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I've shared my various theatre experiences, plus the beautiful Sky Garden, but I also managed to visit one museum and two galleries.

London )
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This was [personal profile] complicatedlight  second suggestion of something different to do in London.
Sky Garden )


Aug. 21st, 2017 07:08 pm
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A new play at the Almeida Theatre, starring Ben Whishaw, promised so much.  I went to the last preview, opening night being on the Friday.  Which meant I could read and compare the reviews with my own thoughts over the weekend.

For once I agree with the reviewers, which in this case is sad because most of them are lukewarm.  Whishaw was good, but for me the material wasn't.  The plot had some very deep and important points to make, but laboured them badly.  In writing the advice is to show not tell - and there were a lot of words, discussing the theme.  For me, one of the most telling moments was towards the end of the play, when two of the characters who haven't met previously meet up and share an important moment, and the audience finally gets to see how they feel, rather than being told how they feel.

Most of the play is separate scenes, which have little to connect them, rather like illustrations of separate points.  And Whishaw's character has good intentions, and speaks out against violence, but never seems to have anything to lose.

I have friends who are going to see the play, so I shall be interested to read their reactions.  Otherwise, if you're tossing up whether to see this or something else, I would recommend trying the other.
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Two separate productions - I saw the first Wednesday evening and the other Friday evening.

Jesus Christ Superstar )


Ophelia: Madness (in Blue) )
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This is the first of my posts from my trip to London.

I normally go to one musical when I come up to London for my summer break, and having heard Gershwin's music in a concert we went to in February I thought this looked promising.  And it turned out to be the best performance I went to on my trip.

Performed in the Dominion Theatre, it was a traditional West End musical, although in fact it's a new musical, first performed in 2014 and had its UK premiere only a couple of months ago.  The music, of course, was excellent, played by a thirteen piece orchestra.

The staging was brilliant, so many scenes, conjured up apparently effortlessly.  The costumes were wonderful - I was especially taken with the ballet costumes for the show within a show.

I hadn't realised how much ballet there was.  I had expected lots of tap dancing, and there was one memorable number which was tap, but there was lots of ballet - not the very complicated solos and duets found in traditional ballet, but beautifully executed ensemble pieces (which are my preferences anyway).

There is a story, which is straightforward, but has surprising depth.  It is a real feel-good production, in which I was caught up in the action and the dance.  It does exactly what it sets out to do - entertain, but not in a trite way.

The programmes are quite expensive - £8 - so I didn't buy one on the day.  Instead, two days later I was back in the area and went in and bought one as a souvenir, because it's a performance I want to be able to look back on.  So, if this is a genre you like, I thoroughly recommend it.
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Yesterday we went to Chipping Camden, which is a traditional (and rather touristy) small Cotswold town:

Chipping Camden and Court Barn )
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I'm having a few days away next week, but in the meantime it's fairly quiet, so I thought I revisit a couple of memes:

15 characters ).

AO3 meme )
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 Because my goal setting year begins in the middle of April.  There is, like most things in my life, logic to it - just not anyone else's logic.

Goal No 1 - Write all the things

I'm up to 110,000 for the year, which, considering two years ago I was happy with an annual figure of 120,000 is good going.  It also means there's something in the bank if I slow down for any reason in the latter part of the year.

Apart from my regular writing, I've written for Not Prime Time (including a pinch hit and treats), and also written a pinch hit for the Rare Male Slash Exchange.  I've also finished my second Gen Prompt Bingo with the second part of Happy Families, my Hobbit AU.

I also wrote a ficlet for Fan Flashworks 'Glass' Challenge A Handful of Beads which again is The Hobbit.  It's now my second most kudos fic this year - not bad for 538 words.

And speaking of Fan Flashworks, I have earned three more badges:


Goal No 2 - Write a monthly pastoral assistant post

I am continuing with this, and still finding it helpful to reflect on the month.

