book review · books · fiction · literature · review · Shakespeare

Hag-Seed

Margret Atwood introduces her Shakespearean spin-off in this clever tale; beautifully captivating the strength and hope of human life.

We begin with the Felix putting on The Tempest at a Canadian theatre festival, but things quickly don’t go to plan. While he is ousted by a colleague he goes off the grid for a quiet life, plotting revenge as he goes. His own daughter, Miranda, echoed as a ghost in his small abode follows him as he begins to work under a pseudonym.

The story opens out into a tale of hope, of humans pushed to the edge as Felix begins a production of the Tempest inside a correctional facility. Inspiring the inmates to put on the show in time for a visit from his previous colleague Tony. A slice of revenge served twelve years later… what could possibly go wrong?

A clever portrayal of human emotions wrapped around one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, it’s certainly one to read.

language · literature · performance · play · Shakespeare · sonnets · Theatre

Shakespeare Saturday

How can one begin to even describe the Bard? William Shakespeare is one of, if not the, most influential person of the literary world to walk the earth. He didn’t just give us plays and sonnets, but defined new genres, tested out stories, and produced characters that have remained in the public eye for four-hundred-years.

shakespeare quote 1Yet it is not just literature that he influenced, Shakespeare’s lexicon is incredible, he harnessed the essence of English to produce words and phrases that are vital to the English of today. We couldn’t be ‘tongue-tied’, nor suffer from ‘green-eyed jealousy’, let alone walk down the ‘road’, have a ‘gossip’ or carry some ‘luggage’. Such simple day to day activities would cease to exist; we wouldn’t be able to describe them, to create them; to be a part of them.

Looking simply at what the Bard has contributed to the English language in terms of numbers is certainly remarkable. Out of the 17,677 words he wrote, it is estimated 1,700 of these were created by Shakespeare; he changed nouns into verbs, coined verbs into adjectives, then invented new lexis altogether. This list doesn’t even cover the phrases he assembled. Statistically, Shakespeare has given more to the English language than any other writer, he allowed Middle English to be ‘set free’, to evolve, as it continues to each and every day. He created not only the fundamental aspects of the English language, but through his plays these new words were recorded, written down, and able to be viewed four-hundred-years later. No wonder he has such a fan base.

The Globe

It is extraordinary to see how Shakespeare influenced our language and impacted literature from his starting point in Elizabeth England. He altered our language and gave us literature for years to come. We have an awful lot to thank you for Bill; when most of us don’t even realise how significant one man can be.

Happy Birthday and Deathday Shakespeare! Here’s to the next 400 years…

book review · books · fantasy · literature · review · Shakespeare · young adult

Station Eleven

I may have picked up Station Eleven without a clue of what I was about to read, yet it held a twisted tale and collision of events that had me gripped throughout.

Station 11Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the tale follows the survivors of the Georgia flu virus from their first encounter at a King Lear production to year twenty of the new world. Whether it be the Travelling Sympathy, who spread music and Shakespeare to the lost civilisaion, or the community stuck at the Severn City Airport; small communities continue to exist in an empty world.

It’s a clever collection of the stories of survival, it shows how we prioritise what is left from a community to allow a new civilisaton to grow. I enjoyed seeing how these tales were woven toegther, the switch between the present and the days leading up to the epidemic to show how life was lost while hope remained.

Once started its a book you’ll struggle to put down, and you’ll begin to question what matters most to you in life.

HOME mcr · literature · Macbeth · manchester · performance · play · review · Shakespeare · Theatre

Macbeth

Is this a dagger which I see before me, its handle toward my hand?

Macbeth kingMacbeth, Macbeth oh worthy Macbeth. I do enjoy a bit of Shakespeare, and seeing the Bard’s work on stage overrides any understanding you can gain from reading alone. I therefore found myself at Manchester’s HOME to see a modern take on this violent and power-hungry play.

