With Cate Blanchett’s newly released Carol, the two actors met to discuss topics ranging from faking accents to working with different types of directors. Source: Watch Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen Discuss Acting | Seroword
With Cate Blanchett’s newly released Carol, the two actors met to discuss topics ranging from faking accents to working with different types of directors. Source: Watch Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellen Discuss Acting | Seroword
Looking forward to reading this one!
When a writer chooses as their lead protagonist an actor and his main theme the theatre, possibilities abound. At first looking at Bernard Cornwell’s new novel “Fools and Mortals” you might dissapointedly think, oh, the creator of Sharpe has finally succumbed to the Tudor period eh? And oh look! He’s writing about Shakespeare, how original. Perhaps it was only a matter of time. But don’t be fooled, as we mortals often are, this is a story of layer and depth.
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Kingsway, Miranda 22nd September – 8th October
St Marys, 13th – 29th October
They say never work with kids or animals in the theatre, presumably because an adult can’t complete with the cuteness factor. Having seen the Stardust Circus, I have to question that. Rather, never work with an overseasoned prima donna resting on her laurels – more later. No, the animals were engaging, the young performers were abundant and abundantly talented but the clowns stole the show – particularly the adults and the way in which they interacted with both the animals and the children.
The Stardust Circus has loads of family appeal. They offer a traditional circus with acrobats and tumblers, clowns and performing animals – acts that will surprise you. Humour abounds in all of the ground routines. Mischievous rebellion on the part of the animals, like the horse who refused to be saddled and the dog who gave his trainer his comeuppance, are seamlessly realized. There was audience participation, clean humour and positive rolemodelling as the performers were of differing bodyshapes and ages.
There were ponies, pigs, monkeys, goats, dogs and lions. My younger son lapped it all up while my recalcitrant teenager who was determined not to enjoy the show left in high spirits and grudgingly admitted he enjoyed it. Which act unanimously was considered the best by my company of tweets and teens? A trio of adult tumbling clowns head over heels for the same seating, The Vixers.
Another aspect of the show that really impressed me was that it was a unified effort that you see in family run businesses or historical acting troupes (think Moliere in 17th century France or the travelling commedia dell’ arte). The aerial acrobats sold popcorn before the show, doubled as clowns and pushed and rigged as stage hands. Everyone had multiple roles it seemed. The children performing are growing up with sawdust in their veins – or should I say, Stardust. The littlest clown making a cameo appearance looked to be about 4. Captivating my young charges was the highflying duo, Cassira. The grace and strength of 12 year old Cassius and 9 year old Talira was enchanting. I’d love to know how little time they spend with their electronic devices. All of the children of the circus certainly charmed with their skilful, playful and comic delivery.
But what of the overseasoned prima donna, resting on her laurels? Yes there was one but I wouldn’t be questioning her commitment – she is a lioness. The show opened with the performing lions. They did or refused to do their jumps to the delight of the audience and returned to their stools. Every now and again one of the more experienced lioness’ would turn around and gauge audience response. I could almost sense her saying, “Well, come on, give us a bigger hand, we don’t bite!”
Well worth a trip out 😊
A Gentle Knight was pricking on the plaine,
Y cladd in mightie armes and siluer sheilde,
Wherein old dints of deepe wounds did remaine,
The cruell markes of many a bloudy fielde;
Yet armes till that time did he never wield;
His angry steede did chide his foming bitt,
As much disdayning to the curbe to yield:
Full iolly knight he seemd, and faire did sitt,
As one for knightly giusts and fierce encounters fitt.
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen, Canto 1
Picture a medieval knight, what do you see? A helmet? A sword? A horse? Heraldic trappings? Metal suits? Damsels in distress? St George? The Dragon . . . Fantasy? Mythology? Lies?