Goal No 3 - Try twelve new things

I have done three so far, and the fourth is booked.  I've also been sent the material for number five by the lovely Debriswoman. And I will be starting that next month.  I was going to say when it was cooler, but we're not exactly mid-heatwave at the moment.
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A couple of months ago the Art Fund had an offer whereby for £10 you could have a taster card which lasted three months.  This card gives free entry (or half price) to a number of museums, art galleries, and stately homes.  So I thought why not?  This would be a chance to visit a few places I'd not been to, and get in free to things when I'm in London.
Nature in Art and Dyrham Park )
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To my utter surprise, I have written every single prompt for this year's JWP (okay, technically there are two more to do at this point, but I'm not stopping now).  Normally I only write for the prompts which appeal, but this time I was over half way through before I found something I was less keen on, and by that time I wasn't going to miss out.

This time I've decided to write all my entries (bar one) as chapters of two seperate fics, one ACD canon and one BBC Sherlock.

The Adventures of Dr J H Watson (ACD) 22 chapters, includes appearances by the Ocelot, the Sloth, the Ferret and Mouselet, as well as Inspector Stanley Hopkins' nanny

John Watson's Summer (BBC) 8 chapters, includes Inspector Stanley Hopkins of the River Police and a ghost.

In addition, one ficlet didn't fit into the above and is therefore only on [community profile] watsons_woes .  It's the obligatory kill Watson every year drabble:

Telegram (ACD) 100 words.  This is notable in particular for [personal profile] scfrankles  wonderful comment.


In other writing news, I've finished posting Master Oakenshield the Goldsmith's Son, which is the second in my modern Hobbit AU series "Happy Families".  I have some ideas for a third fic, but that won't be happening for a while.

My Hobbit fics continue to dominate this year's kudos list, but to my great surprise Ninety-nine Words has crept into fifth place.  I suspect this is because it's multi-fandom, but considering the subject content I'm still rather amazed.
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Three weeks after posting my last review I have another one.  The last few books have been much quicker to read - hooray.

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan

A few months ago an American site (I don't remember which one) had a challenge to read the first few pages of certain books and earn points which would be converted into books for children in underprivileged areas.  The books were divided into 5, 10, 15 and 20 minute reads.  A five minute read earned one point, ten minutes two, etc.  It was a quiet day at work - I managed to read a lot of the 5 minute suggestions.  And amongst them were a couple of books which I wanted to read more of.  It turned out this particular book was available within our county library system, so I reserved a copy.  Two and a half months later my reservation was top of the list.

I really enjoyed the book.  It's set in Kent early in WWII.  The men have been called up and the vicar is planning on disbanding the church choir, until the women say they're perfectly able to sing, and what the village needs is something positive.  The story is told by four of the women in the form of letters and diary entries, which gives a number of different viewpoints.  There's a strong plot, with a number of strong women, some of whom begin as quite meek and mild, but gain strength through various events.  There's drama, there's romance, there were a few late nights when I had to know what happened next.  Thoroughly recommended.

Aunt Dimity's Death by Nancy Atherton

[personal profile] aome  recommended this book.  I wasn't sure, since it's written by an American, but set in the Cotswolds.  However, the protagonist is American so, although there were some things which jarred they made sense because the book is written in first person.  Again I enjoyed it.  It's a light read, but entertaining and I read it quickly.  Also, there's a stuffed pink rabbit called Reginald, who reminds me of the daughter's stuffed pink rabbit called Chewed Ears who you can only tell which way he's facing because of the name tape sewn into the back of his neck.

There are a lot more in the series, and I'm looking forward to reading them.

ETA: the very lovely [personal profile] aome has just sent me the next two books in the series, so I'm really looking forward to reading them :)

The Cheltenham Square Mystery by John Bude

This is another of the British Library of Crime Classics.  One of the main suppliers at work offers a monthly quiz.  You read their latest online leaflet, answer a number of questions correctly, and get a go on a roulette wheel with a 50/50 chance of winning.  I've done it four times and won twice - both times a £10 voucher which I've converted to Waterstone's online tokens.  Waterstone's deliver for free if you spend £20.  So I ordered Little Master Dickens A Christmas Carol for my granddaughter for Christmas; a children's book The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes (and Ferrets), which is good fun; and this book because it's a detective story set locally.

