wear his Wartime Colour Scheme&take down the crown prince’s chief adviser.

I know like only @MollyRKatz has ever seen this show but BY GOD IF I TALK ABOUT IT LONG ENOUGH ONE OF YOU BASTARDS WILL TRY IT!

EPISODE 21:

THIS WEEK ON NIRVANA IN FIRE: arrows fly as Mei firmly cements his status as Jingrui’s Least Favourite Cousin, plummeting the MySpace ranks.

The instant the Marquis sent for backup to sliiide between the troops you could see Mei track-changing onto ‘worst case scenario’ in his brain. Also, Jingrui spent this ep in the sunken place, in full trauma coma, his hair: terrible, for the 1st time in his life. Evil Marquis Not-Dad traps 15 characters in an ornamental pagoda, where they’ve run, or in Mei’s case, where they’ve walked sloooowly. Battle Barbie Prince Yu teams up with Boy Detective and Daoist Dad, but it’s Dowager Princess Auntie Badass who saves the day. Dowager Princess Auntie Badass skewers Battle Barbie Yu on a dagger so her bitch nephew will listen to any other human for 5 min together, then the scene just cuts. Nin-fucking-wan until next time. ⛵️

No one got to eat at this shit party, EXCEPT ACTUALLY I THINK IN THE FIRST SCENE WE SAW MEI CRAMMING DOWN SNACKS BC THAT BITCH PLANNED ALL THIS&KNEW HE’D BE *STARVING*?

SIDE NOTE:

it is NOT well-written /as an English document/, but for a fic someone genre-shifted NiF from a historical romance to a period-analogous Shenmo story https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gods_and_demons_fiction

The intro is a history of Daoist semi-divine magic use and its formalisation as a system that at the end turns out to have been written by a dead historian via planchette consultation? I respect the labour involved.

EPISODES 22, 23 & 24:

THIS WEEK ON NIRVANA IN FIRE: with the worst birthday ever finally over, Mei has to pretend to let Yu figure something out. This excruciating process over, he sits in a cell with Evil Marquis&gets the dish, which the Marquis serves hot.

Mei stations prince Jing and Dong in the next room so they can hear that Dong’s boss&this fuck set up Mei’s family and killed Dong’s husband. Jing wants to give Dong a hug but she’s like ‘no, Jing, I’m too butch for that’ so he just stands near her in a supportive fashion.

The marquis is fucking LUCKY that his wife likes him like honestly it’s an inexplicable gift from god. She offered him the chance to kill himself w honour but this cray motherfucker is clinging to life w his teeth. Even peacing our into exile he’s still a dick to his sons.

Dong shows up to be like

Yu has a new outfit for the new year, and is altogether too pleased with himself about it.

Jing is STILL CRYING ABOUT HIS BOYFRIEND 12 YEARS LATER HE IS THE FUCKING PENELOPE OF THIS NARRATIVE, he’s like Mom I’m *sniffle* so gay&she’s like there there baby, I know.

Jing tells Mei he wants to act on the info they’ve received and clear his dead bf’s name (aka Mei, who is Not As Dead As Rumoured) whatever it takes&Mei doesn’t jump him or cry but it’s a near fucking thing. They also discuss horse provisioning. Anyway.

GREAT GRANDMOTHER DIES!!! her last words are slash dragon from merlin level trolling. Mei hacks up a lung in distress&he&Jing angrily fast. Yu&Crown Douche can’t hack it, bitchily share snacks in about the funniest scene thus far.

Ninjuang shows up to get cried on. Moist.

Jing enjoys his mom’s medicinal soup, which sounds unlikely but it’s her birthday so all respect to him for saying so. Emperor Toxic Masculinity has to show up&make it about him/put everyone on edge. Jing’s handmade soup cools as he presents mum w jade ornaments she didn’t want.

SIDE NOTE:

I thank god every day that there’s not a big English language Nirvana in Fire fandom because it keeps me safe from the ‘I lurve Avon, I HATE BLAKE’ fannish impulse that would cause me to kill again.

‘Prince Jing was annoyingly hot headed, impulsive, and yet towards the end he showed his gentleness and maturity around his best friend.’

jump directly into the sun thx

It’s ASTOUNDING how exactly the same fannish character reception dynamic will play out LITERALLY ANYWHERE, K/S did this A LOT, B7 with Blake and Avon, Buffy fandom could HATE Buffy when Spike was involved, &it SHOULD NOT BE POSSIBLE re NiF but of course: wobble selected.

EPISODE 25:

THIS WEEK ON NIRVANA IN FIRE: Banruo’s spy network gets eroded by Mei. We learn that she inherited it from a Princess of a kingdom this one absorbed, &they have an epic Revenge of the Colonised plot. It’s tough bc the tribe’s being Sinicized. Banruo’s 4th sister ponders the value of revenge, &what could be enough. They’ve gotten the 70k person army that conquered them killed. Banruo won’t stop until the Kingdom breaks up, even though she knows she CAN’T reform their tribe. You could say it’s an uneasy parallel of Mei’s Good, Lateral, Masculine Revenge (powerful to powerful) versus Banruo&her ‘sisters” Bad, Horizontal, Feminine Revenge, but idk if it’s that simple, or if this colonial situation is fully viewable through a contemporary lens. Yes&no?