Recently my son came home from school and asked me to make him a full suit of armour – plate armour – not chainmail. It was a challenge that had immediate appeal. The only problem was my day job, I work very long hours in the family business. If this thing was going to be made I would need a lot of assistance. In fact, I would more or less co-ordinate the project and Junior would actually be making it.
Yes, he said he would be on board. He would do all of the paper mache I required of him. All of the painting too. Immediately he began working on the shield, so I began envisioning a plated armoured suit in corrugated cardboard. I cut the major panels of the suit and played with ideas of how to construct the necessary articulated elbow and knee joints. I had to think practically if he was going to wear the suit to Medieval Day at school. He would have to eat wearing it, which meant sitting down. He would have to kneel on the floor to work a miniature catapault and stand and stretch to fire an arrow from a bow. So it was to be flexible and durable to last the day – activities, lunch and toilet trips.
How flexible did it have to be? I thought back to the battles described by Procopius in his Persian Wars. Perhaps a little early in the Middle Ages and a little farther east than necessary but his accounts are that of an eye-witness. I thought about pitched battles and battlefields in general. When faced with an armed foe how functional would a suit of armour – plate armour be? Huns and horse archers had bows and swords and the ability to switch between both. Why didn’t the Roman cavalry wear a full suit – why did the best outfitted Roman wear chest plate only? Surely if plate armour was practical the Romans would have done it first? I had another look at the Bayeux Tapestry. Those Normans wore chain mail. Much more flexible but apparently just as heavy as plate armour. Could it be that plate armour wasn’t worn on the battlefield?
But what of all of those depictions of knights in shining armour – in history books, in the movies, in fairytales, in Scooby Doo? What of the tales of the Pre-Raphaelite canvases, the songs of minstrels and the epic medieval poems? Are they all romances? Is none of it based in historic reality? And what of the suits of armour that have been preserved through out history? Were they just for show? What purpose could plate armour have served? The full suit, visor down is intimidating – was this its purpose?
I wouldn’t want by sons to wear plate armour in a pitched battle but if they were on Sentry duty, such a suit may serve its purpose, that is, if the soldier was on guard duty – or heavily assisted by a page at a tournament.
Where is the Bayeux Tapestry for the later Middle Ages depicting knights on horseback in battle?
Could Edmund Spenser have been hinting at this impracticality of plate armour in the late 1500s when he wrote those lines? Did the major damage to plate armour come by jousts and not battles? No, I believe a real fighting knight wore chain mail – flexibility on a battlefield was key. Which was a great relief to my anxiety when the time came to make the suit. Sewing together faux chainmail and tunic was far less demanding than keeping Junior motivated to paper mache so many different panels of armour.
Photo Credit – Plate Armour
The Rover by Aphra Behn; Directed by Eamon Flack
Cast: Gareth Davies, Andre de Vanny, Taylor Ferguson, Leon Ford, Nathan Lovejoy, Elizabeth Nabben, Toby Schmitz, Nikki Shiels, Kiruna Stamell, Megan Wilding
Belvoir St Theatre, Sydney, until August 6
I was so looking forward to seeing this play, to seeing Aphra Behn psyche on stage. I’d never seen her work brought to life. This was going to be my first time.
The show was fun, funny, exhuberent, raunchy and altogether, very, very big! It was set in a Naples carnivale-mardi gras and the look and tempo of the performance was of a circus side-show – excitement and otherness was paraded and celebrated. There was lots of physical stage business, lots of sight gags and buffoonery. Their comic timing was impeccable. It seems like every comic device was employed to get a laugh – and received it. The cast played it up to the audience on every opportunity. The way that the sight gags were unravelled- or in the case of Gareth Davies, disrobed – was luxiourously allowed to develop and grow and build mirth with each prolonging gesture. In their silence and indulgence in each mime-like, clownish nuance (or drunken slip and crawl – in the case of Toby Schmitz’s beleaguered attempt to climb his courtesan’s window) there was no holding back – no skimping on the possibility to draw out the laughter. Megan Wilding, as Lucetta and Moretta was masterful in the way she played the audience – cajoling them with unencumbered silence, coyly approaching her lover, pulling faces, hammering obscenity or drawing out laughs with each puff of her cigarette. Beholdng such a spectacle was marvelling at their talents. Yet where was Aphra Behn in all of this business?
