NT: Hamlet, 2015

ETA: This post from tempestsarekind on the production is interesting.

I saw the livestream of the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet last night. I enjoyed his performance, and that of many of the other cast members. Cumberbatch was terrific at all the funny bits, by the way.

I wasn't enthralled with the production itself.

I usually like the use of non-Elizabethan costuming, and I enjoyed it here. Cumberbatch was wearing a David Bowie t-shirt at one point, though, and that distracted me, because I kept wondering what it meant (if anything...presumably something?); I suppose someone could get a paper out of that detail!

I guess distraction is the main feeling I had for parts of the play. I was tired after a long day at work, which probably contributed, but I think the way the play was staged contributed as well. The scenery was changed smoothly as the play proceeded, actors doing most of it that I could see, so I think they were going for an unbroken narrative until the moment of crisis, when Hamlet is sent to England with Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern. The unbroken narrative felt rushed to me.

At the crisis point, the struggle to capture Hamlet after he's killed Polonius turns into most of the actors running or scampering on all fours in all directions about the stage. That went on for too long, even if it was meant to symbolize societal upheaval or whatever (I'm guessing). Just after that, and before intermission, a confetti cannon blasts the stage with black confetti, resulting in a devastated landscape heaped with cinders that the actors have to scramble over for the last segment (the pirates we never get to see, the fates of Ophelia, Rosenkrantz, and Guildenstern, the gravedigger scene, and at last the final melee).

For me, despite the smooth scene changes, the play seemed to careen too quickly from soliloquy to soliloquy throughout. I had no time to catch my breath, and I found I was getting more annoyed with Hamlet's youthful waffling and whining than usual when watching this play, because there was little break from it. I was particularly irked by the way Hamlet thinks he should be the one to dictate his mother's choices and morality - that's an issue I have with the play itself, not this production.

I did like how they staged the soliloquies. The soliloquizer got a spotlight, and in the dim background, the rest of the actors moved in slow motion, as if time was passing differently for them. That looked cool and made the soliloquies seem more stream-of-consciousness.

I think what I was missing most, and that made the play seem disjointed to me, msotly related to Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia. Their roles were trimmed down more than I've seen in other productions, which meant I felt less emotional connection with all of them. Polonius got comic dialogue exclusively, which gave me no handle on why Ophelia was so devastated by his death. Ophelia's romance with Hamlet wasn't really shown until Claudius and Polonius did their spies-in-the-arras thing, so I didn't get a chance to build a belief in it, or Hamlet's later massive show of grief at her death. (Of course, this is a problem with a lot of plays and even movies today: romance because proximity does not convince.) I was most satisfied with how Laertes's relationship with Ophelia was portrayed; I've always thought he was one of the most realistic of the characters. (But really, who lets their insane sister wander off on her own to drown?)

One of the best moments was silent staging. Gertrude tentatively opens Ophelia's footlocker after Ophelia has wandered off, to find it full of photographs and the camera Ophelia was carrying earlier in the play. Silently, Gertrude realizes this abandonment means trouble, and already grieving, runs offstage to find Ophelia dead. Don't abandon your hobbies! That way lies death!

I'm glad I saw it. I realized I've seen this play more than any of Shakespeare's others, once live (in high school) and several filmed versions as well, and I love seeing the different ways the text can be translated. I love thinking about the staging choices and what might have been behind them.

As a side note, I have seen the David Tennant filmed version, and I liked that a lot better than this production. I will have to watch the DVD again to articulate why, but I recall there was more Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia, and of course Patrick Stewart's Claudius was just incredible.

If you also saw it, what did you think?

Awesome Choral Event Alert!

For choral music fans, and early music fans, in the Philly area and environs, this is an event not to be missed.

Bach's Christmas Oratorio on New Year's Eve!!! Buy tickets here.

Johann Sebastian Bach compiled his so-called "Christmas Oratorio" BWV 248 for the Christmas Season of 1734 in Leipzig. The name genre "Oratorio" is slightly misleading, in that the Christmas Oratorio is in actuality a collection of six Cantatas that were performed during the major Feasts of the Christmas Season, starting with Christmas Day and ending January 6th (the Feast of the Epiphany and the end of the 12 Days of Christmas).

Choral Arts will perform J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in its full form. One of Bach’s larger works, the Christmas Oratorio is infrequently performed in its entirety, due to the fact that each cantata within the work has a different instrumentation. Additionally, the work has particularly virtuosic choral and solo writing, making the piece inaccessible to many ensembles.

In the popular tradition of many European orchestras, choirs, and opera companies, Choral Arts Philadelphia will present the Christmas Oratorio on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2014, at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral. An extended intermission will take place where food and drink concessions will be available.

Wednesday December 31, 2014
Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral
13 South 38 Street, Philadelphia PA

Parts I - III
4:00 - 5:30 p.m.


Parts IV - VI
6:30 - 8:00 p.m.

Student $15
Senior $30
General Admission $45

Weekend Work

On the new story, I wrote 1500 words on Saturday and 1000 on Sunday - the draft isn't quite complete, but it's close to being done and ready for editing. Possibly lots of editing, as I am not satisfied with it yet.

I got a substantial way into the book I'm reading for review, and started doing some research reading for August story #2, the one for which I got an extension.

Plus, I spent some time on Saturday night dealing with computer files, old backup, etc., and the organization thereof.

Writing weekend

I have GOALS for this weekend. I'd like to write at least 3000 words. This goal is relatively modest in some ways but not in others, as the two stories I want to work on are both historicals.

I really need to get my ideas in order before I go to sleep tonight, so I'll be ready to start first thing.


