Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Regendering in luvvie-land


If you read my previous blog on the topic, you will know I complained to the Royal Shakespeare Company that their production of ‘King John’ featured a woman in the title role and I asked for my money back.
As far as I’m concerned, I was mis-sold my tickets because I expected, when I booked, that a man would play the King.
I reckoned without the widespread theatre policy of politically-correct casting (called, among other things, ‘regendering’). The RSC’s ‘Director for Audiences and Marketing’, Chris Hill, refused a refund though he did offer to swap the tickets for some other (doubtless equally-PC production) as ‘a gesture of good will’. An offer I ignored.

He told me: ‘I’m afraid we will have to agree to disagree on your opinions about Eleanor Rhode’s approach to King John who, in her view, cast the right person for the role irrelevant of gender and the production recently opened to some great reviews following its Press Night.’
He then regaled me with what the RSC’s luvvie-in-chief Greg Doran had to say at their last AGM: The first thing to say about Regendering is that it is nothing new. Exactly 120 years ago, this year here in Stratford, on a matinee performance in June 1899, the famous French actress, the divine Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet.  It’s nearly 25 years since Fiona Shaw played Richard II; Glenda Jackson has just played King Lear on Broadway. And it’s a process of discovery we have been on at Stratford for quite some time, including Neil Bartlett’s Twelfth Night in 2007, in which Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek, Fabian and even Viola were all gender flipped. For me, regendering is also an opportunity: opening parts to exceptional actresses, for whom the traditional assignment of roles in the canon leaves little left for them to play.  Sometimes it’s a provocation, sometimes a revelation, but most of the time, you simply don’t notice, or quickly forget, as gender is not necessarily the primary motor of these characters. But it’s an exploration not a policy.’

This is all very well but I would contend most theatregoers don’t want to see our heavily subsidised national theatre companies distorting the world so flagrantly.
I wanted to pursue my complaint through the small claims court but the domestic goddess vetoed the idea. It seems, from a cursory look at theatre reviews, that ‘regendering’ is de rigueur in luvvieland so I am biting the bullet and going to see the damned thing. A review will follow after we have endured it to the bitter end.

Incidentally the production got 4 stars from the ‘Grauniad’ (no surprise there), the ‘Stratford Herald’ liked it but found it confusing, ‘The Times’ awarded 3 stars as did ‘The Telegraph’ which called it ‘jaunty but lightweight’. ‘The Morning Star’, Jezza Corbyn’s top read, might have been expected to be supportive but it concludes: This is essentially directors’ theatre, full of disparate ideas and images which never fully cohere into significant meaning. Poor old Shakespeare.’

Oh and check this out...

 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Christmas in Kabul, 1841

Well the good news is that I have bought into some new promotional thing which is supposed to make sure my book, 'The Trials of Eldred Pottinger', is widely promoted on tinernet.

The bad news is I'm not sure it's any good. Have a look and see for yourself. You're supposed to be able to read some of the pages, listen to a bit of audio (me, reading about Christmas in Kabul) and watch the promotional video.

Oh and feel free to pass it on to friends, relatives and anyone else who might be interested: https://www.book2look.com/book/hJnQ8wYZwK

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Impeachment of Horace Thompson


I've just written a new short story about Brexit: Appalled by the way our politicians have handled Brexit, Walsall plumber Dave Britten is literally dumbstruck. He is so angry he can no longer speak.

The last straw was the arrest and impeachment of the Prime Minister, Horace Thompson, on a charge of treason.

As the liberal remainer establishment goes to any lengths to thwart the will of the people, setting up a Government of National Unity under new Prime Minister Joe Berk, Dave Britten is completely lost for words.

This short story is one of those extremely rare works of fiction written from the point of view of the people who actually want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Download a PDF for free here.

Alternatively, you can buy it on Amazon for a mere 99p.

It’s amusing, which is more than can be said for the Brexit process.

I thought this story would only be viable for about three days and would be taken down last Saturday but the shenanigans in Parliament mean it is still valid as of October 21.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Enemies of the people


The Supreme Court enemies of the people claim in their judgment:
This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances: the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October. Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, has a right to a voice in how that change comes about. The effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme.

Yeah but… no but… I was under the impression our elected representatives had spent the last three years exercising their voice in how that change comes about - or, to be more accurate, trying to ensure that change never takes place.
This court case is just another feeble ploy in the long campaign to prevent the United Kingdom from ever leaving the European Union.
But when these whingeing remainers moan about sovereignty and democracy, please, please, please remember: Parliament handed sovereignty over this issue to the people in a democratic referendum. It is now trying to frustrate their decision and undermine the sovereignty Parliament itself handed over when it voted overwhelmingly for a referendum.
The fact that a majority of MPs don’t like our decision is irrelevant. They must not be allowed to impose a Parliamentary dictatorship on the people.
If they won’t do anything else then they must permit Boris Johnson to hold a General Election so we can clear out all those trying to frustrate the democracy of the people and replace them with delegates who will do as the people have told them to do.