But she was there, you may point out. Just there, at the beginning of the play, an entr’acte all her own – her own soliliquy – her defence of her playwrighting and female playwrights. You may want to point out that Aphra Behn’s work is not so well known as Shakespeare’s and that the english used is obscure at times, so that following a verbose 350 year old play is aided by horsing around and bucking off the words. The problem is that in telling a story on the stage the physical metaphor that’s presented by the actors has to be felt to be understood. This metaphor was too often laid aside to keep its momentum as an emotional thread.
So, the first act was a joy ride, perhaps too much of one, as the second act paid the price for frittering away the opportunity to build the emotional connections between the lusty and the love-lorn. The first act down-played the script and up-played the physicality. There wasn’t enough attention to the script to build the empathy needed to allow the second act to reach its denouement plausibly. Toby Schmitz’s Willmore is more a larrikin than a cad who actually needs to fall in love to presumeably mend his roving ways and marry Helena (Taylor Ferguson).
Where the playwright makes her voice heard directly – via Angellica Bianca (Nikki Shiels) the noise and colour of the carnivale is muted by the veracity of Nikki Shiels’ performance driving home her point. Exotic, sensual, pitiable, garboesque, Nikki Shiels’ gave the story heart and intellect. We can feel for Bianca but in the convolutions of the storyline involving Don Pedro, Don Antonio, Belvile, Florinda, Willmore and Hellena, the suspense and subsequent release is missing.
With the number of jaunts into carnivale mode there was always the danger of big acting becoming ham acting. Big and ham are two differnt kinds of deliveries that look identical in performace photos but deliver different results in the auditorium. Foreign accents can blur the distinction too. Clowning and miming require big acting. Interject a steady stream of laughter and minimise the script, and big could devolve into ham. Ham doesn’t matter in the style of jokes being built – it probably aided them – but it didn’t aid empathy to be drawn on in the second act.
The use of asides to explain obscure terms was a brilliant stroke and worked well with the carnivale atmosphere and the use of the whole auditorium as a performance space. The audience connected with the show. It was a lot of fun, a really good night out. The academic in me was left a little cheated but nothing too serious.
Behn, Behn, Behn, Behn, Behn . . .BeeeeeeeehhhN! I’m so excited! Aphra Behn! Aphra Behn! Aphra Behn at the Belvoir St Theatre! What a treat! Oohhh . . . Behn! Behn! Behn! Behn! Aphra Behn . . . aaah!
What? What was that? Who/what is Aphra Behn? You don’t know? Okay, so if you’re a feminist, litterati you probably could fill me in, but if you’re not there’s a big possibility that you have no idea what or who I’m going on about. No, Aphra Behn is not an anti-frizz hair care product. She was a highly successful playwright of the English Restoration period – late 17th century. Touted as the first female playwright she claimed that her scandalous plays wouldn’t bat an eyelid if their writer were a man.
Poet, prisoner, debtor, spy, wife, novelist, lesbian, feminist, playwright – she wore all of these hats. She was a successful female playwright who owned her works as a female at a time when writing for the professional theatre was new and old in London and definitely not a career choice for polite women. Why new and old? Obviously formal theatre productions in professional playhouses had been performed in London from the mid-late 1500s. Shakespeare’s most productive period was in the 1590s. But with the advent of the civil war the playhouses were closed down in 1642 and remained so during the Interegnum. Playacting was restricted to private performances. With the restoration of the monarchy came the restoration of the theatres in the 1660s.
