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Archive for the category “The play’s the thing”

A very witty, slightly rude take on the BBC’s The Hollow Crown series….

The caption of the above illustration gives a mild flavour of what follows in this review and this one and ¬†of the BBC’s The Hollow Crown series. The reviews are the work of Hello Tailor, and really had me giggling. They’re sharp and witty, but naughty too, so be warned.

They’re also the work of a Scottish gentleman, and include all the expected digs at the English, but we can deal with them. Just remember Old Longshanks, right? ūüėĀ

Oh, and in the picture above, James Purefoy is the one on the right, Bolingbroke is on the left! (Just being picky!)


London’s first playhouse rediscovered….?

Picture from the link below

Well, it just goes to show that although the past may now be buried far underground, now and then it still comes to light to thrill us all. Now it seems they’ve discovered the site of the Red Lion, “the earliest known attempt to build a playhouse in the Tudor era, a precursor to the famed Globe Theatre”.

“….Around 1567, a man named¬†John Brayne¬†built an Elizabethan playhouse called the¬†Red Lion¬†just outside the city of London to accommodate the growing number of traveling theatrical troupes. Its exact location has proven elusive to archaeologists‚ÄĒthere were many streets and pubs named the Red Lion (or Lyon) over the ensuing centuries‚ÄĒbut a team from University College London (UCL) believes it has found the original site at an excavation in Whitechapel….”

Now read on …

Henry VII and his “striking blue eyes”….!

OK, so the illustration is Henry VIII – but it’s what The Times chose for their article

This Times article has a quaint way of describing Henry VII : “Tall, with striking blue eyes, Henry was the only child of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Margaret Beaufort…”

Striking blue eyes? Well, yes…except that they looked in opposite directions. Which I suppose counts as striking! I’m not so sure about the blue, though. More a murky grey, like the rest of him!

Would we have liked Chaucer to narrate audio books of his works….?


frontispiece to Troilus and Creseyde

There is an increasing appetite these days for audio versions of books. Whether just sitting at home, driving your car, or even out in the garden, listening to a famous actor reading to you, or even the author, is a great pleasure that sometimes beats reading the book for yourself.

Which makes me reconsider the medieval period, especially 14th-century England, when Richard II’s court enjoyed being read to by the likes of Geoffrey Chaucer. We all know the famous illustration above. The usual remarks about the scene are that (a) most of the court probably couldn‚Äôt read, or (b) it was just a passing fashion, a chance to be seen where it mattered. Besides, back then no one read silently, they did so aloud. Except in some parts of the Church, I think.

But was it really the done thing to sit around listening to someone reading out loud? Chaucer was probably a brilliant narrator, especially of his own work, and must have been very entertaining indeed. Just like listening to an audio book today, except that you actually saw him in the flesh as well, complete with his nods, winks, knowing smiles and crafty glances. What’s not to like about sitting around giving him your full attention?

I know I’d be among those sitting on the grass looking at and listening to the master!

Geoffrey Chaucer


More truthful about Richard III than they realise….!


The Penny Dreadfuls

Well, the Penny Dreadfuls, a comedy group, may only be having fun and poking fun at Shakespeare’s Richard, but they’ve actually come closer to the truth than may be realised. Their version of Richard is more accurate than the Bard’s parody!


Discovering Shakespeare’s London


Panorama of Old London.  The Old Bridge stood to the west of the new one.

Of course Shakespearean London is post Ricardian but most of ¬†the streets and buildings covered in this interesting article would have been there in Richard’s time.

For anyone visiting London, ¬†this article ¬†would be an excellent referral point especially for covering the lesser known parts. ¬†Starting ¬†at St Pauls station, ¬†via Bankside, ¬†a thoroughfare since the 13th ¬†century, ¬†ending back at St Pauls, the walk covers much including Borough Market, the church of St Magnus Martyr, where two stones from the original Medieval bridge are still in situ, ¬†Eastcheap, ¬†the London Stone, ¬†close to ¬†Cannon Street Station where once Warwick the Kingmaker’s London house, the Erber, ¬†stood and St Pauls, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the disastrous Fire of London 1666.

I’ve posted some photos here of places covered on the walk although I’m not sure these are in the book, see below, from which this article is an extract.


The London Stone on temporary display at the Museum of London


The London Stone, Cannon Street.


Remains of Winchester Palace, Clink Street


Old photo of the medieval church of St Magnus Martyr, a surivivor of the Great Fire where it stood close to the northern entrance to the old bridge.

The article is an extract from a book ‘A Visitor’s Guide to Shakespeare’s ¬†London by David Thomas. ¬†Being a Londoner myself I will certainly find room for this book on my book shelf.


History and cultural history (III)

We have already shown how Shakespeare was inadvertently influenced by contemporary or earlier events in setting details – names, events, badges or physical resemblance – for his Hamlet, King Lear and Richard III. What of Romeo and Juliet, thought to have been written between 1591-5 and first published, in quarto form, in 1597?
The most notable point is that Romeo’s family name is Montague. The barony of Montagu was a courtesy title of the Earldoms of Salisbury and Warwick and Henry Pole, the last holder, was executed in 1538-9, as we have shown. His grandson, Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon and a prominent figure for two thirds of Elizabeth I’s reign, died in 1595. Is that why Shakespeare chose a particular surname for the male lead character that doesn’t sound very Italian?

R.I.P. Paul Darrow….


Paul Darrow was an excellent actor, and often on our screens a few decades back. He died on 3rd June 2019 after a short illness, and I am sad he has gone. I don’t remember him playing a part in Dr Who as if he were Richard III, but I remember him particularly in Blake’s 7. His Avon was a wonderful character, played to perfection.

R.I.P. Paul.

To read more, go to this post.

Twin boys in the Tower were drowned in champagne. By Richard III of course….


Heritage Amphitheatre, Edmonton, Canada

The boys in the Tower were drowned in champagne? And they were twins????

Quote: “…His [actor Ben Stevens] first role ever as the youthful characters Fleance and Young Duff in Macbeth, and later, as one of the twins drowned in champagne in Richard III, set Stevens on the path to a much-loved career…”

My, this is clearly inspired by Clarence’s fate. As for the “twins” bit…ah, well it IS theatre…..


The first female Richard III in Australia….

Elizabeth Winstanley

Well, it seems that women playing the Bard’s Richard III go back further than I realized. It’s not a new thing, by any means. This article
is about Elizabeth Winstanley, who died in December 1864 at the age of 64.

She originated in Wigan, Lancs, and her family emigrated to Sydney in 1833. An interest in acting soon led to her becoming a star of the Australian stage, and she raised quite a storm when she elected to play Richard III.

Hers is an interesting story, and more can be read at the above link.

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