It's not the best.  The Detective Superintendent seems particularly slow and I was shouting at him from halfway through the book - clearly they lacked an amateur detective to solve the crime in half the time.  But there were plenty of local references which I enjoyed and I read it quickly enough.  I shall pass the book onto my mother - it'll keep her entertained for a little while.

And now I'm back on target for my Goodreads Reading Challenge.
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Debriswoman recommended You have breath for no more than 99 words.  What would they be? collected by Liz Gray, and suggested this as a writing challenge.  So this month I have been writing 99 words for some of my characters.

It quickly became apparent the characters I would write had to be those for who I have written series, so that I could really get inside their heads.  I frequently write say, John Watson, both in BBC Sherlock and ACD Sherlock Holmes, but each time there may be subtle differences.  Whereas taking the Watson in Sussex Retirement I had a far greater idea of how he would think.  This also served to narrow down the characters I would choose.

I had decided to include the gang from the Marylebone Monthly Illustrated really as a bit of light relief.  Only when I came to write the first of them, the Ocelot, I came across the Editor with very strong views, and found myself writing one of the most dour of the entries.

None of the characters explicitely contradict my own views.  This might be a fault in a writer, but I think if I'm investing the time in a character to write a series then I want to be in agreement with them.  This is, after all, a hobby rather than a career.

The last chapter, which I have just posted, is my own 99 words, for I felt it was appropriate to leave a little bit of myself there too.

It's been a fascinating challenge, nothing like I expected when I started, and totally worthwhile doing, so thank you Debriswoman

99 words
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I wouldn't normally see two different productions of the same play within the space of two months - inevitably the two will be compared, and anyway there are lots of other plays out there.  But on this occasion it was inevitable.  I had already booked to see Greg Hicks when Antic Disposition announced their new tour.  We really enjoyed their production of Henry V last year, and I would have looked at seeing them again anyway, but since they were once more in Gloucester Cathedral I had to go.

The play was performed in the choir and right at the edge of the presbytery - the doors at either end providing entrances.  There was very little in the way of props, two thrones at one end, some boxes to give added height occasionally at the other, but their absence didn't matter.  Again it was in modern dress, suits for the most part, formal army dress for Richard on his coronation, battle dress for the battle.  The parts of the two young princes were played by two of the female actors, who also played two of the queens, so smart outfits as queens, torn jeans as princes.

Richard, played by Toby Manley, was excellent as the manipulative future king.  At one point, after his wooing of Anne he turned round smiling broadly at the audience.  I was smiling broadly too and he grinned at me.  We were sitting in the front seats of the choir.

There was plenty of engagement with the audience.  In anticipation of the young Prince Edward's arrival in London, Catesby handed out flags to wave.  I was slightly disappointed SM was given one and I wasn't - but he waved his furiously at the right moment.

One of the things I particularly liked was that as the various characters were killed they would take their place at one end of the space as silent witnesses to the following action.  The characters alternated, so it didn't become overcrowded, but I felt it was particularly effective.

Apart from the young princes, there were a number of other actors who had two roles, but it wasn't noticeable and without looking at the programme I wouldn't have been aware of who was who.  In particular one actor played both Rivers and Richmond and I would never have realised.

It was a really good production, very different from the last one I'd seen, and one I'd recommend.

Gloucester Cathedral )
It's taken from the Organ Loft.  We were sat about half way down at the front on the right.
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The more astute among you will possibly realise I rather like Richard Armitage.  Even the guy at work who transferred all my phone details to my new phone probably knows this, although he may not realise who it is.

So, recently RA did the voice for one of the characters on Castlevania, an anime of a computer game thingy on Netflix.  I do not like anime, I don't play computer games and I don't have Netflix.  But ...  It turned out with Netflix you get a one month free trial before having to start paying - so there was nothing lost.  And there were only four episodes of about 20-25 minutes each, which meant I could space them out nicely over four days.  Or in fact, watch all four in an evening.  Much to my surprise I enjoyed it, and am now looking forward to the new season next year.  Yes, there is a lot of swearing, and blood and gore (but if I can sit in the front row for Titus Andronicus I can cope), but in fact it was fun.

