Thursday, 16 June 2011

I don't watch much TV... fact I don't watch a lot that isn't pure text. But in the last week I've watched three things that have made me nearly cry.

The first is predictable...I watched Agora for the first time, and given how long I have been in love with Hypatia and her is unsurprising that the film was effective. Of course it wasn't her overly romanticised death that made me want to weep. It was the burning of Library of Alexandria. Did the Christians really burn all the knowledge of the Classical world; in one huge conflagration? The 4th Century sources are not clear on the matter. But their lack of passion as they describe the various sackings should not be any great indicator of how large or small the disaster was - the deaths of Luxembourg and Liebknecht takes only a few lines in the German sections report to the Comintern - and in its time it was an event of similar significance...

Burning books makes me want to cry. Monotheistic bigotry makes me want to cry. The horror of the loss of all that wisdom and poetry; the plays, the poems, the astronomy, the mathematics..that makes me want to cry. What the film's director failed in was making me want to cry for Hypatia and the dreadful human pain of her death. Hypatia; pagan, philosopher, mathematician, teacher; was intransigent. Pursued by a suitor, the story goes, she threw him rags stained with her menstrual blood and told him that this was woman, if he loved this then he loved corruption. Harsh but direct. Needless to say, she never married. But she was brilliant and she was torn to pieces by the Christians, on the steps of their church for not being the passive vessel they thought woman should be. That makes me want to weep. Agora's soft, romantic cop-out does not.

And that's because real, human pain is not pretty.

The second thing this week, that made me want to cry was Chris Lilley's Angry Boys. And its not the moment you expect. Its Daniel, distraught, face-down on his bed, weeping because his mother is going to re-marry. Chris Lilley has been able to make me feel empathy with an aggressive, homophobic, racist little boy; whose heart I felt breaking.

The third time...ah...predictable. Shane Mcgowan was singing Rainy Night in Soho. I looked at his 1988 face and thought "By God Shane, but you were the the most magnetic, absorbing, exciting man alive right then." And neither you nor I will ever be that young again.

Real. Human. Pain. Nothing like it to remind you you're alive.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

If I could have the perfect Hamlet...Pt.1

So ever since I heard Simon Phillips had talked Ewen Leslie into doing Hamlet for him I've been making this list...
I've been making it because I have a very clear idea in my head what Hamlet should be like and I'm waiting for someone to get it just right. I like Zefferelli's Hamlet - Gibson is manly, tough - the solider and the courtier that Ophelia describes him as in the original text. Though I'm not sure if I buy him as the scholar too. Its hard to get right.
And by the gods I like the Royal Shakespeare Company using Dr Who...I mean David Tennant. Mr Tennant is not immediately obvious as a good choice for the role. But by the time he's gone just a little mad and had the chance to turn on his androgynous and somewhat unexpected sex appeal...I'm lapping it it were.
Tennant seems to understand something about Hamlet that I would have thought was obvious. He's hot. That's why clever, sassy women like Ophelia (and his mother...) are so enamoured of him.

So my wish list; my open letter to Mr Phillips goes like this...

Dear Mr Phillips,

I am in love with Hamlet, please don't ruin him for me...
If you could just follow these simple instructions I will be forever in your debt.

1. Please, dear god, do not make Hamlet a fop. He's not a fop. And he's not a mummy's boy either. Was Oedipus a Mummy's boy? No he was not! He was a sphinx-conquering, father-killing sonofabitch. And don't you forget it. So don't you dare make Hamlet a limp-wristed motherfucker. Well. Ok. He can fuck his mother if you want, but not limpwristedly...

2. Do not, under any circimstances, give Mr Leslie a die-job or a haircut. All that floppy black hair is why we love him. And its why we will love him as Hamlet. Hamlet in sable. It makes sense. You know it does. Gibson looked odd blonde. Olivier looked VERY odd blonde and we all know Brannagh was just trying to look like Olivier. So just forget the blonde Prince of Denmark. Most Danes have dark hair anyways...

3. To be mad or not to be mad...that is the question. I want my Hamlet mad only in craft. And not in kind. I like a little extremity, a little excess. But I want someone whose noble mind has not been overthrown. Don't get me wrong. He needs to be brutal, desperate, and calculating. Send those schoolfriends to their ignomious deaths - Do it Phillips! But do it with a sure hand and cool head.

4. I loved Ophelia. And so should Hamlet. And I had better believe it when he says it. Because if I don't then I can't believe he'd put her through what he does and still love him.