Monday List: RuPaul Parodies That Should Be Done

In honour of the Season 10 final four (#TeamAsia), enjoy these five suggestions for the future seasons. Got better ones? Leave a comment below!

1. Murder on the Whore-ient Express

I mean, how has thus not been done already?! Melodramatic, riddled with stereotypes and full of great costume opportunities, Agatha Christie (Hag-atha Christie? Agatha Bitchy?) is easy pickings for RuPaul and his posse. Imagine the exaggerated death scenes. So much potential for bitch slaps here.

2. PRIDE ūüŹ≥ÔłŹ‚ÄćūüĆą and Prejudice/Jane Whore-sten

Okay, so I can’t quite think of the puns, but hear me out. Again, pretty costumes. They literally have balls in these books. There is a house called “NETHERfield”. There are a wealth of ott female characters. Bendelacreme’s Snatch Game Maggie Smith shares a lot of similarities with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The Colin Firth-lake scene? I’m sure the Pit Crew would be more than happy to oblige…

3. Wuthering Tights/Jane Hair

Catherine Earnshaw is so extra, she might as well have been a drag queen. If Kate Bush is ever a guest judge (please Drag Gods make this happen), there is no question what should be the main challenge – or the lip sync song for that matter. Pit the Brontes against each other with this team challenge. Nick some inspiration for Jane’s Red Room from Christian Grey’s infamous version, and we’ll be off to a good start.

4. Great British Cake Off

Like The Bitchelor in All Stars 3, reality shows are always good fun, with a big variety of characters allowing different queens to play to their strengths and improv a bit. This one has the added bonus of being British, so we can all enjoy some terrible terrible accent attempts, and perhaps a Mary/Prue/resident older woman impression or two. And think of all the fun that could be had with the baked goods Р#DragFoodFight.

5. Fahrenheit 69 #DragDystopia

Just for the title alone…

With thanks to Sam (@SamButtler) for the punny names. 

Monday List: 5 Great Shakespeare Adaptations

I tend to think Shakespeare is best live and in a theatre – but with no shortage of screen adaptations, there are plenty of gems in there amidst the dullness of others. In honour of tonight’s broadcast of¬†King Lear¬†on¬†BBC Two¬†(9:30pm), enjoy this list of other fab adaptations of Shakespeare’s work.

  1. Shakespeare Re-Told: Much Ado About Nothing
    Re-telling Shakespeare in modern-day English, this series saw¬†James McAvoy¬†as a murderous Michelin-starred Macbeth,¬†Shirley Henderson¬†and¬†Rufus Sewell¬†as warring politicians in¬†The Taming of the Shrew, and¬†A Midsummer Night’s Dream¬†set in a caravan park. But none of those was as good as the joyous rewrite of Shakespeare’s best romcom (no arguments please) by¬†David Nicholls.¬†Sarah Parrish¬†and¬†Damien Lewis¬†are Beatrice and Benedick as broadcasters, whose bickering is too much to take for their colleagues. It’s light-hearted and funny, just as this play should be.
  2. The Hollow Crown: Richard II
    All of The Hollow Crown is fantastic; faithful to the text, beautifully shot and acted. This, the first of them, is still my favourite, partly because I love Ben Whishaw and Rory Kinnear, who star as Richard and Bolingbroke respectively. You can find my review from way back in 2012, when this was first aired here.
  3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Russell T Davies)
    If you’re looking for a more irreverent take on a classic than The Hollow Crown will give you, Russell T Davies’ version of¬†A Midsummer Night’s Dream should be right up your alley. However well you think you know this story of fairies and donkey heads and lovers, the last ten minutes will definitely surprise you. It’s also as star-studded as tonight’s¬†King Lear, with¬†Maxine Peake, Matt Lucas, John Hannah, Elaine Paige,¬†and a handful of excellent young RSC/Globe actors as Puck and the lovers.
  4. Shakespeare Live! From the RSC
    Not strictly a full adaptation, but this deserves a place on this list for the many joyous excerpts from Shakespeare scenes, starring many British national treasures. The¬†Rory Kinnear/Anne Marie Duff¬†Macbeth¬†scene is so gripping, it makes the recent¬†National Theatre¬†production feel like even more of a let-down. And who can forget the hilarious ‘To Be or Not To Be?’ sketch,¬†starring none other than Prince Charles.
  5. Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
    The absolute classic. I was planning to just focus on TV adaptations, but I couldn’t leave this out. Flashy and over-the-top and melodramatic, this is a perfectly teenagery, stylistic version of Shakespeare’s fatal romance, filled with lustful longing. Also Leonardo DiCaprio deserves to be on every list in existence.

Quick Review: The Split, BBC One

Quick:¬†The Split¬†is clearly set in some sort of alternate reality where London is always sunny, divorce lawyers are allowed to talk in private to the party they aren’t representing, and literally everyone is unhappy with their partner. It’s the same kind of heightened realism we’ve seen in¬†Collateral, Clique, The Replacement, Apple Tree Yard… There’s definitely a signature style at play here.