I’m always intrigued to see how a reworking of Shakespeare can be transported to modern day, this production made it look effortless. That Macbeth’s tale was written to be performed in a sort of dystopian underpass. It was clever, accurate and relatable. It gave the sense of the darkness of the play, both physically in the dungeon-like modern setting, and practically of the murderous rampage the tyrant goes upon.

Macbeth witchesBeginning, of course with the witches; who’s spirits appeared to move them, it was a clever incorporation of dance and choreography. They helped move between scenes, flawlessly being both apart and distanced from the production, it allowed their power to be felt through scenes without physical interaction required. I was, however, slightly disappointed that Hecat was removed from the play, I feel her scene allows the connection of the witches to be portrayed, adding determination to their part. Regardless, the three sisters appeared strong and feminine, mystical and alive carrying the spirits of the play through them.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth 2Equally the leads of Macbeth, John Heffernan, and Lady Macbeth, Anna Maxwell Martin, carried through the violence, manipulation and strength required by this play. Lady Macbeth may not have been quite the innocent flower she wished to depict, instead she was surely the serpent underneath, portraying her strength and ultimate madness Matin triumphed in her portrayal. Likewise Heffernan was equally strong and persuasive in the end, overcoming his previous fears to take on his name as tyrant. The two complimented each other, passing over the power, strength of their characters to form an unruly double act.

The production was a perfect retelling of this well-known tragedy, elegantly retold in a new setting; the stage clearly the battleground of power and determination. With a cast all holding equal power in their presentation of the story, the tale shone through the stage and transported the audience to the battle of Scotland’s sovereignty. Equally it was engaging to have the play going straight through, the lack of an interval kept the suspense and darkness of the play; allowing it to unfold at a quicker pace.

If you’re around Manchester, catch Macbeth at HOME until Saturday 6th February.

autobiography · book haul · books · fiction · literature · Shakespeare

February Book Haul

IMG_6087It may have become apparent from this blog that I like books, I love reading them, discussing them and also buying them. So, with the start of a new semester and two literature modules to buy for, I had a most pleasant book buying trip.

As I already held the excuse of needing books specifically for my course, I felt no guilt walking to my nearest bookshop and picking up books by the handful. It also meant a few books not at all required by my course snuck into my arms, but with a collection already mounting they can’t do much harm.

I’m therefore having a little bit of a February book haul, so you get a sneak preview of what I’ll be reading for the next few months.

IMG_6089The Norton Shakespeare– By far one of the biggest (and most expensive) books I’ve had the privilege of buying, this collection of shakespeare appears to have it all. I’m already a confessed fan of the bard so was eager to own his detailed words. Full of textual notes, specific play introductions and a range of critical analysis it seems the perfect student guide to that main man of literature. It also comes with a full digital ebook to be downloaded, so you can have shakespeare on the go.

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison; Situated in 1950s America, there’s the man who never quite seems to appear, on the surface at least he’s invisible to his country, deemed unworthy and unimportant to his homeland. Covering the hardship of a still segregated and discriminative America, it looks like an interesting if long read.

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston; Beginning with romance that is disapproved of, sixteen year old Janie is married off to an older man. The novel twists and turns as Janie searches for the love she lost at sixteen, and struggles in a world not truly her own.

IMG_6088Beloved – Toni Morrison; Moving back to the mid 1800s as slavery become abolished, worlds come crashing to an end as love turns to violence and loss. This family will fight against all that life throws at them, but at what cost? Beloved appears to be an intriguing read and view of post slavery America.

A range of essays and autobiographies from: W.E.B Du Bois, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Weldon Johnson: covering various aspects of life as an African American and the struggles faced by us all.

The Versions of Us– Laura Barnet: This tale intrigued me from its title alone, the possibilities of our life can hang from such tiny decisions and circumstances. We follow Eva, from her days at Cambridge University to three possible outcomes of her life based on one moment, one meeting with a stranger and one bicycle. It fascinates me the parallels and possibilities our lives hold, so this book was a certain read for me.

Quite a collection of books to get through, let me know what you’ll be reading this month.