I have an extension for one of my story deadlines, hooray! I am hoping I won't need it, but if I do, it's there. And the historical setting will be acceptable; I asked.

This weekend will need to be full of writing, as due to a head cold, and subsequent lack of interest in all activities, last weekend I wrote nothing. I have writing dates with a friend for both days, this weekend.

Also because of the cold, I haven't been to the gym in a week. This is very disspiriting, given how well I was doing, but I just felt crummy. I am planning to go back on Friday, so I can start back with the Plan where I left off, just a week later. Hopefully, I haven't lost too much ground. I can't tell if it would have been better to keep exercising through the cold or not; I tried that last time I had a cold, and ended up with bronchitis. So this time, I tried the "going to bed early every night" method. I seem to be improving, so maybe it was the right choice.

Wednesday reading

Currently, I'm reading a book for anonymous review; If Chins Could Kill, a memoir by Bruce Campbell, which has a great raconteur-style prose; and About Time Volume 4 (the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who).

About Time Volume 4 is much less dense that Volume 3, so I'm already to the point where Leela is going to be introduced. It's reminding me how much I liked some of those episodes with all their references to classic horror tropes, despite me not liking horror all that much; perhaps it's because with The Doctor around, I could feel safe! I need to re-watch "The Brain of Morbius."

I finished The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin. I really enjoyed the Chinese Tang Dynasty setting, as well as the uber-practical heroine; plus, the hero had angst, but it didn't warp his character in unbelievable or annoying ways. I'm still pondering what I thought of the mystery plot; it was reasonably interesting, but mostly served to offer reasons for the hero and heroine to interact, when the heroine in particular didn't think it was appropriate. Recommended if you're tired of Regency-set romances.

I also finished A Question of Honor by Charles Todd, the newest in the Bess Crawford series. It's set in 1918 and there are constant rumors of an end to the war, but it never quite gets to the Armistice. I wondered if they (Chalres Todd is 2 people) were contracted for one more book, so had to make the war stretch! Like the others I've read in that series, it contrasts the current (WWI) setting with investigation of crime that happened in the past, in this case murders from 1908.

And I finished Rachel Manija Brown's collection, A Cup of Smoke - I particularly enjoyed her Oracles poem.

In fanfiction, I read The Bloody Stare of Mars by Yahtzee, which I had somehow missed, previously. It's a Harry Potter AU in which Voldemort wins, so Hermione is stuck in a dystopia. It's by Yahtzee, so of course it is good.

I haven't read this yet, but Sahiya did a series of short stories crossing over Cordelia Vorkosigan with the Doctor. I didn't read as much fanfiction as usual last week, since I was playing Subway Surfers instead. Last night, I managed to beat not only my own high score but the high score the 5-year-old Director had left on my Nook. My high scores are rare, but even my less good scores are no longer shameful, so I am not quite as motivated to practice at all moments. I suspect the Tots will now pick another game, at which I will also suck.

Not sure what I'm reading next; I have a friend's romance manuscript, so that's near the top of the list. I need to write up Patricia Gaffney's Forever and Ever for later this month.

Wednesday Reading

I am almost finished with About Time Volume 3! I would be finished today, if I hadn't spent most of yesterday evening playing games on my Nook.

I'm currently reading The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin, a historical romance (with bonus mystery!) set in China during the Tang Dynasty. I'm particularly enjoying how cynical the heroine is about romance - she formerly was a prostitute, but is now maidservant to a courtesan. It's really sweet when she finally decides maybe a romantic fling is okay. Also, lots of awesome historical detail.

Other books in which I am slowly progressing are If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell (a memoir) and A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems by Rachel Manija Brown.

Things I plan to read: I pulled out several nonfiction books that are in the running for being read sooner rather than later...but will probably change my mind again before I get to that point.

I've also been checking out what comics are available for the Nook, via Barnes and Noble and Google Play - I downloaded a bunch of first volume samples, but haven't decided which I will buy first: X-23; Captain Britain and MI13; Runaways; and Wolverine: Origins Volume 4 (the WWII one). Sadly, the samples don't tell you a huge amount, as at least two pages of the maybe six are taken up with credits. But the samples do tell me if the art is good or not, so that's a handy thing.

Feel free to rec me comics! I mostly like superheroes, and have more knowledge of Marvel than DC, though I have read a lot of Batman, and various DC team books back in the 80s and 90s (Teen Titans, Justice League, The Outsiders). If you like particular X-Men or Avengers stories, that happen to be collected, I always enjoy those - I've been reading excerpts of recent X-Men titles in a very random fashion. I seem to be off Daredevil for the moment. Am pondering if I want to read New Avengers from the beginning. I am reading Hawkeye and Young Avengers in print already, by the way.

Once again, books I pre-ordered are nevertheless languishing while I wait for the perfect mood to read them: Emilie and the Hollow World by Martha Wells, Cold Steel by Kate Elliott, the last couple of Barbara Hambly mysteries, Doll Bones by Holly Black. Etc., etc.. My name is oracne, and I am a bookoholic.

Writing Progress! With Statistics!

I finished up the emo epilogue-y romance story on Saturday, with light edits on Sunday, and submitted it; alas, I am pretty sure it is not suitable for that anthology, but I will let the editor decide. I am pleased that some version of it is finally complete, and assuming it's rejected, I can fancy it up a bit later for some other anthology, or put on my website or something.

On Sunday, I also wrote a story from scratch, a submission for that other August 1 deadline I wasn't sure I would make. It's a smidge over 1700 words, and unlike the Emo Epiloguey Romance, it is definitely erotica, which is good because that was what the editor asked for.

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