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!

Thoughtful Thursday – How Video Games Influenced my Reading Habits and Vice Versa

Continuing with the video game theme of this month with the launch of the PlayStation 5, I’ve been thinking a lot about how video games have actually influenced the kind of books I read, and how reading influences the types of games that I play. Whilst opinions have changed somewhat in recent years, some people still believe it is the case that you either enjoy reading or enjoy playing video games. That these two activities are very different and one is allegedly superior to the other. However, I believe the two not only go hand-in-hand but can influence how you consume each media. 

I’ve been an avid reader and gamer since I was a child and would spend a lot of time doing both. As you can tell, both things have stayed with me my whole life and are still huge passions of mine. Like a lot of gamers my age, I started with Nintendo and Mario (more specifically a SNES and Super Mario All-Stars). I continued with platformers for quite some time, although Spyro: Year of the Dragon became my favourite title when I eventually moved to 3D gaming on the PS1. It wasn’t until university, and treating myself to a PS4 that I began to notice how the two could influence each other and how far my tastes had come since I first started reading and gaming. 

At university I learned about Roland Barthes’ theory The Death of the Author in which he discusses the idea that consuming a text is far more of an active process than passive. This places much more importance on those who consume the texts rather than those who write them. This idea has really stuck with me since and this, coupled with the exposure I had to different genres and themes in novels that I hadn’t come across before, I began to move away from platformers (but not entirely) and started to play more RPG and story-based games. Games where the plots are complex and well developed and have a cast of characters to match. I found that I became more drawn to open-world, story/character driven titles as these allowed me to explore the story at my own pace instead of being forced into a chronological narrative. 

To have slightly more freedom over the direction you want to see the story take (even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on the ending) makes me feel much more connected to the story and the characters. Novels are able to make me connect the same way, although they are a fixed narrative with no ability to deviate from it, they provide such detail and complex plot that you are able to become attached to the story and the characters. This is something that you don’t get in classic platformers or battle royale games etc. I still play these and find them fun, but they don’t leave as much of a lasting impression on me as a good single-player campaign game. 

Whilst it may seem that my love of novels and the idea of readers having more power over a text than originally thought, the genres of games that I play also influences the types of genres that I read. As I began to play more and more open-world RPG type games, I found that I was drawn to the fantasy elements in the games more than anything else (Dragon Age: Inquisition rather than Grand Theft Auto V). After graduating from university I was in a reading slump, but even when I did read I would tend to read general fiction or literary fiction. However, the more I began to play fantasy based games, the more I wanted to explore the genre in other ways. 

Up until this point I hadn’t read much fantasy since I was a child. Despite still loving the genre I couldn’t find anything that I could get into or wanted to pick up. As I began to play more fantasy games of different types (high fantasy vs urban fantasy) I started to realise how diverse the genre is, not just in video games but in novels too. This then helped me understand the aspects I enjoyed in fantasy and which elements I didn’t, which made it much easier to navigate the genre and find fantasy novels that I was genuinely interested in reading. I’m much more interested in high fantasy and magic than I am in fantasy that are war based (although, there are always exceptions to the rule). 

I’m sure that as I continue to play more games and read more books I will find other ways that the two have influenced each other, and get to discover many more amazing games and books because of it!

Are you a gamer as well as a reader? Have you noticed any similarities or influences between the two? Let me know in the comments!

Top 5 Friday – Video Games for Book Lovers

As the long awaited PlayStation 5 is released this month, I thought I would combine my two biggest loves of video games and books for this month’s Top Five Friday feature! This post was inspired after reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea and her take on the best games for book lovers. Her list is filled with loads of great games! Some of which I would have included on my list but I wanted to try and offer something a little different. 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Platforms: Nintendo Switch
For lovers of: Fantasy, Mystery, Military Academy trope

Whilst I was reading The Poppy War I just couldn’t stop thinking about the similarities to Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which is one of my favourite games of 2019. This turn based strategy JRPG, is set in the fantasy world of Fódlan where you play as a mysterious young mercenary turned professor at the prestigious Garreg Mach Monastery, a military academy founded by the Church of Seiros. 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses has a cast of brilliant characters which you can form strong bonds (and even relationships) with. It has a plot of war and magic and gods, that you can become very easily invested in and has different endings and routes you can take – meaning there are even more stories to discover on each replay of the game! 