That being said, it’s an incredibly watchable programme, with plenty of family drama and plot twists to keep you entertained.¬†Nicola Walker¬†plays the protagonist, Hannah, who has left her mother’s prestigious family law firm for a rival.¬†Abi Morgan¬†has produced a rather flighty script, skipping from story to story in a way that certainly keeps boredom at bay – but can feel a little ungrounded as a result.

Morgan initially launches her audience into Hannah’s drama with her two sisters, one of whom works for her mother (an excellently purse-lipped¬†Deborah Findlay), then into the dramatic divorce of millionaires¬†Meera Syal¬†and¬†Stephen Tompkinson,¬†wades into the child custody battle involving¬†Matthew Baynton‘s stressed comedian, and still has time for a quick glimpse of Hannah’s estranged father (Anthony Head). Naturally, as in all recent BBC dramas,¬†The Split¬†shows us how literally no one is truly happy in their relationship. Despite being married to the apparently perfect Nathan (Stephen Mangan),¬†Hannah is still seen mysteriously texting her hot co-worker in the middle of the night. Poor old Nathan.

The Split¬†is a fun, stylish watch, with family tension by the bucketload and a fab, female-driven cast to boot. If Morgan can allow her characters some space just to live and avoid the constant creation of drama (see¬†Big Little Lies¬†and¬†The Handmaid’s Tale¬†for tips), the next five episodes might start to feel less like a reheat, and more like the fresh and exciting show they could be.

Quicker: BBC One’s¬†The Split¬†is an immensely watchable programme which feels rather too flighty at the moment, but has the potential to settle down in future episodes.

Quickest: ***

“How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t!”

The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

So I’ve decided I need to blog about all those ‘Shakespeare Uncovered’ episodes I’ve watched, made notes about etc, because otherwise they’ll just keep stacking up, and won’t be relevant anymore!

First up, Derek Jacobi on ‘Richard II’ : I think I’ve referred to this previously in my ‘Hollow Crown’ blog, but here it is in much more detail ūüôā One thing I thought was especially interesting relates to the original Richard II, who was the first ever King to demand to be called ‘majesty’. His love for the various trappings of majesty is shown by the Wilton Dyptich (right), which he had commissioned, and which¬†shows him being presented to the Virgin Mary, Jesus and a host of angels, surrounded by saints. Yeah…not big-headed at all?! ūüėČ

Another thing Jacobi mentioned which was particularly interesting was how ‘Richard II’ is hugely relevant, not just for far off dictatorships, but it can also be linked to Margaret Thatcher’s situation in the 1980s – 90s; Hesseltein, a member of her own party (i.e. Bolingbroke) went against Thatcher (i.e. Richard) for the leadership of the Tory party. Thatcher called this: “Treachery with a smile on it’s face” and felt “Stabbed in the front”. It just goes to show how you can translate Shakespeare across many different time zones; at least one of the plays is always relevant.

Moving on to the actual character of Richard; self-indulgent, absurd in his too easy glorifying and lamenting, he is also, at the same time, a poignant character. A useful quote for my EPQ from Professor Stephen Greenblatt: “What we feel is obviously heightened by the brilliance of the play’s stunning poetry. Indisputably it’s the work of a literary genius”. It seems from this quote that Greenblatt would define a ‘literary genius’ as someone with incredible linguistic skills, perhaps, rather than by looking at the characters they create i.e. the linguistic skill, and not the characters are what makes Shakespeare unique and a genius.

I’m going to move onto Jeremy Irons on the ‘Henry’ plays now, that is, ‘Henry IV Parts 1 and 2’ and ‘Henry V’ , although there is a lot more to say on ‘Richard II; I just don’t have the space here, and I feel the main story, of how it was watched by the Earl of Essex’s soldiers before they tried to depose Queen Elizabeth I, is pretty well known by now and so you don’t need me to reiterate all the details. Obviously I was especially interested in this episode anyway, since I’m focusing on Henry V for my EPQ, but it was really informative. I’m ashamed to say the rest of ‘The Hollow Crown series, bar ‘Richard II’ are still on my tv planner, but hopefully I’ll be able to watch them in the next couple of weeks. Henry IV Part 1 was praised for having comdey, tragedy, family feuds, bravery, dishonesty… there’s almost nothing in Shakespeare’s other plays that doesn’t leave a trace in it. Plus, the point that you don’t have to know very much about English history to care about what is going on, was reiterated by many of the scholars during the show. This is because the plays emphasise the¬†‘family’ element, rather than the ‘royal’ side; Professor Jonathan Bate: “At the centre of the play is a story about a father and a son A son who seems not to live up to the expectations of his father.”