RA has also been in a film called Pilgrimage.  At first I wasn't going to watch it (lots more violence and unpleasantness) but the premise sounded interesting, and the question of the role of religion in the lives of the people is one I'm interested in.  So, when [personal profile] vix_spes  said she'd got a copy of the DVD for £7 from Sainsbury's I nipped into one on my way to work - and it went through the till for a fiver.  It's an interesting film, which I might watch again.  A proportion of the film is in Irish or French, and the subtitles weren't very easy to see - or at least not from my position behind the ironing board (no guilt whatsoever to watching a DVD during the day if I'm doing the ironing!) but I was taken with it.  And not just because of Raymond de Merville.

And I'm still waiting for Berlin Station to make it to Netflix UK!
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I took part in the Multi-Fandom Drabble Exchange on AO3, which was great fun.  It worked on the same basis as any exchange, with the ficlets all being drabbles.  So nice and quick, with the possibility of writing treats and generally enjoying yourself.

I was very fortunate in receiving one gift and three treats.  One of my requests had been for The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield/Bilbo Baggins, and I received my gift Growing Things, plus two treats, For You and Gems of the Garden.  In addition I received Heatwave, a Forever treat.

I wrote a Life on Mars drabble Beware of Gene Bearing Drinks and a Call The Midwife pinch hit Speak Through the Earthquake, Wind and Fire.  And then two treats, an anthropomorfic knitting drabble Fair Isle and another Call the Midwife drabble Learning from the Television.

The Drabble Exchange was new for me, but I've also recently taken part again in Not Prime Time, which is an exchange for medium sized fandoms, which are too big for Yuletide, but don't tend to have their own exchanges.

I received a Forever fic as a gift, Acts of Kindness and unaware of it managed to write a treat for my author in the same fandom: Abe's Bet.  My own assignment was once more Call the Midwife, Even on Holiday.  And lastly there was an irresistible Spooks Adam Carter/Lucas North prompt, which produced Under Surveillance.  I chose to write a slightly different take on Adam and Lucas first working together, although somehow the final outcome may be similar.
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Faithful readers of this blog will know that sometime last month I asked if anyone wanted to ask me something.  Most of you already know far more about me than is strictly necessary, but [personal profile] aome  asked how I got involved with Brownies in the first place.

The simple answer, which is probably the same for three-quarters of leaders, is because the daughter's Guide Unit needed help.  But there's more to why I'm still involved.

To begin at the very beginning:  The daughter was always a very enthusiastic guiding member.  She began Rainbows a little above the minimum age, but the first time she went she came home asking if I could sponsor her, could she go to an event, and when did she get her uniform.  When she moved onto Brownies she had the option of joining two trips at the end of the summer term, or waiting until the autumn - there was no question, she was going on the trips.  And so onto Guides - one week there and she's signed up for camp the following month.

So when her unit were in desperate need of help, I wanted to make sure she could continue with something she enjoyed.  I started as a Unit Helper, but was persuaded to take the qualification and become an Assistant Leader.  And inevitably the leader moved with her husband, and I took the final part of the qualification to become the Unit Leader.  The daughter got older and moved onto Explorer Scouts.

Time passed, and my Assistant Leader could no longer help.  The daughter took GCSEs and started college, where she was residential.  We needed to pay for the accommodation which meant I needed to find a full-time job (I had worked part-time whilst the kids were growing up.)  So with less time and less help I did one further term as Unit Leader, but then was forced to close the unit.

I still wanted to do 'something' and having had involvement with the Scouts whilst the daughter was there, I went to help with a Beaver Scout unit.  It turned out that Scouting wasn't for me.  So after a couple of terms I stopped.

And enquired at the village Brownie pack whether I could be of assistance.  I knew the leaders from my time with the Guides, and had helped them with the annual London trip and on other odd occasions.  Strangely enough, it turned out that an experienced pair of hands would be very welcome.  So I completed the group specific part of the qualification, so I could lead Brownies.  Then, when one of the Brownie leaders proposed starting a new Guide Unit in the nearby town I offered to help and provide experience of the Guide programme.  So for two terms I was doing both Brownies and Guides.  (By that point I had changed job again and was working slightly less hours).