For those who have never played a strategy RPG before, this game is a great entry! The easy mode is very forgiving and the battles are based more on logic than video game skill. 


Dragon Age: Inquisition

Platforms: PC, PS4 , PS3
For lovers of: Fantasy, Choose Your Own Adventure, Chosen One trope

Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third installment in the Dragon Age series (a fantasy RPG series), I’ve chosen this one in particular as it is the only one I have played (as the other two games aren’t available on PS4), however if possible you should definitely check out the first two games too! Set in the region of Ferelden on the Thedas continent, a mysterious tear in the sky (called the “Breach”) is releasing demons into the world and needs to be closed. However, there seems to be only one person with the gift to do it…

Okay, so I know this series is mentioned by Morgenstern but I couldn’t not include this on my own list as it is one of my favourite games I’ve played. Not only can you make your own character (and not just aesthetically but race and class too) but the choices you make during the game actually matter. Whilst the game only has one ending and overarching plot, there are still other things that will change (and even have serious consequences) depending on different decisions you make. 


Nier Automata

Platforms: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
For lovers of: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Narrative Switch trope

Moving away from fantasy games, next up is Square Enix’s Nier Automata; a hack-and-slash (with some puzzle elements) JRPG. Nier Automata is set in the future where humans have fled Earth for the moon and androids and robots are at war on the abandoned planet. The androids are fighting for the humans to reclaim the Earth from the robots possession, however a lot has changed since the war first started. 

Not only does this game have a beautiful dystopian setting where nature is reclaiming the cities (which is an aesthetic I personally love), but it has interesting characters and a deep plot. The narrative of this game is very interesting too, you begin the game as android 2B and spend the most time in this perspective. This allows the player to build a relationship with her and 9S and learn about the world and what happened. Then you have the ability to replay the first part of the game as 9S and more gaps in the story begin to be filled in. Without any spoilers, the narrative then changes again where you explore the world after the first part and constantly swap between the perspective of two characters. 

I thought it was a brilliant way to tell the story and it even has 26 different endings! Before you panic, only four of them are considered ‘main’ endings with the rest just fun little add-ons which you may come across as you progress through the game. 


Persona 5

Platforms: PS3, PS4
For lovers of: Magic Realism, Japanese Fiction, Teens vs. Evil Adults trope

Persona 5 is a modern take on the classic turn based, JRPG style. You play as a teen male who has just been kicked out of his house and school after being put on probation. After moving into the attic of a small cafe in Tokyo your life completely changes on your first day of school. After finding a mysterious app downloaded onto your phone you are transported to the ‘Metaverse’ where you take on a new persona. You, along with your friends, become the Phantom Thieves and you make it your goal to steal evil from the hearts of corrupted adults. 

I just want to start off with, the cafe in this game is the one I was imagining throughout my time reading Before the Coffee Gets Cold. I think this game is great for those who love the magic realism of Japanese fiction or YA urban fantasy. The pacing of the game is very well done, with the game starting in the present day and then going back to where it started and how you got to this point. Not only is the game stylistically gorgeous, but it has a wonderful soundtrack and a brilliant plot filled with mysteries and revelations. 

Also, the game’s attention to detail for it’s Tokyo setting is incredible and gives a pretty accurate portrayal of what parts of Tokyo is like. One of the settings you get to visit is Jinbōchō which is Tokyo’s book district, which is a must visit in game and in real life!


Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Platforms:  PS4
For lovers of: Action/Adventure, History, Back from the Dead trope

Uncharted 4 is the final game in the mainline Uncharted series, where you play as (ex) adventurer Nathan “Nate” Drake. Who has been tempted back into the world of treasure hunting by his brother, Sam, who he has believed to be dead for years. The treasure in question is the long-lost treasure of the infamous pirate, Henry Avery. Naturally their journey isn’t plain sailing with a rival treasure hunter, and his hired mercenaries, on their tail… 

I’ve chosen this one in particular as it is my favourite of the series but they are all very similar so if you like one you’re most likely going to enjoy the rest of them! As most of these entries have been fantasy or RPGs, I wanted to add something different into the mix. The Uncharted series is renowned for its cinematic set pieces and compelling storytelling. The characters are all a lot of fun too and are well developed, especially Nate if you spend time with him throughout the series. 

Have you played any of these games? Do you have any recommendations of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Acronyms used
RPG: Role Playing Game
JRPG: Japanese Role Playing Game