Writers: DON’T DO THIS

okay, reading a deeply awesome Ancient Rome-set gladiator school book. Great characterisation, interesting plot, good side characters, made the story flow properly without making it seem like you’ve dumped all the research on the readers heads…


whenever the writer mentioned the gladiator training school, they used ‘ludus’ instead of ‘training school’, and when it came to clothing, ‘subligar’ instead of ‘loincloth’.


It literally brought me up with a jolt every time.

SERIOUSLY.  Don’t use words there’s a translation for when everyone’s speaking the same language.  A specific type of boat?  I see your trireme in the bay, it looks very menacing.  A specific weapon? Just don’t wave that trident near me. Type of wine? Pass the Falernian.  Just… not everyday items.  It just makes you look like you want to show that you did research when we can see you did your research already. A subligar’s not a bloody toga.  Everyone knows what a toga is, we literally don’t have any other word for ‘giant piece of cloth that you drape and wind around your entire body’.  But we do have a word for a loincloth.

I looked up ludus after finishing the book to confirm it meant what I thought it did.  I’d figured it out by context, but why didn’t you just use ‘training school’?  And worse sin by editor: ‘subligar’ and ‘ludus’ were italicised.  To draw even more attention to it.  You weren’t using ’panem’ every time you mentioned them eating bread.


Costuming peeves

Just realised this one really was doing my head in.

It’s the semi- post apocalyptic event films and tv series, the ones where a hundred or so years have passed.  Enough for a few generations and stories about the old world.  The cities/towns were destroyed, or maybe they had to flee, or they’re in space.  Whatever.

And they’re still wearing current clothing.

That clothing is normally a bit battered, washed out and a tiny bit threadbare. Maybe a couple of holes. There’s no darning or patching, no-one’s wearing those hand-knit gapey sweaters you see in a lot of post apocalyptic stuff or even the mad max/waterworld futures where nearly everyone’s in leather and bits of handmade chainmail.

Excuse me while I reach through the screen and yell at the person responsible for costuming.  it won’t take a minute.  Okay.  maybe a few.

Clothing does not survive that long.  Especially the store-bought stuff of now.  Cotton and linen and wool and silk *rots*.  Most importantly, if everyone’s only got a few changes of clothing, it’s going to wear out. Anything polyester will wear out even faster than the natural fibre stuff. Much faster than it will now, when you’ve got several changes of clothing and you’re not doing much manual labour that would produce extra wear and tear.

The clothing of the 1910s that still exists has been carefully stored.  it’s not been worn every day by a population that needed every scrap of clothing it could get its hands on, which got darned and patched until it got cut up for rags, which is what happened to 99% of the clothing from that era and beyond.

And the stuff of the last few decades isn’t of half the quality.  The material isn’t as sturdy.

So yes, costuming, I am glaring at you.  Give me hand-knit sweaters, dammit.

Minimalism as supposedly faux asceticism

https://t.co/NqSIIoGu8Z This post has an interesting takedown of minimalism as a rich people thing that’s cast as faux-spiritualist asceticism. Except that’s what asceticism always WAS. Rich people casting aside possessions to show how spiritual they were.

Ever notice how in tales of saints and monks (we’re including Buddha here) etc it was always the PRINCES and NOBLES and RICH PEOPLE who threw away their worldly possessions to go live in a cave/large jar and got points for it? Poor people who had nothing to start with never claimed they were extra holy for staying poor when they joined monasteries or fucked off to become a hermit. (re: monasteries – it wasn’t uncommon at one point to give your extra-mouth-to-feed son to the monastery because that was he a) wasn’t a burden on the family b) got a guarantee of a roof over their head and food)

to quote… Pratchett, maybe? If you look at the the prince who goes off to be a no-possessions ascetic, it’s amazing how they never seem to be found dead from starvation because they’ve got no money for food or shelter, like those piles of poor people who freeze to death in winter.
So, yeah. Minimalism-as-lifestyle with added spiritual claims isn’t *faux* asceticism, it’s just *modern* asceticism.

Nowt wrong with minimalism, or not wanting clutter, or getting rid of/selling stuff you don’t need or no longer works. Just try not to act superior about it. See the Sam Vimes boots theory of economics.