Then, when we moved to Gloucester, I asked one of my current Brownie Leaders if she knew a pack I could join.  She recommended the one I'm at now, which was ideal because it suited my style of leadership.  So, 14 years later, I'm still involved as a Brownie leader.
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I was discussing this theme on Twitter with [personal profile] loz  and said I had sufficient thoughts that I would write a blog post.  And then promptly didn't - in part because that was the day I then went to see Titus Andronicus, which isn't condusive to such thoughts.  But now it's come up again as the Trope for the Day on [community profile] ushobwri  and [personal profile] brumeier  has asked for our thoughts.  So no escape.

It's not a trope I'm that keen on, partly because two of the fandoms I belong to seem desperate to make it happen.  Yes, one is Sherlock (principally the BBC version) and also Lewis.  If that's the way you like things that's fine, I'm not saying it's wrong at all, just that it doesn't appeal to me.  I have come across too many fics where the writer has contrived to bring the two together and suddenly it's wonderful.  There are times when remaining as friends would be perfectly acceptable.

So where does that leave me, and my most written pairings?  Which isn't to say I don't write other pairings for gift fics or for friends, but here I'm concentrating on my favourites.

My first fandom was Life on Mars - the UK version.  And the classic Sam/Gene.  They snark, they argue, they get to know each other better, and the relationship begins.  Now it may be my age, or my outlook, but I don't see that the relationship has to immediately include sex, but this is more than just friends.

Onto BBC's Sherlock.  I don't see Sherlock/John.  John/Greg yes - they see each other in a professional context and realise they want to get to know each other better.  For me it's fairly quick.  I'm currently not writing this pairing.  Sherlock/Stanley Hopkins - again a professional interest moves on to something deeper quite quickly - of course, this is Hopkins of the Met River Police, entirely my own creation based on ACD's Hopkins.

ACD Sherlock Holmes - Nothing will ever take Mary Morstan/John Watson away from me.  This post-hiatus Holmes/Watson is one of my few real friends to lovers, but as the relationship is described only in the Sussex Retirement 'verse it all happened in the past, so doesn't really count as a trope.  Watson reflects on the relationship in the first in the series A Quiet Retirement.

So to Lewis.  I liked Laura Hobson/Robbie Lewis, until the series seemed to spoil it for me.  In Oxford Tales I have Lewis and Hathaway working together and then moving in together, but there's never any description of how it happens.

Two of my other fandoms are both rare pairs.  Adam Carter/Lucas North in Spooks - there's a spark between them from early on, it takes time to catch light because Lucas is mentally scarred, but it's more slow burn than friends to lovers (some might say I'm being pedantic, but they both know what's happening).  And Guy/Much in Robin Hood (BBC) - in my world there's an instant attraction, and since I'm the only one who writes it, I can claim it's the only interpretation ;)

So no, as a trope friends to lovers doesn't particularly appeal.  Friday's Trope of the Day on [community profile] ushobwri  is Established Relationships and I shall be sharing my thoughts there ;)
smallhobbit: (screech owl)
Sad, in that we will be losing some Brownies who've made a real contribution to the pack.  However, I have no problem with having a break ;)

Last week we made code breakers, which proved yet again the simplest things will provide a challenge.  How, when Brown Owl has drawn the circle for you to cut out, does your disc turn out half the size it should be?  But with the expected help for the youngest girls nearly everyone managed to write and decode a message.  The Brownie who we know has difficulties was carefully colouring in her code breaker, but not attempting to write a message.  I suspect she really didn't understand the idea, so I went to help her and we agreed she'd write an important message for her mother to decode.  Mum was happy to try when I told her when she picked her daughter up.  The message was indeed important "I like ice cream".

This week we finished with games, active games and quieter games interspersed, as it had been a hot day.  We asked each of the three girls who were leaving to choose a game, which meant we played Port & Starboard, Wink Murder, and The Colour Game.  Followed by Screech Owl Says as we still had some time.  We then finished with an enrollment, before going home for the holidays.