This was perhaps a unique time when incumbent playwrights didn’t have an exclusive attraction to playing companies. A time where London had two professioanl theatres and, as old, a populace with a voracious appetite for plays – new plays. Plays that spoke to a people who had been violently divided and reunited. It was a time of peace and a time of renewel. Women graced the professional stage for the first time, replacing the boy actors of old. The Revenge tragedies so popular before the war would no longer dominate the programmes. Comedy of manners reigned and Aphra Behn wore the crown.
Aphra Behn’s works were very popular. She thinly veiled commentary on her times with allegory. Audiences saw through it, as was her intent, and loved it. Her Rover is playing at Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre from July 1. Set in Naples at a time of carnivale, the Rover pits a player-cavalier against the woman who may serve him his comeuppance, a nun. Sounds Like fun? Director Eamon Flack promises a wild and high energy interpretation. He did a sparkling job on Twelfth Night last year. I can’t wait to see Behn’s battle of the sexes through his vision. The production stars Toby Schmitz and Nikki Shiels. I’m sure its going to be a treat.
Visit the Belvoir St website page for The Rover here.
Aphra Behn – Poet
Aphra Behn on Project Gutenberg
Hartnol, Phyllis, The Theatre: A Concise History, Revised Edition, Thames and Hudson, 1968, 1985, Chapter 6:The English Restoration Theatre.
Photo Credit – The Rover
I feel thoroughly spoilt. Dominic Perry of the History of Egypt podcast has allowed me to interview him. Dominic took on the herculean task of presenting the history of Ancient Egypt, reign by reign beginning with the Old Kingdom. I love his podcast. Wonderous but never onerous he delves into religion, mythology, politics, daily life, literature. . . Literature! I particularly enjoy his readings of translations of ancient texts (Hatshepsut – very dramatic). He includes archaeological updates from the field and gives his take on it all. And then there are accompanying visuals on his website! For my recent series of posts where I have attempted to recreate a cloth Nemes crown, I have leant heavily on his podcasts to get a handle on who the ancient Egyptians were and how they would approach things. Here he answers my questions on Egypt, digs, rituals, theatre, Oedipus and Akhenaten. Enjoy.
I got into it as a child, and at first I have to admit it was mostly the gold and the treasure. Over time I became more and more fascinated by the idea of the pharaohs – what they represented, how they lived, what they wore etc. Then finally I became absorbed in finding the little details of their lives – particularly the economic aspect; how people lived and organised themselves, what they had to do to make sure their community functioned properly. It’s been an evolving series of interests!
Sure! I’m not a natural traveller – I like home and my creature comforts. But it’s important to overcome that internal desire, in order to do something special. It’s a rare opportunity to get paid to dig up a long-dead civilization, so I just sort of “suck it up” and get stuck in to the work. In terms of safety there’s never been a problem – Egypt and Sudan are a lot safer and friendlier than people realise.
When I was excavating a Roman-era wall that had been built over an old Egyptian temple we unexpectedly found a pharaonic-era statue that had been used as part of the masonry. This whole torso of an ancient pharaoh suddenly showed up among the bricks. That was definitely a surreal moment.
Yes. Egyptian festivals and rituals seem to have had pseudo-theatrical “re-enactments” of legendary events. Osiris’ death became a big one; the battle between Horus and Seth; the rampage of Hathor and her slaughter of mankind. These were important stories in the heritage of the ancients, and they were constantly reviving and renewing them to keep the memory alive. I often think of Japanese Noh-theatre as an analogy – legendary figures and supernatural beings interacting with the human world, and making a grand show of it. The Egyptians may have done something similar, but in a more religiously formal context. Over time that probably developed into something we would recognise as a theatre-esque “performance piece.”
Anything is possible, especially when Greek writers like Herodotos were fascinated by Egyptian history and culture
Of course you’re thinking of the pharaohs’ habit of marrying sisters or cousins. That certainly happened, but we’re still not certain of the role these sister-wives played – were they symbolic unions (platonic marriages)? Or did they consummate them? Our moral sensitivity would have us lean to the platonic end; but there must have been some incest going on occasionally. It’s a big question, and it can have a big impact on how you view their morality.