Top Ten (ish) theatre of 2017

Saint Joan (Donmar)
Platinum (Hampstead)
Kinky Boots (Adelphi)
The White Devil (Globe)
Sex With Strangers (Hampstead)
The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess)
Twelfth Night (NT)
The Taming of the Shrew (Globe)
Twelfth Night (Merely Theatre)
Love in Idleness (Menier)
Othello (Globe)
The Red Shoes (Bourne)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Old Vic)
The Treatment (Almeida)
Romeo and Juliet (Globe)
Salome (NT)
Romeo and Juliet (Union Theatre)
Madame Rubinstein (Park)
Woyzeck (Old Vic)
Twelfth Night (Globe)
Common (NT)
Twelfth Night (Rain or Shine)
Gloria (Hampstead)
Life of Galileo (Young Vic)
Ink (Almeida)
Tristan and Yseult (Globe)
The Ferryman (Gielgud)
Certain Young Men (NT)
Wind in the Willows (Progress)
Yank! (Charing Cross)
Against (Almeida)
Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Apollo)
Wings (Young Vic)
Boudica (Globe)
Young Frankenstein (Garrick)
Albion (Almeida)
St George and the Dragon (NT)
Young Marx (Bridge)
Oslo (Harold Pinter)
The Secret Theatre (Globe)
Dracula (Rain or Shine)

(It was kind of the year of Twelfth Night)

Anyway, in no particular order, the top 10 were:

The Red Shoes (Bourne) – gorgeous, lyrical, funny with some very nice period dance pieces and AMAZING set changes (the onstage proscenium arch swivelled to show backstage). It’s Matthew Bourne.
The Play That Goes Wrong (Duchess) – imagine an amateur theatre company, and then imagine every possible thing that could go wrong. And hurt yourself laughing.  Several times.
Twelfth Night (NT) – We are stylish.  You are peasants.  Everyone is gay or at least bisexual.  And of course the Elephant is a drag club, it’s Antonio’s local.
Boudica (Globe) – FIGHT.  Never fucking forget you’re a queen and that you will have bloody vengeance, and then fucking yell London Calling to the heavens.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Old Vic) – Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua Maguire are here to be confused at you, and the Player King is here to really confuse you.  Hamlet is here to drink cocktails in a deckchair on the boat to England.
Twelfth Night (Globe) – Fuck the text, we’re going to go to the 70s on a disco cruise ship, crash into a scottish island, and everyone is going to dance at all times, wear kilts and have terrible mullets.  Olivia’s going to be in her 40s and be seduced by Sebastian in one seriously sexy tango. Bring your inner diva.
Much Ado About Nothing (Globe) Mexican Revolution. Horseback done by puppetry and stillts.  Full. On. Beatrice and Benedick sniping.  A seriously menacing Don Pedro. ‘Nothing rhymes with senorita but…’ *audience* ‘Margarita!’ ‘Oh, not bad…’ And achieved the impossible by making Dogberry make sense for once by having him be an American film director who can’t speak the language.
Oslo (Harold Pinter) – documenting all the behind the scenes meetings of the Oslo accords, where they achieved the miracle of getting the Palestinians and Israelis to sit in a room and talk to each other.  unbelievably tense, utterly brilliant.
Tristan and Yseult (Globe) – Everyone needs love.  You may go back to being part of the Unloved. You also need to do it in a funny, impressionist dance and song way with lots of trailing red cloth.
Wings (Young Vic) – recovery from a stroke, from the point of view of an ex wing-walker rediscovering her sense of self, memories and ability to communicate.  And btw, Juliet Stevenson will do all this while mostly spinning on a trapeze above the audience.

The worst (avoid like the plague)

Common (NT) This was TURGID.  and DREARY.  And REPETITIVE. I actually wrote a blog post on how much I hated it.
Against (Almeida) – Elon Musk-alike decides to rediscover himself by going out and talking to people across America, do some really terrible journey of Jesus allusions, and say absolutely fucking nothing but does disappear up his own arsehole.  Only even vaguely watchable due to Ben Whishaw.

male gaze and sexualisation in film and tv

Horrible fact of our society: The male gaze and sexualisation of women on screen is so prevalent that you actually get the jolt of noticing when a film or tv show *doesn’t* do it.

