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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Links and Updates

Well, I begin my new job tomorrow which means that my already-limited free time will be whittled down even further.
But that doesn't mean I'll disappear entirely. I'm going to keep on reviewing Vixen (which is thankfully short and sweet) and am currently writing up a review on Indian Summersand I'm itching to get onto season two of The 100 (so many tantalizing GIF sets on my dashboard). As well as that, my TBR book list is stacked halfway up the wall, and I've got another Polytech assignment to finish by the end of the month.
So it's all on at my place at the moment; but honestly – I'm pretty happy about it.

Before the new job starts, I wanted to do something to celebrate getting it in the first place, and so last night I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Theatre Isaac. And it was amazing...

It's one of Shakespeare's more convoluted plays (you could say the same about many of his comedies, though in their cases there's usually at least a clear protagonist) but the production did a beautiful job of paring it down to its essentials while still keeping it recognizably A Midsummer Night's Dream.  
It effectively cuts out the courtly scenes of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, instead starting in the forest glen where Oberon and Titania chance across a changeling child sleeping under the trees. Both take to the boy and an argument ensues; one that's won by Titania after she whisks him away.
The likes of Demetrius, Helena, Lysander and Hermia are portrayed as 1900s explorers with butterfly nets, binoculars and safari hats, and the entire subplot of Bottom and his compatriots rehearsing a play in the woods is replaced with the conceit of Bottom being one of several guides or naturalists (in the programme they were called "rustics") accompanying the young lovers.
Bottom is more dull-witted than the rest and ends up wandering off by himself, where he becomes the perfect tool for Oberon to get back at Titania. It was all an effective, elegant way of weaving the three major plots of Shakespeare's play into a singular storyline.  
When it comes to portraying fairies, there's usually one of two popular options you can take. Go for the nature-spirit aesthetic, or go full-on magical creature. The former choice is probably the safer option, as the latter can often look silly or childish, but here they went for complete otherworldly enchantment and the results were gorgeous.
I hesitate to describe the set and costumes as "neon" or "glow in the dark" as that always brings to mind the unfortunate (but thankfully brief) period back in the 90s when everyone inexplicably wore florescent colours, so let me instead compare it all to The Nutcracker sequence in Disney's Fantasia; the part in which fairies lit up the flowers and dewdrops with colour.


That type of luminescence against a dark backdrop was the effect this ballet achieved, and it nailed the naturalistic-yet-magically-unnatural setting. It also played with your sense of scale considering there were structures that looked like flowers – but could have just as easily been tree roots, and a suspension bridge of vines above three (human-sized) tents that were being used by the exploring expedition.
There was a fairy bower for Titania and a high-up nook for Puck, all on the same stage without any part of it looking cluttered, and most ingeniously, the lighting ensured that the fairies could interact with the scenery. When Oberon waved his hands the stars appeared; when it got angry the flowers turned red.
Highlights among the dancers would have to be Titania (whose costume was so fine it was practically a second dancer) and Helena, who was played for laughs what with her pigtails and glasses and rather determined pursuit of Demetrius. There were also quite a large number of children in the audience (which always sends up red flags for me) but the combined performances of Puck and Bottom had them riveted.
In fact, I was surprised by just how funny this really was. The entire theatre was laughing when it came to the culminated mayhem of Puck's mistakes in administering the love potion to the wrong people, as at one point we had the entire cast racing in succession from one side of the stage to the other: Helena pursued by lovestruck Lysander and Demetrius, with hysterical Hermia running after, followed by the rustics running in terror from donkey-headed Bottom, who was chased by besotted Titania, after which came her entire court of fairies, Puck hiding among them. It lasted no more than four seconds, but it was comedic perfection.
There was also room for a few risqué bits: Bottom burrowing his head in Titania's cleavage and Demetrius emerging from his tent with Helena and quickly zipping up his fly.
For the first time I really felt the humiliation of Titania; how idiotic she really looked dancing with a donkey (plot bunny: Titania's revenge on Oberon for putting her through this degradation), and I've always been a little bit fascinated by the character of the changeling – he's nothing but a plot device in the play, but here is given a little bit of mystery of his own. Plus, in a nice touch they gave him a donkey toy that obviously inspired Oberon's trick.
I've been so bogged down lately that it felt rejuvenating to see something like this before I have to head back into the work/study side of life. And there is no better venue that the Isaac Theatre Royal considering the newly-restored mural painted on its ceiling:
***
The trailer for the last season of Downton Abbey is out ... and I find myself in the strange position of having watched all five preceding seasons, but not being hugely invested in the outcome. This show was always casual viewing for me, and though it's certainly lost its lustre in recent years I suppose there's still a bit of bittersweetness in the fact that it's finally being wrapped up.
As someone pointed out on Tumblr, every single trailer for this show revolves around change, change, CHANGE.  
By the looks of it, it appears that the Crawleys are going to quit Downton Abbey, which I suppose is in keeping for the period and a fitting end for the show itself, though it somewhat negates all the trouble they went to in keeping it in the first place.
Was that Edith with a smile on her face? Surely it can't last! And it appears that it's brought on by the appearance of a male character, which is annoying considering she's got a whole magazine to run and find fulfilment with. Why must Fellowes insists on romance and baby dramas when there's a women's emancipation storyline just begging to be told?
Honestly though, what I'm really hoping for is a scene – or just a moment – of genuine sisterly affection between Mary and Edith. Presumably Mary will at some point learn that Marigold is her niece, right? Maybe, just maybe, it'll be played with warmth instead of scorn.
No Penelope Wilson?
And it looks as though Daisy will inherit her father-in-law's farm. FINALLY.
***
Some new pictures from the set of Ghostbusters, which fill me with glee:


Honestly, if you had told me this time last year that this project would exist, I doubt I'd have believed you.
***
Last but not least, the trailer for season four of Vikings. It actually premiered back during Comic Con, but I forgot to post it that week.
Looks like the wedding of the Bear and the Princess is going ahead. Most of my sympathies lie with Gisla obviously, but I'm in the odd position of wishing I could feel more sorry for Rollo. I wonder if Michael Hirst ever regrets including that rape scene in the first season, as it's pretty much coloured all my feelings concerning Rollo ever since.
Ragnar's kids are – still kids, but old enough now to be characters in their own right. Looking forward to seeing them, especially Ivar the Boneless.
Floki and Ragnar are on the war path – but was that Athelstan I spotted??
"A woman will one day rule in Kattegut." Interesting – but I wouldn't get my hopes up Aslaug. Lagertha is owed a decent storyline after last season, and this has her name all over it.

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