Top 5 Friday – Shakespeare Adaptations

As today’s Top 5 Friday falls on the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and allegedly his birth, although it’s more likely he was born before 23rd April), I thought that it would be fitting to go through my favourite adaptations of his plays. I’ve mostly tried to keep to ones that you are able to watch but one unrecorded theatre production snuck its way on here! Also as I have an entire review gushing over the brilliance of Chloe Gong’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet in These Violent Delights I decided to shift my focus to adaptation that can be watched instead as what my University lecturer taught us that sauce with re is that Shakespeare is made to be performed and watched, you will rarely find the source text as enjoyable as a faithful production.

Romeo + Juliet directed by Baz Lurnham

For anyone who has seen this film, or knows me, it won’t be a surprise to see it on my list. When you think of Romeo and Juliet, the classic romance, your mind wouldn’t necessarily immediately jump to 1990s America but somehow it fits perfectly. The performances of the whole cast is just brilliant and I completely adore how exaggerated some of their performances are – it adds humour to so many scenes which are traditionally portrayed in a more serious manner – but Shakespeare did have a flair for the ridiculousness, as well as a sense of humour, which this film does a great job of illustrating that. Additionally, this film has an excellent soundtrack, with each song carefully chosen which just adds a whole new layer to this brilliant play.


Much Ado About Nothing directed by Joss Whedon

Now, I know Joss Whedon is a pretty awful person so feel free to completely skip this entry! As a film is so much more than just its director I wanted to highlight it.This beautifully shot black and white film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing masterfully captures the theatrical humour and drama of the stage. I can remember going to see this in the cinema with mum and we were two of five people in the screen watching it. In particular,  I distinctly remember the scene where Beatrice and Benedick are “eavesdropping” on the others talk about them and doing everything they can to avoid being seen. The reason this sticks out to me was because it was so well done mum and I were in tears and tying our hardest not to laugh as loud as we wanted as everyone else was taking it very seriously. This film is just such a delight to watch and always makes me smile.


Macbeth, Trafalgar Studios, directed by Jamie Lloyd (2013)

MACBETH by William Shakespeare, Director: Jamie Lloyd, Trafalgar Studios, London, UK, 2013 [Photo credit: Johan Persson – http://www.perssonphotography.com]

For my 18th birthday back in 2013 Mum took me to see Macbeth in Trafalgar Studios, a Jamie Lloyd production which saw Macbeth set in post-­apocalyptic Scotland starring James McAvoy as Macbeth. Lloyd immediately had the audience on edge by plunging us into darkness as a crack of thunder filled the theatre. The witches then popped up in random places as more thunder cracked – which was even more unsettling when you saw they were in rags and gas masks. For the rest of the play I was incredibly tense waiting for them to appear again. This was an incredibly done and gritty portrayal of Macbeth – but even with this McAvoy still managed to add some cheekiness to the performance which is unusual for MacBeth. From our show, one moment stands out: there were some seats on the stage (which I’m generally not a fan of but McAvoy made it work) and when Macbeth was covered in blood, dripping everywhere, he decided to lean on the chair of a lady wearing a cream jumper without deviating from his lines, his tones and facial expression made it clear he knew exactly what he was doing as the lady slowly shuffled award which then ended up making this Macbeth strangely endearing. This moment also reminds me of why I love watching live theatre!


A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Globe Theatre, directed by Dominic Dromgoole (2013)

Don’t get me wrong, I do like A Midsummer Night’s Dream (even though Helena infuriates me) but I feel like it’s rarely done well, especially when the adaptation sticks fairly close to the source material. So, I was very surprised when I first watched this production in the cinema and absolutely loved it. Although it wasn’t a “modern” or unusual take on the play, it still felt so fresh and unique. The entire cast was incredible and a perfect fit for their characters. I especially loved the way Matthew Tennyson portrayed Puck – keeping his classic mischievousness but simultaneously having many childlike qualities to him which made him very loveable. I was also very impressed by the physicality that he and John Light (Oberon) put into the production with the swinging around pillars, lifts and teetering on the edge of the stage. I can’t talk about this production without mentioning Michelle Terry who did a fabulous job as Titania and her scenes with Bottom (who was wonderfully camp) had me laughing throughout their time onstage.