Not taboo, but it would be unnecessary. The legitimacy of the line appears to have been carried by the females (though there is debate on that). If a King died without heir, but his sister or daughter had a son, that son would be a perfectly acceptable heir. Queen Khenty-kaus I (about 2450 BCE) was the sister of King Menkaure, and when he died without heir she seems to have put her son Shepseskaf on the throne, ruling as a regent on his behalf.
Tough question! He was certainly a megalomaniac, but he doesn’t seem to have been a particularly adept politician – he alienated a great many of his subjects, and built an unsustainable legacy that was expunged after his death. As for his faith…I think he was a true believer in his religion – the kicker is determining exactly what his religion represented? Was Akhenaten worshipping a separate, all-powerful god, or was he worshipping a deified form of his father (the incredibly vain and grandiose Amunhotep III)? A lot hinges on how you interpret the god Aten, and what he represents.
If I can give a (spoiler!) glimpse at my take on Akhenaten I would describe him as a visionary, but a visionary unable to compromise enough to make his dream a reality. I think his religious beliefs became more extreme the more he felt he was being challenged. Akhenaten was not necessarily fit to be a king; he was either unprepared or unsuited to the role, which required a lot more compromise than we might expect. He was a remarkable man, but not always for the right reasons.
Thanks for having me!
Find the History of Egypt Podcast on iTunes, your favourite podcast platform, and at http://egyptianhistorypodcast.com/
Aliens , Ghosts and Vanushings is a wonderful book by the talented and fun-loving tweens author, Stella Tarakson. She looks at creepy, spooky, reality-pushed stories that have passed into Australian folklore. She presents these stories that are so beloved you just want them to be true in a manner that suggests they are and then gives the other-hand, scientific-historic explanation as well. It’s up to the reader to decide what they will accept.
There’s the Westall High School UFO sighting where 200 witnesses saw a UFO land and take off in a field near the school; the apparent discovery of a massive vein of gold outside Alice Springs in Lassester’s Reef and the location’s subsequent loss; bunyips and drop bears and many, many more curiosities.
The UFO story I find most convincing was caught on radar in 1954 and remains unexplained -the Sea Fury Incident. The disappearance of Harold Holt and Azaria Chamberlain are in there too.
My favourite story by far is the Princess Theatre ghost. She tells the nice side of the story. The story that won’t frighten away theatre-goers from attending the theatre nor actors and crew from working there. It’s a little scarier than that I found out when I was a prop girl on the Phantom of the Opera many years ago.
Stella Tarakson will be doing a book signing at the Berkelouw in Cronulla Mall this Saturday at 1 pm. A great time to pick up a copy, meet the author and get your copy signed.
“Appears” to support my idea of using a form to give the iconic shape to the crown. I would so love this to be the case. The problem is that I haven’t seen the statue in real life nor have I read an art historian’s appraisal of it. Are the four vertical lines ascending from the crown over Khafre’s head the exposed form holding the linen on or are they the remains of a uraeus that hasn’t stood the test of time? The missing portions of his left leg and arm have added a deflating overtone to my hypothesis – quite possibly the uraeus has broken off. But if so, did it really break off so cleanly, with no swirls of its serpentine stance?
If you humour me my hypothesis I’d like to suggest that perhaps this early version of the Nemes Crown was made of linen dyed the blue of lapis. It was then hooked onto a metal form that descended over his forehead. The linen would represent his hair in a very stylised manner. The king would then live up to traditional propaganda that he had hair of lapis lazuli.
Where would the Ancient Egyptians have gotten dye that colour? Pulverised lapis lazuli perhaps? Could the sanded down grains be pulverised and mixed with a medium that would adhere to linen? Could they? Just a suggestion – an uneducated guess.