We shall most certainly miss our leavers.  One Brownie has been with us since she was just 7 and has been very enthusiastic and helpful; she was made Sixer of a six which for nearly two years hadn't worked well together and really turned them round.  One Brownie had transferred over when her previous pack closed, and only spent a year with us, but again has really added to the pack.  Her mother brought each of the leaders a bottle of wine as a thank you, which was very kind, and totally unexpected.  And our final Brownie has been really committed to us, even though at times she's had less support from her family - it was her younger sister who was enrolled, and mum, another sister, and mum's partner all came to the enrollment.  Which was proof of how they must value what we do.

I wrote before that Brown Owl wants to stand down.  With no sign of anyone coming to help she will continue, because she doesn't want the pack to fold.  Various people came up to ask us when she was leaving, which shows they had read the magazine article I'd written.  Unfortunately no-one also volunteered to help.  I've just put a post on Facebook, under the "Spotted in XYZ" section, which has produced three people who say they're interested.  We shall see.  Meanwhile, I've just arranged for us to visit the Police Control Centre early next term - so many things I wouldn't get to do if I didn't go to Brownies ;)
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Since removing "Read more and widely" from my goals from the year, I seem to have slipped in the amount I've read.  This is partly because I no longer feel obliged to keep up with my goals, but also because the last few books I've read haven't been of the 'I'll just finish the chapter, ooh look, it ended on a cliffhanger, need to know what happens next' type.  Hopefully this will improve now, because I'm also behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge, which is Not Good.

A Brief History of Norway by John Midgaard

I knew very little about Norway's history and the subject itself was interesting, but the book was originally published in 1963, and my edition dated from 1982.  It read like a dry school textbook from my school days.  The best part was having read about the Vikings and then visiting the Museum in York and seeing some of their artefacts.

You have breath for no more than 99 words.  What would they be?  collected by Liz Gray

The idea behind this book is very interesting.  What would you say if you only had 99 words (at most) to say it?  Some of the contributors were profound, others much less so.  I read it prior to beginning one of my Twelve Challenges, which I've recently started: Ninety-nine Words and which I will be continuing throughout this month.  I suspect I may get more from putting the words in my characters' mouths than I did from some of the entries.

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Book 8 of the Temeraire series, and for me a real disappointment.  I found it dragged and I missed the interaction with the officers and dragons who had been such a major part of previous books.  Not only that, but whereas in earlier books my competency kink was very satisfied, here Lawrence and Temeraire were forever battling incompetence.  There is one book left of the series.  I had originally anticipated finishing the series this summer, but it looks more like sometime this autumn.
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I hadn't originally planned to see the RSC's production of Titus Andronicus - it's really not a play you want to see too often, but when I learned they had cast David Troughton in the title role I decided I would go after all.  SM declined - he had come with me on the previous occasion, and as I said, it's not a play you see regularly.  On that occasion Stephen Boxer had been in the lead role, so I was interested to see how the two actors compared.  (I've seen them both as Gloucester in King Lear).  I find it quite hard to remember the last performance, but looking back it was nearly four years ago when we saw it.

It was a really good production.  It always feels slightly wrong to say I enjoyed the play, but I did.  David Troughton has an amazing ability to bring in the humour which acts as such a strong contrast to the horrendous events which are being portrayed.  It was a strong cast overall.  I was particularly taken with Patrick Drury, who plays Titus' brother Marcus.  Of the 20 in the cast, 13 are in their RSC debut season, and I would certainly be very happy to see any of them again.

It's a modern dress production and in fact feels quite up to date.  The themes of the play all seem very relevant to life today, even if the outworkings aren't as physical.  Once more the musicians were excellent, and the music adds to the play.  Even at one point having four trombonists marching on the stage (three trombonists are credited in the programme, I am assuming the trumpeter doubled up for this role).

The set is extremely well done.  At one end is the Capitol and the seat of power, enclosed by wire meshing, and very cut-off from the rest of humanity.  In the centre of the main stage (it's a thrust stage) a square section descends and ascends and thus provides for all the necessary stage furniture, which is limited to the small space.  This means that everything is merely a prop for the action, rather than dominating it.

As a play, Titus Andronicus is never going to be one that's much recommended, but I would certainly commend the production.  So, if you want to see every single Shakespeare play, this might be one way of doing so.


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