Wonder Woman and Mad Max were… female bodies in motion, female bodies doing action and not once did the camera linger on tits or arse or legs.  The difference between how the Amazons were filmed during their action scenes and how Black Widow is filmed in Avengers is huge.  Look where the focus rests, where the centre of the frame is.  How it lingers or doesn’t.  Whether their hair is perfect, how far the zipper goes down.  Where the bruises are painted on by makeup.  Are they artfully placed to highlight bone structure?  How much muscle is shown?  Is it enough muscle to actually believably do the job or is it just enough to be ‘aesthetically pleasing’? (seriously.  Look at Scarlett Johansson, who by all accounts worked out like mad, and then look at the Amazons)

Then we go to the violent crime/horror shows.  We’ve got long experience of crime and horror focussing around dead and tortured bodies of young women and how the camera lingers on their naked and half-dressed corpses.  And then you get the weird, random ones like Hannibal, where they made the commitment that there would be no sexual violence.  Naked bodies in sick and twisted art formations but it wasn’t voyeuristic (you can always tell).  The Exorcist, rebooted as a tv show. (priests still battling to save a girl’s soul from a demon) In this case it’s a pretty blonde girl in her late teens, and we know how those get filmed in horror. Except… not.  Huh.  Camera always very careful not to show skin, or have her self-harming on camera, and when there was a female corpse on a gurney we got a foot and a shoulder and her jawline.  It’s vomit and bile and blood and tears and hair pulled out during the exorcism scenes and not once does it highlight her cheekbones, or have that tear in her shirt pulling to get a glimpse of her unmarred skin.

And you notice because it’s so different that it’s out of place in the glossy entertainment of Hollywood.

heels and superheroes (or not)

Twitter discussions I can’t believe I waded into: wonder woman’s heels.

It started with a costume designer talking about how pleasing it was that Wonder Woman’s costume in the 2017 film is obviously based on Roman armour vs the old lingerie it used to be based on in the old tv series. In comics there’s been a gradual trend since… the 80s?  early 90s? to draw Diana’s serious battle armour as Greek Hoplite based, complete with strip skirt, especially after Xena aired on tv, which segued into a 2000s trend for pretty much any time you were drawing AU Diana you went with a leather strip skirt and made the top look a  bit more sturdy, sometimes with *gasp* shoulder straps.  In the current version this has become her actual costume, bathing suit ditched. (the original Wonder Woman costume is based off a Worlds’ Fair bathing suit)

Then came the boots discussion.  The costume designer was pointing out how much better the film boots were, complete with greaves and armoured kneepads, á la Hoplite armour again (which she mistakenly labelled as Roman again – most Roman soldiers were just wearing sandals, only the top lot got the leg and knee greaves).  However, as is right, people started talking about heels.  Because they gave her wedge heels.

Yeah.  Heels.  Not great for fighting and running in, but Hollywood being what it is, they wanted her to be taller.  See Scarlett Johanssen as Black Widow.

Cue a bit of a discussion of history of heels, and people asking about the riding boot bit. With some saying nobles wore them to stay out of the muck. Me: *twitchtwitchtwitch* *not an expert, just read a fair bit about history of fashion, including ex-pony girl youth*

Okay. Settling this.  Heels were developed so you could stand up in your stirrups for better shooting of arrows and throwing spears.  The separation of heel and sole enables this so your foot doesn’t slip.  Originally they were higher like cowboy boots, but current riding heels are about an inch.

The Wonder Woman film boots are wedges.  USELESS FOR STANDING UP IN STIRRUPS.  They’re still just decorative.

In the 1500s, the heel was adopted by noblemen in North Europe after the Persians came to visit as a military fashion so they were of course *manly*.  Plus the fact that heels back then didn’t have a last that enabled you to walk in them without turning your feet out, so you couldn’t walk very far in them.  Like taxi shoes – heels so high the most walking you’re going to be doing in them is from the cab to the door.  Which was the mark of a noble, someone who wouldn’t dream of walking any distance at all.  Women adopted heels when there was a trend to ape men’s fashions, including jackets.  Heels went out for a long while with all things noble and frivolous due to the French Revolution and Puritan movement.

