Inspirational AF: ‘It’s Just a Preference’

As Pride month ends in the US, and London Pride rolls around this weekend, I thought I’d include this amazing speech by Almeida Young Leader Darren Siah. It explores the issue of internalised prejudice in the LGBTQ* community with thought and eloquence and passion.

A side note: I think Love Island has shown this kind of prejudice is rife in the heterosexual community too, and there’s a brief article on racism within the show’s ‘preferences’ here.

Inspirational AF: Dancing with a Tea Cup

How do they do it?! This is taken from DV8‘s Can We Talk About This?, a physical theatre production looking at freedom of speech, multiculturalism, and Islam, using verbatim interviews and elements of dance and mime. The physical strength of the performers, and the mental strength of this interviewee, Ann Cryer (the first politician to raise issues of forced marriage in the Houses of Parliament) are both inspirational AF. 

Check out more of DV8’s amazing, political, exciting work here.

#tbt The Astor Place Riot

When I say crowd riot, you might think of political protests, student revolution, football hooligans, eager fans. Theatre does not leap automatically to mind. Yet the 10th May 1849, 169 years ago today, saw a deadly riot break out at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, NYC, killing at least 25 and injuring over 120: the infamous Astor Place Riot. And what provoked this awful event (and the largest number of civilian casualties due to military action in the United States since the American Revolutionary War)? A fight between two actors over who performed Shakespeare better. Talk about divas…

In fact, theatre riots were not an unusual occurrence in the early nineteenth century. Theatre was entertainment for the masses. Actors, and particularly the superstar actor-managers like our protagonists Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready had legions of hardcore fans ready to defend them on a word (think the Cumberbitches/Directioners on steroids). ea3b8711772038b4ae14fe3220885461--america--break-outs

This came to a head when the Astor Place Opera House invited acclaimed British tragedian Macready to perform Macbeth during his US tour. This pissed the patrons of the Bowery Theater right off, as they were champions of American actor Forrest. Forrest had recently returned from a disappointing European tour where he’d been hissed and booed in London by Macready’s fans. In retaliation, Forrest embarked on a tour of the same cities Macready was playing, doing a rival version of Macbeth. Thus, when Macready was scheduled to appear at the Astor Place Opera House, the Bowery Theater downtown would mount Forrest’s production of Macbeth. As any Shakespeare fan knows, two Scottish plays in one city can surely never lead to good things.

However, this was not simply a fight about Shakespeare. It was rooted in much deeper conflicts; class, nationality, values. Astor Place was seen as a venue for the upper class; the Bowery Theater was not. The pretensions of the Astor Place moneyed patrons had become offensive to an emerging street culture embodied by “B’hoys,” or “Bowery Boys.” Macready and Forrest therefore came to represent upper-class New Yorkers versus lower-class, English versus American values.

On May 7th, things started badly. Macready walked onstage to be greeted by boos, hisses, and pelted rotten eggs and old boots. The performance had to be cancelled. Macready refused to perform for the next two days. It was only on May 10th that he agreed to continue – bravely ignoring, or blissfully unaware, that the Bowery Boys had stuck up posters around the city demanding action from its citizens: SHALL AMERICANS OR ENGLISH RULE THIS CITY?


By the time the performance began a crowd of ten to twenty thousand people surrounded Astor Place, pelting it with bricks and paving stones. New York’s elite militia, the Seventh Regiment, was called in to quell the riot—the first time a military unit had been asked to do so in peacetime. When the crowd did not disburse, the soldiers were given the order to fire. Eighteen died that day, although more would die from their injuries over the next few days. The militia’s actions were widely praised by the city’s elite.

More than just a riot, we can even see this event as creating the stigma around Shakespeare that we see today. The idea that Shakespeare somehow belongs to the elite could come from, or have been furthered by this event and its fall-out. According to Nigel Cliff in The Shakespeare Riots, these riots furthered the process of class alienation and segregation in New York City and America; as part of that process, the entertainment world separated into “respectable” and “working-class” orbits. As professional actors gravitated to respectable theaters and vaudeville houses responded by mounting skits on “serious” Shakespeare, Shakespeare was gradually removed from popular culture into a new category of highbrow entertainment.





“This above all – to thine own self be true”

Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3

William Shakespeare

Let’s be clear – this is a Big. Deal. Hold your breath and get ready for the drumroll please…



O frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!


And to celebrate this rather magnificent achievement – 100 apt Shakespeare quotations is hard! –  I have… not very much actually. Come on guys, it’s summer, I’ve been away for a while, cut me some slack.

