W4W : Why William Shatner should never play Macbeth

Comedy Hamlet and Yorrick scene

Image : Pixabay

 

As an Englishwoman, subject of this sceptre isle, this precious stone set in the silver sea, I’m ashamed to say, I’ve spent very little time watching or studying Shakespeare since leaving school.

As a teen, I was besotted by the stage – the lights, the attention, the thrill of stumbling over props and stagehands in semi darkness.

I acted in youth theatre, though this foray into the seedy world of Thespia was in part due to the attractions of the young male lead in my troupe, a loose hipped, loose lipped, self-adoring monster intriguingly named Conan. A barbarian like his namesake, this glorious creature was monstrous in the way only attractive teenage boys can be. I learned my lines (barely), threw myself around rehearsals (embarrassingly) and he hardly flickered an unfeasibly  long eyelash my way.

As compensation for my failure as an actress, I trotted along to every school theatre trip going. Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Edward II, Midsummer Night’s Dream, even Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Coppelia got a look in, though I later decided I’m not a fan of ballet, preferring blood and guts high opera and its tendency towards morbidly extended death scenes over ballet’s pallid and picturesque drowning Swan Princesses.

In a moment of madness, I used my hard earned deli counter wages to buy a pre-loved copy of the complete works of Shakespeare. It had yellowed pages spotted with damp and a spine that crumbled more with every read. Unfortunately,  I found it disappointingly impenetrable and soon put it aside in favour of what I viewed at the time as easier prey such as Equus. I must have been a very weird teenager.  

As an adult, my

SHAKESPEARIAN

experiences have not improved.

Years ago, I went to see a production of Macbeth (always one of my favourites, due to its high body count and obsessions with personal hygiene and the supernatural) starring an actor from Blake’s 7. Those living in the UK and of a certain age will no doubt remember Blake’s 7 for its shaky sets (imagine the original Star Trek with half the budget), camp costumes, overacting and its terrifically downbeat ending where after following the crew across the universe for four years, all our heroes die in a bloodless laser gun shootout.

The actor from Blake 7 gave a perturbing performance, gurning, sucking his cheeks and staring into the middle distance (a la James Tiberius Kirk) which I think was supposed to convey inner turmoil, but just looked as if he was having trouble with his wisdom teeth.

Hoping for a more positive experience and plumping for ‘proper’ stage actors this time over ex sci-fi telly bods, we saw Twelfth Night a while after that, but though a better production, the story line itself is horrible.

Have you seen it? It’s a ‘comedy’, which is tricky to pull off at the best of times. I for instance, would be a Spaced or My Name is Earl kind of person, where the majority of the world seems to be more Terry and June or Two and a Half Men. I suspect Twelfth Night is the Early Modern equivalent of the latter, having as its central figure of fun Malvolio, a lowly steward who is humiliated and imprisoned by higher status tormentors just for being a bit of a pranny.  You had to be there, I guess.

Anyway, I’m hoping an upcoming Shakespeare play will rejuvenate my love of all things Bard.

For I have tickets to see the great British actor, Timothy West as King Lear in a few weeks’ time. Lear’s much more up my street than Twelfth Night. There may not be any witches, but there is madness, betrayal and enough pointless death in the last act to make Hamlet puce with envy.

So, wish me luck and be warned – I may soon be in the market for a second-hand complete works. Though not, be assured, teenage boy actors.

Probably.


Thanks to dear Kat, founder of W4W.

Wednesday Word Tangle: Why NASA may have just ruined James Cameron’s career

'Brain the size of a planet' Image: Pixabay

‘Brain the size of a planet’
Image: Pixabay

With apologies to the uninitiated, but this post is pretty sci-fi heavy. However, it does include lots of links to explain what I’m banging on about, so fasten your Kuiper belts, we’re going boldly where this blog has not been before …

When I was a kid, repeats of the (original) Star Trek series were a regular feature of my Sunday, for it’s a proven, scientific fact that nothing aids the digestion of gravy, mashed potatoes and roast beef better than low budget sci-fi. Each episode would feature old James Tiberius staring fixedly into space just to one side of the camera, an invasion of Tribbles and a slinky, dancing green lady – or so it seemed to me. (Though, of course, the best part was the theme tune. If you’re not singing that mad falsetto for the rest of the day … Altogether now ‘Ahh-ahh, ahhhh, ahh-ahh, ahh-ahh, ahhhhhh!’)

I wasn’t a massive fan, but despite William Shatner’s ponderous (then rushed, then back to ponderous) delivery of dialogue, and polystyrene rocks and knowing the member of the cast you didn’t recognise is going to get zapped / gunked / sucked to death on the exploratory trip to a dangerous planet, it was good fun and preferable to tidying my bedroom.

So if this was my introduction to sci-fi, I really preferred the stuff I watched as a young adult: Terminator (well, the first couple, before we all realised that Arnie’s wooden delivery and glazed expression were to be the height of his acting prowess), Alien / Aliens, Blade Runner … I may be (read that as ‘I am’) biased, but I do think it was a pretty good time for the genre – you know, before all movie directors became obsessed with using CGI, even if it doesn’t particularly enhance the story (for shame, George Lucas) and before James Cameron became convinced he was ‘king of the world’ just because he could sink a big boat and tip gallons of cyan paint over some lanky cat people. (I don’t know about you, but I almost cheered when that ship began to sink. ‘Draw me like one of your French girls.’ Oh, please, Miss Winslet, put them away, it’s chilly out there.)

Sorry, back to aliens.

The premise that Star Trek, Avatar and even Aliens worked on is that aliens, when we meet them, will be basically human-shaped. Okay, so the Na’vi from Avatar are tall, feline and blue and the Alien in its adult form (not the infant John Hurt chest-burster form) is a jumble of invertebrate body parts and mandibles that protrude from its head – and it bleeds acid that can melt the hull of a spaceship … But basically, it’s humanoid.

Now, with the news that NASA has discovered the presence of liquid water on Mars, film makers may have to rethink.

Today’s Wednesday Word Tangle word is

EXTRATERRESTRIAL

Up to now, aliens could be what we wanted them to be, look how we wanted them to: hyper intelligent, often aggressive killers, occasionally pacifist, New Age tree huggers a la Avatar (and much as I love to hug a tree, the film was so trite and preachy, it had me grabbing for the nearest chainsaw).

But what now? What if NASA is right to suggest that the presence of flowing water (albeit of the salty-enough-to-preserve-cod variety) means there could be extant life on Mars? That life is not going to look like us. It’ll be tiny – possibly microbial.

Reckon James Cameron can spin that into his next blockbusting franchise?

As long as he can paint them blue … Yeah. Probably.   


Thanks to Kat for the original W4W.

For a fun spin on Star Trek, I beseech you to watch Galaxy Quest. By Grabthar’s Hammer, you won’t regret it.