The great character who shines out from these plays is not, surprisingly, Henry IV (portrayed by Jeremy Irons above), but Sir John Falstaff, or Jack as he is known in the alehouse in Cheapside. The academics interviewed, and Irons himself, agreed that much of what is extraordinary about the play depends on the character of Flastaff; Jonathan Bate again: “We love anti-heroes, rogues, people on the margins, people who break the rules…” The fatc that Falstaff is defined as fat and larger than life was debated by many as to the meaning of this. Of course, it has negative connotations such as laziness, gluttony, yet it also represents living life to the full and enjoying oneself. There is no exemplary character throughout the two parts of ‘Henry IV’; everything is ambiguous, as is common in Shakespeare’s works.

‘Henry V’ is unsual in that it is one of Shakespeare’s only histories that has no obvious and powerful single antagonist to the titular character: Richard II has Bolingbroke, Henry IV has Falstaff, Henry VI has Jack Cade, etc… It can be seen as a lesson in how to be a good king; Henry(portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, right)¬†learns as he goes along how to rule his subjects and make them respect and love him enough to give up their lives for him…though, saying this, does he ever completely succeed? Even his “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” speech is mocked by Pistol in the next scene. An interesting point noted is that when it comes to the highs and lows of emotions, Shakespeare offers us no more than the text. There are no lengthy stage directions. Directors, actors and scholars have to decide for themselves what kind of King Shakespeare meant Henry to be. The ‘threat’ speech at Harfleur is entirely Shakespeare’s invention; there is nothing on it at all in ‘Holinshead’ (the major source for all Shakespeare’s English histories)…I find this the most intriguing, since this is one of the main factors used by some to accuse Henry of being a war criminal. Another pretty incredible fatc is that the entire ‘St. Crispin’s Day’ speech, which is amazing, whether you like Henry or not, is inspired by just a few lines in Holinshead. It appeals to basic, old-fashioned¬†courage, and this is partly why it is so successful, even thought nowadays many are cynical about the power of rhetoric. But then, Shakespeare being Shakespeare, nothing is simple!

Next up, Trevor Nunn on ‘The Tempest’. Now, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy this episode as much as the others;although it was beautifully filmed and there were some great clips in there, I felt it didn’t provide as much original information as the others in the ‘Shakespeare Uncovered’ series. Nunn did emphasise that it is a very “experimental” play, and is seen by many as one of¬†the most autobiographical; both Shakespeare and Prospero were 50 at this time. Every one of the presenters in the ‘Shakespeare Uncovered’ series is always determined to show how the plays are still relevant, and in this case, Nunn breaks it down to:

“At its core ‘The Tempest’ is a story about one man and the choice he must make…This play will ask huge questions. How do we become the people we are? What does it mean to be human? And what happens for the first time when we fall in love? Although the play tackles all of these issues, the central theme is the relationship between a father and his daughter, alone together for twelve years.”

This relationship is debated at great length throughout the episode. According to Andrew Dickson it is “one of the great interests and puzzles of the play”. If I’m honest, I found some of the sexual implications that some of the academics/scholars hinted at between them a little odd. Obviously, as an English student, I can’t say that they’re wrong, but I don’t agree. However, not knowing ‘The Tempest’ in a as much detail as these people, I guess I can’t completely disregard it.

One thing that is particularly unique to only a few of Shakespeare’s plays, like ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ , is that the story is original; there was no pre-existing story for Shakespeare to base the play on, like with ‘Romeo and Juliet’, although he may have been influenced by a real event; the shipwreck of ‘The Sea Venture’ in 1609. Although many connect ‘The Tempest’ with the magical, beautiful island it’s set on, the island is not much described in the play; the audience can make it as beautiful and magical as they wish. I suppose (relating to my EPQ), this goes against the argument for language – it is actually suggesting that the lack of language has a significant effect on the audience. The main message of this episode was summed up by Nunn at the end: “More than any of his other plays, it leads us to the essence of the man who wrote them.”

And finally…Ethan Hawke on ‘Macbeth’. I loved this episode, perhaps because it was the first I watched, but also because there was loads of unusual information in there, especially a section on ‘Sleep No More’, a new New York production of ‘Macbeth’ involving just dance and mime (see right). Hawke’s opinion of this was: “We usually think of words connected with Shakespeare. However, certain things expressed non-verbally are stifled with too much language. Physicality is inate, something we can all relate to.” Saying this, it was also pointed out that at the 10th anniversay of 9/11, Shakespeare’s words were used to connect with everyone – another good point for my EPQ; Shakespeare’s language gives people a way of expressing their feelings succintly and truly.

Wow! That was longer than I thought it would be! I hope you found at least one thing you thought was interesting, and don’t worry, I’ll be doing more reviews of non-Shakespeare things soon, as well as all the Shakespeare related things I mentioned last time ūüôā Thanks for reading!