If those early Nemes crowns were of linen then perhaps the king didn’t have a bald head but wore his crown over his long locks as in this earlier statue of King Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty. His pointy lappets cover his hair. In the Old Kingdom there was an office in the royal household for the Royal Hairdresser. Has my impression that Egyptain pharaohs were bald descended on me via the bald Yul Brynner playing Rameses? If later kings of Egypt had hair it doesn’t seem to have been depicted in their extant art.
Djoser’s Nemes crown is interesting in that it doesn’t sport a uraeus but does have a striped pattern over his forehead. Feint horizontal lines can be discerned moving across the lower lappets. Both Djoser and Khafre’s crowns appear bereft of the uraeus. Did they not wear them with this crown in the Old Kingdom? Could they not attach such heavy ornaments to the linen body of the crown?I believe that the Nemes Crown kept evolving – almost as slowly as evolution. By the time of the New Kingdom, not only were the Nemes Crowns gold but the monarch wore a gold mask to have skin of gold as the folklore of the time led the people to believe.
Next up – my second attempt at making the Nemes Crown and why I believe the king wore a gold metal crown and face mask
Photo Credit: King Khafre
Photo Credit: King Tutenkhamun’s Death Mask
Photo credit: King Djoser
A question of gravity, currency, and gay flappers or majestic lappets?
Once the cloth covering of the nemes crown and its ponytail was complete I encountered my next obstacle. Under the added weight of fabric, cords and the hollow numchuck form, the crown kept falling back. It wouldn’t sit straight or actually stay on. I had to balance the weight of the front of the crown with that of the back.
The uraeus and vulture on the forehead alone didn’t solve the problem.I decided to attach the beard to the front of the form with hat elastic. This was the trick.
I wondered whether the ancient Egyptians had the same problem? Did Pseusennes I (1047-1001 BCE, 21st Dynasty) have the same problem?
Are those pencil-line side burns sported by Pseusennes, stylized beard straps meant to balance the weight of the crown?
Now that my crown was sitting squarely in place it should have looked right, but it didn’t. There was something about the lappets – the long flappy bits that hang by the side of the pharaoh’s face. Flappy, they shouldn’t have been. Stiff, triangular – pyramidal, in histoy they appear to rigidly frame the face before reaching down over the shoulders from the chin. There is no movement – no flow of diaphanous fabric (okay, I realise this is Ancient Egypt, not Ancient Greece, but was everything as stiff as their statues would indicate?)
The lappets of my crown didn’t unerringly frame my son’s face. They didn’t necessarily sit obediently, implacably on his shoulders – they twisted and curled. They needed the disciplinary action of a hard rod. Several actually. I set to work adding rods through the shoulder section of the lappet. I did the lower portion only, wanting to make sure the weight of the crown stayed forward and believing this was the minimum required to solve my dilemma. Time poor, I added a coin to help weigh them down – something that is done in costuming now and again.
Coins are so convenient, smooth and readily available to use as clothing weights. Would the Ancient Egyptians have used their currency as such a cheat? We are told they didn’t have coins – it was a barter economy. Dominic Perry of the Ancient Egypt History Podcast has suggested that linen may have been used instead of coins. Now I couldn’t cheat with linen but what about a few heavy beads? Beads have been used for bartering in Africa for centuries. Could the Ancient Egyptians also have used them as money? Would Ancient Egyptian seamstresses weighed down their clothing with beads?
Now that I had weighed down my flapping lappets, they towed the line. Did the Ancient Egyptian crown makers need rods for their lappets? Is that why the nemes crown was stripped?
Something started niggling at me. Gold rods low on lappets, lapis locks and lapidary allusions . . . King Khafre! my next post.
Death Mask of Pseusennes I, the Silver Pharoah (1047-1001 BCE 21st Dynasty)
D.Denisen CC BY-SA
King Khafre Statue