Yu visits Mei unexpectedly, Meng gets stuck in the Secret Passage for hours&Jing shows up to share it with him awkwardly. They try to read the same book, it’s a tube commute basically.

Katy claims Jing smiles ‘for the first time in the whole program’ when his shitty dad gives him permission to visit his mom whenever he wants. Palace Ladies shade one another about soup while Consort Jing is 1000 yrs too old for their shit. Duke Mu sulks.

SIDE NOTE:

Woah, the SHOW Nirvana in Fire is thus far super oblique about Yu and Banruo’s Thing, but the novel (meh fan translation, nothing else is available) is blatant.

Very Unfulfilled

This is a fucking Fanfic Avon description I am going to need this novel to 🛑

When will this get professionally translated I’m like on a WordPress fansite? And NOT ALL THE CHAPTERS ARE TRANSLATED?

YOU HAVE TO WAIT
UNTIL THEY FIND SOMEONE TO DO THEM
OUT OF ORDER

EPISODES 26, 27 & 28:

THIS WEEK ON NIRVANA IN FIRE: Banruo’s still trying to spy-network-crack Mei’s place. Jing&Meng get stuck in that passage again, this time with added Fei Liu, who lets slip that Mei still calls Jing his childhood nickname. Mei covers badly, Jing’s heart shrinks a size.

Jingrui leaves for Southern Chu to meet his biodad after a fierce cuddle with Yujin. Jingrui’s leave-taking from Mei is amazing, some of the best writing/thinking in the show&strikingly different from anything I’ve seen on tv before.

Mei asks Meng to get his notebook back from Jing&Meng is about as good at delicate social requests as Trump would be at open heart surgery. Jing’s given it to his mom, who will ABSOLUTELY notice Mei’s veiled allusion therein to Mei’s mom, 1 of her 2 dead bffs. She notices. Consort Jing knows there’s SOME REASON Mei hasn’t told Jing so kind of has to go with it?? She’s all JING U MUST RESPECT THIS PRECIOUS TREASURE, LIKE, BOTTOM SOMETIMES– ‘mom, I already–‘ PROMISE!!

Jing’s all ‘mom why do you now send daily desert platters tagged ‘to my beautiful perfect daughter in law’ to my strategist?’ NO REASON!!

The crown prince finally disgraces himself&the Chief Eunuch does General Meng a solid while Meng’s like WHAT IS ‘A SOLID’ IS IT A STATE OF MATTER OR???

Jing gets officially bumped up a rank, Yu SEEEEEEETHES&chews off his own arm, the Empress attempts to shade Concubine Jing but she is as the sun&cannot be shaded. AN EPIC MONTAGE OCCURS. People are starting to realise Jing is a boss bitch.

Jing has a super hot male assistant that presumably he likes to unlustfully look at for reasons of pure aesthetic appreciation&bro-loyalty before retiring every night to cry about the Less-Presumed-Dead bb!Mei.

Jing meets with the Minister for Revenue (remember the fireworks shipping field trip? that dude) who asks him to take over disaster relief from Prince Fuckface Yu, who thinks Disaster Relief rhymes with ‘year-end bonus’. Jing TRIES, but is defeated by Yu’s greater mastery of Not Being The Cordelia.

Review: Captivate Theatre’s Oliver!

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“Oliver, never before has a boy—“ no, sorry. I have come to review Captivate Theatre’s Edinburgh Fringe production of Oliver! at the Rose Theatre, not to launch into the big titular number. Hard to resist it, though.

Oliver! does such a good job of adapting Oliver Twist that it begins to seem strange that so many ‘period drama’ adaptations are joyless, homogenous, National Trust-branded awkward nonentities. Oliver!’s formula is, after all, rather simple. The musical understands that the titular character doesn’t need to be particularly compelling or the centre of attention. This is a parish boy’s progress, not a Hero’s Journey. Oliver is the youthful plot impetus rather than the psychological agent his successors David and Pip will be. Oliver! relishes the novel’s dialogue and lifts it where possible. It gets the book’s jokes and tells them well, it makes a meal of Dickens’ big, theatrical characters, and it’s more interested in the themes and mechanical tensions of the story than in re-enacting every element of the plot with slavish fidelity.

Read full article here at the Dickens Society blog.

Review: Dickens for Dinner

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Shakespeare for Breakfast is a venerable Edinburgh Fringe Festival institution that has been selling out its house for twenty-six seasons and is still going strong. Every year they offer a quality Shakespeare parody, free coffee and a croissant. They don’t need their gimmick, but by God they stick to it. I never regret going, and a Fringe trip would feel incomplete without it.

This year, the team that performs the morning show also gives you the lunchtime Dickens for Dinner. The title introduces something of a controversy, as in the south of England, where many if not most Fringe visitors hail from, the mid-day meal is known as lunch. Calling it dinner, and the evening meal supper or even tea rather than dinner, are far more common in north England and Scotland. These distinctions have class connotations as well as regional ones.

