Category Archives: Miscellanea

The Female Shylock

Last night I went to the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild’s production of The Merchant of Venice.  There were many surprises in this fresh and lively take on Shakespeare: a multi-coloured sixties setting and soundtrack,  Portia in orange suede shoes and a purple mini-skirt, a few extra lines ( “Right foot on blue”  – Jessica and Lancelot Gobbo were playing Twister. )  But the biggest surprise of all was that Shylock was a woman.

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The Shakespeare Olympics

Friday July 27th marks the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.  All the hype of the last few months finally comes down to the familiar routine: the torch relay, the drug tests, the photo opps. And then the competitions themselves, everything from Archery to Wrestling, with rowing, cycling,  beach volleyball, table tennis and synchronized swimming in between.

More relevant to this blog is the culture-fest known as the Cultural Olympiad. Like the athletic Olympics,  this has something for everyone : concerts, dance, theatre; music, exhibitions, events. Most significant of all is the World Shakespeare Festival, a celebration of the work, life and times of England’s greatest playwright, the ‘crowning glory of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.’ (also known as the Shakespeare Olympics!)

There are tickets available for The Globe ‘triathalon’, ‘pentathlon’ and ‘marathon’ (he did write 37 plays) and those of us who can’t make it to London can get a feeling for the whole experience here.….

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Fifty shades of what?

The things I do for this blog. As a feminist with a degree in literary studies, the last thing that I should be doing on the weekend is reading one of the Fifty Shades of Grey while my husband watches the football on TV.  But that’s what’s happening now.

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May Day

The first of May, May Day, contains a multitude of meanings. Traditional rural English celebrations include maypoles, Morris dancing and the crowning of the May Queen (think Midsomer Murders: village greens, duck ponds, cottages with thatched eaves.) But May Day also has significance as International Workers Day, a time of celebration for labour and socialist movements, commemorated with marches and demonstrations in the streets of cities and towns all over the world.

Then there’s the military usage of Mayday, the universal signal for ‘help!’, derived from the French expression ‘Venez m’aider’. This is where we’re going to start with suggestions for this month’s reading, but we’ll cover all of the meanings of May Day in one way or another – and look at some of the world’s best 20th century fiction.

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April Fool

All Fools Day seems to have its origins in sixteenth-century France, although there’s not anything like a consensus about this – the Roman festival Hilaria and the Indian Holi are also contenders. But whatever the reason, April 1st is a day for jokes and hoaxes, everything from the Piltdown Man to the annual Google hoaxes ( my favourite is the ‘Google Translate for Animals’  app – ‘which we hope will allow us to better understand our animal friends.’)

Consequently, I was very suspicious of ‘The International Edible Book Festival‘, celebrated on April 1st, the birthdate of  French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826). Why would anyone want to ‘recreate your favourite book with edible ingredients’? Why indeed?….

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Who was Shakespeare?

The recent blockbuster film,  Anonymous, favours the “Shakespeare was really Edward de Vere” conspiracy theory, an idea that was originally proposed by an English schoolmaster with the wonderful name of  Thomas Looney. Scholars, critics and people living in Stratford are less than impressed with this. So who is right? For a clear, cogent and entertaining summary of the various arguments , see Joe Nickell’s article in the latest issue of The Skeptical Inquirer (Nov /Dec 2011) ; for a detailed analysis, read the excellent book Contested Will. (And where do I stand on this? Let me put it this way: I find the anti-Stratfordian theories about as convincing as The Da Vinci Code…)

For more about Shakespeare, check the library’s valuable  print and electronic resources, or catch up with a living source of knowledge on  Shakespeare.

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All I want for Christmas

Christmas can mean a combination of champagne, mince pies and carols by candlelight. If you’re lucky, it’s also a time when you might get the chance to read something during the holiday break! Between 25th December and the New Year, I plan to read this year’s Man Booker Prize novel (Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.) The other choice is something Christmassy – there are plenty of murder mysteries with Christmas settings (starting with Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas) or something traditional, like Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Let us know what you’re reading this Christmas.


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