Friday, 1 July 2011

No beast so fierce

Richard III has a lot to answer for. Forget the general deviousness, slide into depravity, murder of innocents, what about the impact on my bank balance?

Since that momentous day my meagre income has taken itself off, under the sofa. It remains there still, whimpering pitifully, staring at the open wound caused by four seats in the stalls.

Nevertheless, the wound had to be made. It was either two and a half hours with Richy, or a term's worth of maths lessons. I have either an excellent sense of priorities, or none at all. Fortunately my maths are so bad that I can't work it out.

But, having paid the conkers and dribbled in furtive delight over the tickets (which I confess are now more than a little grubby and paw printed thanks to continual stroking), it is time to get serious for Sunday.

I need a crash course in Richard's evil doings for the griblets. They already read the baby edition. (I have avoided this one myself, fearful that it will piss me off. Does it gloss over the emotional manipulation, sexual politics and naked violence?)

Anyway, in my opinion, my kids are beyond the baby stuff. They have outgrown the hazards of mild peril. In their stride they now take blood and stabbing, drowning in vats of wine, mayhem with garden shears and dictatorship. (Head kissing, hugging, arm rubbing, or indeed any maternal shows of affection are all still a bit dodgy.)

Thank goodness then, that at this tender point in their growing years I have help. Old enough not to patronise them and careful enough to explain the background political climate is this.

I read it from beginning to end with breaks for dinner, discussion, and a bowl of strawberries.

I thoroughly recommend it. Not just because Kelly is a chum, which she is (I think I betrothed one of mine to one of hers in a happy moment of drunken email abandon) but because it is simply a fantastic introduction to the play for the 11-14 years. (And maybe the 50-plus years but in my defence that degree course was a long time ago.)

Easy to read aloud by one voice (unlike the play, which defeats my range), the book interweaves speeches from the play with historical introductions, political observations and character notes. A thoroughly helpful and sensible approach, from which we shall all gain hugely when our gritty bums hit those comfy stalls.

I expect Kevin Spacey will benefit as well, although he won't know it. Simply, he will have a better informed audience in Row J sitting in front of him. Instead of staring at him gormlessly wondering what the hell is going on with that fellow who won't see any wrong doing, we shall be waiting to see how he handles the mocked up betrayal scene.

There is only one big problem I can see with Kelly's book. That is, we English folk do not study Richard III in our secondary school syllabus. That is our limited vision. We strap our schoolchildren to the perpetual round that is Henry VIII, The World War II evacuation experience (they go through that three times by the age of 11) and Macbeth.

Years ago, as the National Curriculum was being discussed somewhere in London for the benefit of some lefty-liberal-hippie-English-teacher types, I recall some chap taking to the stage to bemoan the fact that his life was now doomed to Macbeth. The landscape, he prophesied, would become composed of government-issue workbooks, prescribed texts, formulaic stage performances geared for school marking, and a serious decline in the awareness that Shakespeare wrote more than one play.

Well, we all need to fight against that type of stealth dictatorship.

Whatever your age, to aid the day's essential discussion on the present-day, power-driven, devious-minded, spin doctoring, jealous characters that can inhibit all levels of government, get hold of Kelly's book, grab the DVD and, go pick a bowl of strawberries.


Belgravia Wife - sort of said...

Just have, thank you - your blog is just superb reading at the mo - always is but terrific these long summer days.

Don't even get me started on Macbeth.....I have always harboured a Troilus & Cressida thing. As for flunkies and the National Curriculum, it's taken me 20 years to revisit Thomas Hardy !! Email coming soon & enjoy the strawberries.x

Grit said...

thank you belgravia wife! we are off to upset dorset for a while but will turn up again, pennies and all that.

katyboo1 said...

I saw it last night. It was amazing. Money well spent Grit, money well spent. You and the Gritlets will love it. Am seeing Tenant and Tate in Much Ado in August and taking Tilly. Can't wait. Enjoy the play.x

Firebird said...

Our local, and very lovely, company are staging Richard III for their Winter season. I'd take up your recommendation except dd has a policy of watching Shakespeare 'cold'. I always offer to explain the stories, read the kiddy version (if we have it) or put on the BBC DVD, but she'd rather just watch the play and then talk about it afterwards.

For anyone in the area I highly recommend the Guildford Shakespeare Company, they ROCK! I could gush on for ages about them, but seriously, just go along! :-)