“So it’s not really for dinner, is it?” said my vexed girlfriend, who is very from the Home Counties, of the matinee performance.

“A Northerner will come and eat you if you keep saying that,” I begged.

“But it’s NOT ‘dinner’!” she pressed on, heedless. I’ll miss her.

Read full piece here.

The Fifth Element (review)

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The Fifth Element (1997) is well-made. I don’t think you can deny that, and this sense of craft is one of my favourite things about it. Sure it has a somewhat hand-wavy space opera plot, featuring a giant ball of evil: why not? (Really I don’t think Fifth Element hangs together worse than Ghostbusters, which fanboys acclaim as a classic without qualification.) It’s not the story that does it for me so much as how it’s told. Element does tons of great, casual characterisation work. Its representation game is fairly strong. The script employs dozens of easy, unsmug, rhythmic lays-and-pick-ups, which are just satisfying to watch. A contest is advertised on television, and later someone wins it. There’s a garbage strike and a resultant big pile of refuse, which is discussed and then used in an escape. The protagonist’s bed wraps up in plastic after each use: someone inevitably gets trapped in there.

The film feels like it came from a team that was very aware of other media, and drawing from an eclectic multi-national and multi-media range of sources. The theme and aesthetic invoke Star Gate‘s (1994) cosmic Egyptology. The police uniforms and the particular intersection of sprawling public disorder and over-powerful (if itself disorderly) state authority pull from Judge Dredd comics. Blade Runner is also in the room. Bits of the cityscape (I’m thinking of a particular bridge we see in the back of the frame during the taxi sequence) and vehicle design are derived from the epic Franco-Belgian Les Cites Obscures comics. The design of the Floston Paradise cruise ship reflects not only this, but also the rash of Titanic films coming out around 1997. Æon Flux infuses its costuming, as does June Hudson’s iconic work for British sci-fi television and the not-unconnected project(s) of Alexander McQueen.

Fifth Element‘s determination to include labour in its plot and visuals also feels akin to what British scifi television was doing in the 80s and 90s in Blakes 7Red Dwarf and Doctor Who. The garbage strike, the taxi minutiae, the smoked-up spaceship parasite disposal team, and even Ruby Rob’s professional hustle make labour manifest in this world in a way that’s rare in contemporary filmic SF. But it’s a film as dedicated to the epic as the quotidian: the huge space-ships are pure Star Destroyer, and some of the costuming is from Star Wars‘ visual universe as well (the Star Wars prequels, which we must remember employed many excellent designers even if the overall project was a mess from conception to completion, return the favour by visually quoting Fifth Element‘s Brooklyn, among other elements, for their Coruscant). I really welcome both the space opera scope and the commitment to working-class detail. Too many SF films lack ambition in either category, preferring to occupy a vague and unsatisfying Everyman middle-ground: SF of the bourgeoisie.

Foes & Families: Love & Friendship, Lady Susan, and How Jane Austen’s Victorian Family Built a Squeaky-Clean Celebrity Brand

To talk about the 2016 film Love & Friendship we have to tell the story of Lady Susan, the Jane Austen novella it’s based off of. At the time of Austen’s death, this early work was both unpublished and untitled. Thus changing the name for the film seems fair enough, though exchanging Lady Susan for Love & Friendship, already the posthumously-assigned title of an entirely different piece of Austen’s juvenilia is really confusing. The marketing team probably did it to get that familiar ‘Noun & Noun’ Austen Title Formula on the posters. According to Jane’s Fame, Claire Harman’s excellent survey of the history of Austen reception, this was already a noted, copied characteristic of her work in 1821, only four years after her death.

The exact period of Lady Susan’s composition remains a matter of some debate. William Baker’s Critical Companion to Jane Austen: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work proposes drafting dates ranging from between 1795 to 1805, as well as providing an incredibly useful synopsis of major critical readings of the novella. What we can know definitively is that Lady Susan was first published in 1871, when it acquired its current title, by Jane’s nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, “as an appendix to the second edition of his A Memoir of Jane Austen”. (p. 124)

Read full review here.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, 2016 (film review)

I stared at the Facebook message in horror. Had a uni friend truly linked me to the trailer for the (inevitable) film of the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on the assumption that I would be pumped about this? Had she, in her sweet innocence, failed to notice that I am a hideous snob put on this earth to roll my eyes at the ‘classic novel and SFnal creature’ book trend? WAS MY BRAND INVISIBLE? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the last film on earth I would ever be willing to watch.

But as Austen teaches us, no plan survives contact with one’s sisters. Meghan was born ten years after me because god thought that up until then I’d had it too easy. Twenty years later she sat sulking through our low-key Halloween celebrations, and I felt guilty for dragging her prematurely into my fogeyish idea of a hot night (I had a roast dinner and a full-length black mourning veil to lunge out at trick-or-treating children in—what more could be wanting?). She suggested we watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and apparently I am slightly more prone to guilt even than to pretentiousness, because I agreed to let that happen in my home.

Read full review here.

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