However, whilst away on my South-East USA roadtrip I did find some bookish things to share with you, such as… :

  • The Library of Congress library 2– the largest library in the world and the United states’ oldest federal cultural institution. The best things, IMHO, were the quotes on the ceiling, such as: ‘In books lies the soul of the whole past time’ (Thomas Carlyle) and ‘Reading maketh a full man, Conference a ready man, and Writing an exact man’ (Sir Francis Bacon).shakespeare

There was even the now increasingly famous ‘Fault in Our Stars’ quote up there, and, naturally, a statue of the big Bard himself (see the very tiny picture to the right).

  • The Folger Shakespeare Library (again) – unfortunately, they had a rather average exhibition on ‘Heritage and Heraldry’ on when I was there, and let’s just say my cultural heathen brothers weren’t all that keen to stay in there for long. Still, the theatre was beautiful.
  • Tennessee William’s House (in the amazingly vibrant city of New Orleans)
  • Beckham’s Bookshop bookshop– in the French Quarter of New Orleans, this second-hand bookstore is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area. With hundreds of old books, the best antique paper-decaying odour you’ll smell and it’s own cat, it’s a reader’s paradise.
  • The real life house of Jim Williams – one of the major characters from one of my favourite reads so far this year, ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ (John Berendt). Seriously worth a read, it’s a true story about a murder (which happened in the aforementioned house), the ensuing legal case, and all the crazy people who live in Savannah, Georgia. 

And if you’re looking for any more new books to read then I’ll end with some other recommendations:

‘Three Men in a Boat’  (Jerome K. Jerome)

‘Here For the Season’ (Tania Kindersley)

‘The Woman in White’ (Wilkie Collins)

‘We Need New Names’ (NoViolet Bulawayo)

Enjoy them, and thanks for supporting ‘Mingled Yarns’ during it’s first century – here’s to the next 100!

great gatsby

“O beauty, Til now I never knew thee.”

Henry VIII, Act 1, Scene 4
William Shakespeare

I’m back in good ole’ England, but still reminiscing about the Big Apple… The Strand Book Store is world-famous for both it’s amazing 18 miles of books *contented sigh*, it’s 86 year history and the special ‘rare books’ level, which you have to get a creaky, old elevator up to.

The smell, the feel, the look… all of it is just lovely for a novel nerd.

Obviously I can’t magically transport y’all there, so here are some photos to help emulate the atmosphere around you:








I actually bought a book – not for myself surprisingly, but for my mum, who loves all things historical. After wandering around the rare books department for ages, I finally alighted on Goldsmith’s updated version of Pinnock’s History of England (yeah, it’s a long one). This book cost me just $20, and was published in 1845 – practically the middle ages in terms of American history!

If you go to New York, go here if only to spend a happy few hours perusing the piles.

“And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything”

As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

Procrastinating? Bored? Literary nerd? Here’s my round-up of the top book and theatre-related sites lurking around the internet at the moment:

• Wondering what to go as for Halloween? Well, muse no more my friends: here are 17 literary-themed costumes to wear. (I’m getting into the spirit of things here in the US and am not going as something scary. Part of me feels I have betrayed by country.)

• Great photo listing the ‘Top 5 Oddities of the English Language’

• What would Shakespeare tweet? This article imagines 12 “literary legends” on twitter.

• A blog from Giles Terera and Dan Poole (actors, who coincidentally I just saw in National Theatre Live’s ‘Hamlet’, starring Rory Kinnear – Spoiler alert: IT WAS AMAZING!) on how they learnt to love Shakespeare

• Apparently the National Theatre has a tortoise, who now has his own twitter account. And it’s hilarious.

NEWS FLASH: the Folger Library’s Shakespeare collection is now online!

• More from the National Theatre – it was their 50th birthday this week, what do you expect?! Rufus Norris is taking over from Nicholas Hytner as artistic director, but the Guardian asked a variety of people how they’d run the National Theatre.

Famous authors’ last words. Number 2 is my favourite.

• ‘Wuthering Heights’ was one of the most disappointing books I’ve ever read. If only I’d seen this article, explaining the whole thing in gifs, beforehand.

• And finally, more Halloween goodies – 18 literary-themed pumpkins. These people are geniuses. Seriously.

“Of Nature’s gifts thou mayst with lilies boast, And with the half-blown rose”

King John, Act 3, Scene 1
William Shakespeare

More of my New York escapades… So on Monday (Columbus Day so off work!) I went to Central Park in the gorgeous sunshine and basically couldn’t believe my luck. It’s just so incredibly beautiful.

But obviously, being an English nerd, my number one port of call was the Shakespeare Garden: IMG_1231
Apart from being lovely in terms of flowers, I really got excited about finding the Shakespeare quotations hidden among them. Sad? Cool? Call, it what you will, but I have all these photos and no one to show them to so… you get to be my audience! Yay for you…





AND if that weren’t enough, I also have a picture of the Bard himself (well, the statue). Be warned, my photography, as you can see, is not the best. I blame the camera.