Monday, September 23, 2019

RSC's 'King John' - ridiculous excess

A producer at the RSC has finally responded to my complaint that I don’t want to see a production of King John where the title role is played by a woman. Claire Birch says:

Dear Nigel Hastilow

Thank you for your email and for taking the time to get in touch.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is a national company and is in receipt of significant public funding.  It is our mission to ensure Shakespeare is for everyone and therefore it is our responsibility to reflect the nation in our work from the perspective of diversity, gender, regionality and disability. Everyone feels more connected to the stories we tell if they can see or hear themselves.  

We create a huge range of work here and we accept that not all audiences will like all the choices that we make - be they design, directorial or performance

As we know Shakespeare had boys playing women, we feel certain he would have no problem with women playing roles seen as traditionally male.  The director's approach to King John was not about gender. The play is about politics, wars and family feuds, gender feels irrelevant within this context. Queen Elinor herself says to the Bastard: Bequeath they land to him and follow me? I am a solider and now bound to France.

I would urge you to give the show a chance. We have had fantastically positive responses from audiences so far. 

With best wishes 
Claire 
Claire Birch
Producer


 I’ve replied:

Dear Claire
Thank you for your belated reply.

You say it is your mission to make sure Shakespeare is for everyone and it is therefore ‘our responsibility to reflect the nation in our work from the perspective of diversity, gender, regionality and disability. Everyone feels more connected to the stories we tell if they can see or hear themselves'.
I really do not accept that, in trying to attract as wide an audience as possible, it automatically follows that your work should reflect all the categories you set out in your email. Shakespeare already holds a mirror up to nature without the need for the RSC to cabin, crib and confine him in your organisation’s tedious, politically-correct straightjacket.
How you can possibly ‘feel certain’ Shakespeare would have no problem with women in men’s roles defeats me. You have no way of justifying that assertion beyond pointing out the obvious fact that his female characters were played by boys and young men. 
If the director’s approach to King John is not about gender, why cast a woman as a King when it immediately distracts from whatever her approach is actually about? The quote you supply does not seem to be any sort of justification. The RSC’s tedious policy of gender-blind casting is ‘wasteful and ridiculous excess’.

And claiming you have so far received ‘fantastically positive responses from audiences’ is completely disingenuous given that the play’s first public performance, in advance of its official first night, took place in the evening of the day you sent your email. 
When I booked tickets for King John, I had hoped to see a reasonably straightforward production of a rarely-performed play. I do not believe casting a woman in the title role will add to my understanding and appreciation of the play.
I am well aware that, as one of the many theatregoers who the RSC accommodates under sufferance (that is to say, white, male, elderly, middle-class etc), I realise my opinion is of no significance.
However, had I known the role of the King would be played by a woman, irrespective of how well-received the production might be among the cognoscenti, I would not have wasted £93 on two tickets to see it.

I accept that one should really see a play for oneself before criticising it but there are times, and this is one of them, when I would not have bothered to pay any attention to your production and merely wrung my hands in quiet despair (as I did on discovering the role-reversals in The Taming of the Shrew, for instance). I therefore repeat my request for my money back because, as far as I am concerned, the RSC sold the tickets under false pretences.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Playing the woman's part


On July 25 I sent this message to the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford on Avon and, despite a pledge on their website to respond within three weeks, they have so far failed to reply:

As a regular visitor to your highly-subsidised playhouse, I am utterly sick of the way you abdicate responsibility for putting on vaguely reasonable productions (eg Coriolanus, King of Britain, being a woman; The Shrew being a man etc) but assumed King John would be a man. I bought tickets on that basis but discover you have cast a woman in the role and I have no wish to see this politically-correct nonsense. Please refund my money and explain the thinking behind these unreasonable distortions; whether you think you have any responsibility towards theatregoers to present anything remotely resembling an authentic account of Shakespeare's original intentions; how many more of these travesties you propose to stage; and how you justify the massive taxpayer subsidies which allow you to subject your audience to these pathetic whims.

 On September 20, I sent a further email:

I emailed you several weeks ago asking for my money back, having bought tickets for King John in the naïve belief that the title role would be played by a man. So far you have not responded at all. Your website promises replies. When can I expect one?

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Brexit: we're doomed


Nightmare scenario: Brexit postponed again. Boris gets his election. He does not win as the Brexit vote is split by Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.

Corbyn gets the keys to Number 10 with the support of the SNP and pledges two referendums - on Brexit and Scottish independence.

All over by Christmas.