Mika, Anna-Bell and Anna-Lena in Hanover. They’re sorry. No, really.
Happy New Year!
Christmas holidays now (sadly) over, I am back in Oxford with unprecedented reluctance. Festive season was absolutely lovely, even if our house somewhat resembled a plague hospital at times. Too much has happened for me to blog about it properly, but highlights included:
Seasonal swag. As well as returning to Ox weighed down with new socks and underwear (obv v. much the True Meaning of Christmas), I am now the proud owner of a new digital camera, from this range. It’s not held together with selotape! It doesn’t make everything red! This gives you some idea of the state of my old one. After spending too much time in Koenig Books (80 Charing Cross – read a rather flowery description here – basically, it sells a mixture of beautiful art books, photojournalism and oddities that will permanently warp you if read at 3 a.m. They’re also having a sale) yesterday, I decided to use it to become a war photographer. Without, er, the actual war. Thus this will involve lots of intense snapping of the Rad Camera or similar, in an attempt to make serious points about the state of the nation(s). I also unearthed my old video camera & promptly discovered several unedited minutes of a ‘film’ (I use the term, oh, loosely) my friends and I made while at school. There are a lot of feathers and wigs, and it centres on a really ugly puppet.
Work. I came back for the RSC Carol Concert, singing alto in the choir. Holy Trinity looked absolutely beautiful – candles on every surface, including the lavish and horrific Tudor shrine/grave which people inevitably mistake for that of Shakespeare. The man himself is tucked up by the altar (complete with curse), while the shrine is one of those appallingly cheerful affairs where grinning Tudor noblemen lean jauntily on one elbow, waving at you from their gaves. The season this time was Romeo & Juliet and Kneehigh‘s Don John. Both are reccommended, although Don John is spectacular. Opera purists may suffer (‘It’s not Mozart’, people kept bitching. No, no, and that’s why it doesn’t say Mozart on the poster… better, though, than people saying ‘it’s not Shakespeare’…).
And, because this deserves a separate paragraph – the New RSC Long Ensemble for 2009-11 was (I think partially) announced. Well, not exactly announced. More ‘passed round on a bit of paper over which everybody pored’. I was delighted to see Forbes Masson listed (brilliant brilliant Shakespearean actor, excelled in The Histories, sings like an angel. Thoroughly nice bloke. Also made a bizarre – seriously bizarre, you’ll need to silence a lot of your brain – but enjoyable camp comedy with Alan Cumming about five hundred years ago), along with Hannah Young (went to my school!), Sam Troughton (went to my primary school! David Troughton’s son. And lovely) and Jonjo O’Neill (was a fantastic lead and the subject of many adolescent crushes at my secondary school, four years ago in the Jacobethan season). Greg Hicks is also back, as are Katy Stephens and (as Celia and Juliet) Mariah Gale (currently Ophelia to David Tennant’s Hamlet). As far as I know, Clive Wood is not coming back – this press release for the 2009 productions used to list him as appearing in Michael Boyd’s As You Like It, but no longer does so.
And talking of Hamlet, DAVID TENNANT IS BACK. As Hamlet. I know. I saw him last night. Jenny, my beneficient host, went from mocking me for my excitement (‘You’ve seen this twenty times, Sophie’) to rapture & apology afterwards. I really don’t have anything new to say about the show (apart from, you know, OH Penny Downie, and OH David Tennant’s little face), although I do think it worked better in the round. On the other hand, a smaller space probably suits our hero, what with giving him less opportunity to charge around and shatter his poor back again. Ed Bennett so much better as Laertes – now has a stage presence to rival Tennant’s. Oliver Ford-Davies still loveliest thing ever. Doesn’t seem to mind the transfer to prosc. arch at all, just stands at the footlights and addresses the audience with perfect unconcern. I really need to stop blogging in note form. Anyway, I found myself misting over in a manner usually reserved for my mum/her friend Rachel when confronted by the RSC’s production of Nicholas Nickleby (we now have the DVD! It is eight hours of 1980s-scented bliss).
Friends and family. I include the cat in this. The cat is now a bit ancient, and has lost her voice (necessitating a twenty-minute phone conversation with my mother yesterday, in Trafalgar Square, while poor Jenny stood in the biting wind and probably assumed I was discussing a relative from the anxiety in my tone). She is still enjoying her usual activities – eating, sleeping, hacking at the furniture and refusing to be thwarted, but she can’t talk. We continue to feed her the gold leaf and mink jelly by way of medication, but I – at least – can’t help fretting. It was really lovely to be at home. There was food, there were my schoolfriends (including Jack, back from Barcelona with a beard – no, the facial sort), there was the Boxing Day tradition of having all the family over (only two of whom, my parents, are technically related to me). The baby of the piece has now taken to sending me emails, because she is now, inexplicably, 8.
New Year’s linkspam:
1. Right Wing in ‘Really Awful People’ shock: the Californian right’s desire to forcibly divorce its 18,000 married gay couples following Prop 8 is unmatched in its petty, vicious cruelty. I don’t understand how any religion (let alone the non-religious right – being stupidly brainwashed I can comprehend, but what’s their excuse?) can want to reduce the amount of love in the world (yup, rip families apart. THAT’S the WWJD right here), and, fortunately neither can Courage Campaign. As they write,
It’s time to put a face to Ken Starr’s shameful legal proceedings. To put a face to the 18,000 couples facing forcible divorce. To put a face to marriage equality. Because, gay or straight, YOU are the face of the Marriage Equality Movement.
On their website, you can see the faces of all the LGBT couples, families and allies protesting the ban. I found it sad, yes, but also incredibly uplifting – whatever happens, there are so many beautiful, extraordinary, everyday families out there, and Ken Starr’s bigotry can only change the legal definition of what keeps them together. I had never seen so many positive images of gay couples before – and certainly not of gay families, with children. You don’t need to be in a gay couple, or even LGBT yourself to participate: anybody with a marker pen and paper can get involved (you can also make donations here).
2. But lo! Love is not just oppressed in California! In what may well be my favourite news story ever, cruel police prevent starcrossed lovers from eloping to Africa. Starcrossed lovers aged 5 and 6. My favourite part is how the police cheered the little ones up by giving them a tour of the station after explaining that they probably wouldn’t be able to fly without money, passports or their parents. Mika ♥ Anna Lena 4 eva. IDST. They even took a lilo. “Mika and Anna are ‘very much in love’, said a police spokesperson.”
3. Also, finally — Amy Levy. I found out about her today. Victorian Jewish writer (feminist, Socialist-leaning, accused of race libel after writing Reuben Sachs), wrote five volumes of poetry and four novels, then killed herself (suffocated with charcoal fumes, nasty) at the age of 28. Haven’t read a word of her yet, but intend to track down Xantippe, her first collection. It’s Jewish Book Week soon, in other words. Although it’s not a ‘Jewish book’ as such (any more than George Eliot’s works are ‘women’s books’ or Dickens’s ‘men’s’), possibly my favourite comic novel ever, No Bed for Bacon, was written by S. J. Simon and Caryl Brahms. aka Seca Jascha Skidelsky and Doris Caroline Abrahams. This would be a good excuse to reread it. If I really, really didn’t need to work out what the hell I’m doing for my Bibliography essay.
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.