Heels had been worn prior to this and for other purposes than riding, but it was normally ceremonial.  Butchers and prostitutes and the Japanese had worn heels to keep their clothes and feet out of the muck, but please note these were normally platforms.  There’s no point in keeping your heels out of the muck when you’re not keeping your toes out of it too. (prostitutes wore ridiculous height ones to stand out of the crowd, often so tall they had to have someone on either side of them to hold on to)

top ten (ish) theatre of 2016

The full list:

The Winter’s Tale (Garrick)
Cymbeline (Globe)
Hangman (Wyndhams)
The Dazzle (Found111)
Guy & Dolls (Savoy)
Waste (NT)
Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix)
Miss Saigon (Prince Edward)
Pericles (Globe)
Miss Atomic Bomb (St James)
Twelfth Night (Globe)
The Painkiller (Garrick)
Reasons to be Happy (Hampstead)
The Winter’s Tale (Globe)
The Caretaker  (Old Vic)
The Flick (NT)
Into the Hoods (peacock)
Romeo & Juliet (garrick)
Threepenny Opera (NT)
Taming of the Shrew (globe)
The Deep Blue Sea (NT)
Henry V (Regents Park)
Richard III (Almeida)
Henry V (Southwark)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Globe)
Queens of Syria (Young Vic)
Groundhog Day (Old Vic)
Macbeth (Globe)
The Entertainer (Garrick)
Imogen (Globe)
The Boys in the Band (Park Theatre)
No Man’s Land (Wyndhams)
Amadeus (NT)
Julius Caesar (Donmar/Kings Cross)
King Lear (Old Vic)
Red Barn (NT)
One Night in Miami (Donmar)
Little Matchgirl (Globe)
Once in a Lifetime (Young Vic)
Mary Stuart (Almeida)

Anyway, in no particular order, the top 10 were:

The Painkiller (Garrick) – two room hotel farce about an assassin and a suicidal divorced bloke with an adjoining door.  So much ridiculous physical comedy and perfect timing.
The Flick (NT) – strangely affecting, all silences stretched until the audience cracks up and passions and details of lives going nowhere while they eulogise a dying medium.
Into the Hoods (Peacock) – Fairytales mashed together in a council estate in glorious hip hop of wolves that dress up as Granny, a prince with a soundtrack of 90s slow jam sleaze, and it turns out Rapunzel is totally Nicki Minaj.
Henry V (Southwark Playhouse) – OMG.  if Merely Theatre come south again, SEE IT. tiny cast, french and english denoted by swapping football jerseys, lots of rushing offstage to swap outfits, crackles along brilliantly, actual new filthy shakespeare jokes, and it got interrupted during the second half due to the girl playing Montjoy fainting.
Julius Caesar (Donmar/Kings Cross) – 2nd of the Donmar female prison Shakespeares that I’ve seen.  And they get better.  New light cast on things, brilliant performances, heartbreaking, especially when prison stuff intruded on the play itself.
The Deep Blue Sea (NT) – sorry, Helen McCrory is being awesome and tragic and despairing in a London flat and I have no time for your concerns.
Macbeth (Globe) – I like a good Macbeth.  This was a good, well-staged, inspiring Macbeth with good use of the Macbeths’ child, great acting and spooky awesome music.
Groundhog Day (Old Vic) – perfect film is turned into perfect musical of AMAZING sets and genius nuttiness of repetition that gives different details each time, with fabulous tunes and lovely performances.  Also there’s a rodent and a car chase. Gimme cast recording.
Imogen (Globe)- Cymbeline refocused, set in East London with added dance and grime tunes.  East end accents work perfectly with shakespeare stylings and posturing, it was funny, some seriously ouchy violence, and the glory of the 27 endings and the Roman officer going ‘hello? over here?’ and when Imogen slammed her foot on Iachimo’s throat it was a thing of joy and beauty forever. And do the jig to Skepta’s ‘Shut Down’ to bring the house down.
Queens of Syria (Young Vic) – Syrian refugee women telling their stories in their own words and talking about the experience of talking to the media getting people to listen (the bit where they were going ‘apparently we can get the west to listen if we do it as theatre because they respect it? okay, worth a shot’ raised a lot of giggles), woven in with bits of the Trojan Women. heart in stomach stuff.

The worst (avoid like the plague)

The Caretaker (Old Vic)- theoretically good acting.  I was so BORED.  Unbelievably tedious, silences and unending whining that went nowhere.  Apparently this is a Pinter thing. Timothy Spall and George MacKay couldn’t save it.

The Entertainer (Garrick) – supposed to be about actor at dead end of the vaudeville scene and his family crushed down and wanting social change. Except it just showed that the dead end of vaudeville needed euthanising and everything else was just inarticulate.