Hollow Crown Part One TV Show, BBC (2012)

Okay, so I’m sort of cheating with this one as the part one series is actually plays of Richard II, Henry VI pt. 1 and 2, and Henry V – however I’m grouping them as one as it’s my list and they, all need to be on it! I’m generally not particularly interested in the history plays but this series totally changed my mind. Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Simon Russell Beale all do a fantastic job with the portrayal of their characters. I found Whishaw and especially heartbreaking – even though the characters they play aren’t very likeable with how Shakespeare has written them (or in history in general depending on how you view it), which I feel is always illustrative of an actor’s talent. Bren if you’re in me and usually give the history plays a miss, you should definitely give the BBC’s Hollow Crown a chance!


Honourable Mentions…

Sh!tfaced Shakespeare

This is a company who perform Shakespeare plays, the difference between this company and the others is that before the show they draw straws and one unlucky (or lucky) cast member has to perform the play drunk. It is a different actor every night to ensure that it is fair and that it gives time for the actors (and their livers) to recover. I saw a performance of Romeo and Juliet and I was crying with laughter throughout. It was the actress who was playing both Benvolio and the Nurse who was the chosen one for the night and it was both incredible and impressive how she could remember her lines perfectly one minute and then disappear off the stage and come back riding a child’s toy horse which had been left backstage for another performance by a completely different company!


NieR:Automata

So, this (obviously) isn’t an adaptation of an entire play however, as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… is also out today, which I am very excited about, I just had to include one of my favourite scenes from Nier: Automata. After a quest in a theatre when you go back to the theatre you walk into robots performing Romeo and Juliet. This small tale on it caught me by surprise so much but I still end up in a laughing fit even watching it now!

What are some of your favourite Shakespeare adaptations? Do you prefer a different/modern twist on the classics or for them to stick to the original? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Friday – Books of 2020

I’ve had such an amazing year in terms of books, I seem to have read so many brilliant ones which hasn’t happened for a while! So, it’s going to be tough to just pick my five favourite reads of the year. In order to make it slightly easier for myself I’ve decided to just focus on those books that were published in 2020. Although, that’s still going to be a challenge!

These aren’t in any particular order as I loved all of them and couldn’t choose between them to even have a singular favourite out of the five! 

Cat and the City by Nick Bradley

This novel combines two of my biggest loves: Japan and cats, however this novel went way beyond what I was expecting. Whilst the novel sounds like it is a collection of short stories of different people in Tokyo, they are actually all related to each other in some way some with just subtle nods and others more detailed. Each story too is told in a different way, not only does Bradley wonderfully craft a brilliant cast of characters, but each segment is written in a different genre, from mystery fiction, to haikus, to manga this book has it all! Although the novel is written this way, it doesn’t feel disjointed in the slightest, in fact it makes it feel even more cohesive as it gives each character a unique voice and really emphasises how many different types of people there are in Tokyo (or any city, for that matter). It also emphasises how talented Bradley is as a writer.


Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This is easily one of the most unique novels that I have ever read. I was drawn to this novel by the beautiful hardback and the mysterious description. It’s impossible to capture the brilliance of this novel in just a few words, especially as going into this novel completely blind really makes the experience even more magical and more impactful. I loved the protagonist and the way he views, and catalogues, the world that he is in. After finishing the novel I just wanted to re-read it immediately and experience it all over again as I was in denial that it was over. Once I had finished Piranesi I just had to sit quietly for a while afterwards just absorbing what I had just read and, almost mourning the fact that I won’t get to experience the novel for the first time again. This narrative and story is one of the most unique I have ever read, I can’t think of another novel like it and I doubt I’ll find another one like it for years, if ever. 


These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

This is one of the strongest debut novels I have read in a long time and has me very excited, not just for the rest of this series but for any work Gong releases in the future. As an English Literature graduate, I love Shakespeare so I’m always intrigued by adaptations of his works and this was, without a doubt, one of the most refreshing takes on Romeo and Juliet since Baz Lurnham’s. This take on Romeo and Juliet is set in 1920s Shanghai, home to the blood feud of two rival gangs, with a slight fantastical element too, is just such a unique way to transform a classic work of literature. Don’t be fooled, however, just because you may have read and studied Romeo and Juliet there are still many surprises and twists that you won’t see coming. 


The Burning God by R.F. Kuang

This novel was very bittersweet for me, as I’m sure it was for everyone else. Not only was the novel a great ending to the series but it also means that the series has ended. Going into this book you know that you won’t get a ‘happily ever after’ ending, no matter how much you may want and wish for it. If you haven’t read any of these books, you need to do so in 2021 as they will have a huge impact on you. What I often worry about with the last book in a series is whether everything in the previous instalments were relevant to the ending or completely disregarded. However, that certainly wasn’t the case with The Burning God – Kuang continued to build upon the character development but there were also many callbacks to the first book too. This novel was a wonderful end to a wonderful series and I can’t wait to see what Kuang does next.


Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

I received this book as book mail from Bloomsbury, which was a complete surprise to me, and I adored this book. Alam is a very talented writer, who expertly managed to make even a list of items bought whilst shopping make me feel uneasy. I could have happily read another few hundred pages as the novel quickly sunk it’s claws into me, and still hasn’t completely let go even now. Which is even more impressive when barely any of the characters were even likeable, but that was all part of the books appeal-these characters are flawed, average, people not heroes or anyone special which had a much bigger impact when it comes to the suffocating and unsettling tone of the novel. I feel that this is another book that will continue to reveal different things to you on each read.

It was very difficult to narrow my favourites list of the year down to five books, and I still keep changing my mind on which books I want to feature! Hence why I’m posting this list now before I change my mind again…! I may have to do a part two focusing on books that I read in 2020 but wasn’t necessarily published in 2020… Let me know if you’d be interested in reading that!

What were your favourite books of the year? Did you read a lot of great books this year or did you have a slightly disappointing book year?

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Monthly Wrap Up – September 2020

I can’t believe it’s time for another monthly wrap up already! This month I managed to complete my GoodReads goal of reading 70 books! This has been the most I have ever read in a single year, even before I had my book burnout, where I was just about managing to read one book a year, I never read more than 50 books. I’m not going to increase my goal as I’m just happy to see how the number ends up at the end of the year, but I’m still very pleased with how I’ve done!

As it was September, my Top Five Friday posts and my Thoughtful Thursday post was very much centred around university, regardless of whether you’re in your first year or last year. It was very nice to take a trip down memory lane, I hope the posts were useful to my student followers too!

This month I have read some amazing books, some of my favourites in the year so I feel very lucky with my book choices this month. 

Books read this month

This month I read a total of 12 books (7 physical books and 5 ebooks)

  1. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  2. Jessicaca by Suzy Blackledge (Review Request)
  3. The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon 
  4. Hagen’s Curse by James Emmi (Review Request)
  5. The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang 
  6. These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (ARC)
  7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  8. The Broken Hearts Honeymoon by Lucy Dickens (ARC)
  9. Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
  10. The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld
  11. Crowned a Traitor by Kate Callaghan (ARC) 
  12. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
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Favourite books read this month

The Lost Soul Atlas by Zana Fraillon
This novel probably has one of my favourite friendships in a novel this year. I just completely adored Twig and Flea and could have read an entire series about their adventures. Additionally, this novel had so many unexpected twists and turns that it was a joy to read and I had no idea how it was going to end. 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
You’ve probably seen a lot of people talk about The Poppy War by now and all I can say is that it deserves all of the praise that it has been getting. Kuang’s novel is such an amazing, albeit difficult at times, read and it has me excited to read the rest of the series. 

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
I’m a complete sucker for modern retellings of classic Shakespeare plays and this is easily one of my favourites that I’ve ever come across. Who knew that 1920s Shanghai would lend itself to be a perfect setting for such a classic tragic romance? Regardless of if you love or hate Romeo and Juliet, Gong’s These Violent Delights is definitely a novel you should look out for when it is released on 17 November 2020! 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
I thought that Hamnet would win the award for most heartbreaking novel of the month, but then along came The Song of Achilles. I already knew, for the most part, the story of Achilles and Patroclus, but nothing could prepare me for this novel. I loved Miller’s interpretation of one of the best Greek heroes in mythology and offered some brilliant insight into some of the actions of some of the Iliad’s major players.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
This book was such a delightful surprise, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a collection of stories set in a time travelling cafe. I knew I would enjoy it but within a few pages it became a favourite of the month. Each story was so touching for a variety of reasons and I felt myself tearing up multiple times. I’m very excited to read even more of the tales in the second book!

Lastly, on a different note, today is the last day of my current blog theme as over the weekend I will be taking the site offline whilst I update the theme and upgrade to a domain. I feel much more positive with this blog and blogging experience, than I ever did with my previous book blog. I’ve already been testing the changes (which will be fairly minor) on a test site and I’m very happy with the outcome and I’m excited to share the new look with you!

How has your month been? Are you sad Summer is over or excited Autumn is finally here? Let me know in the comments!

www.blackwells.co.uk

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Firstly, huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date:
17/11/2020
Length: 449 pages
Genre:
Historical Fiction | Shakespeare Retelling | Fantasy

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

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