EPS Review #86 - Fantasy

Last weekend we went to The Globe to see Romeo and Juliet. Ross and his friend Ruth went backstage for a children's acting workshop, that I think ended up being too young for them. They got to see the end of the play along with the groundlings, while mom and dad sat in their favorite seats: D33 and D34 in bay H. Bay H is dead center, not many columns in the way, and D34 lets you sit in a corner with not only back support, but side support and all the leg room you can use, because it is at the end of the stairs. Become a member of the Globe, and you too will slowly learn how not to paralyse your bum, or lean back on other peoples' legs. Never be a groundling: we watch them faint in droves.

This season we also saw Much Ado About Nothing with the all-women cast. We could not endure it and left at the break. Since The Globe specialises in silliness, this was a bad sign, and we approached Measure For Measure with fear. Yet I enjoyed it, though I remember not caring for the play at all in high school. I also enjoyed Romeo and Juliet. It may be no coincidence that these plays lacked single-sex casts and the stuttery Mark Rylance -- both were starting to get on my nerves. R&J started in the clear autumn air (England is having a real autumn: no mists, but clear and windy days, some with sun, some cool). An actor in costume gave the spiel about mobile phones and photography, and just as he was done, out came another and started repeating the speech. They argued about whether it was the Montagues' or Capulets' turn, and this lead directly and felicitously to the thumb-biting scene. Mercutio was very funny indeed, Juliet was a pretty black girl in a red dress, and Romeo was appropriately...young. As always, I adore the live music, this time with a lute the size of a fly rod and some excellent recorder work. I got fairly worked up when everyone died, and then the whole cast took their bows while doing a beautiful jig, which managed to feel transcendent. They used the same trick at the end of M for M, and it worked for me then, too.

On the way home, led by our feminine-voiced and infinitely patient GPS system, we spotted a fantasy bookstore by the side of the Holloway Road. P was clearly feeling romantic/indulgent, because she o'erperched the curb and let me fly over to it. Inside was a lovely mix of Ace paperbacks, hardbacks of various ages, stuff in glass cases, and three old guys. I quickly grabbed a few things for my progeny: a Zelazny, a Hughart, and fat Arkham House reprint of The Dunwich Horror and Others. I displayed these to the Old Guys (who had kept up a steady patter "That man who just came in said that the last time he was here was twenty years ago. It's people like that who tell us we must never close down.") and said: what can't I miss. They recommended Jack Vance's The Dying Earth, which I had never heard of, though they said it might be the best fantasy ever.

I was mildly disappointed to find that it is interconnected stories instead of a novel. They are pleasant and imaginative, and pre-date the modern fixation for multiple viewpoints and parallel asynchronous storylines. The dialog is stilted William Morris speak (P didn't realise that yes this is the Wallpaper Guy, still in print in paperbacks with babes with slit dresses on the cover):

'Sufficient possibly for you,' said Guyal, 'but for me the causality is unconvincing. I must acquaint you with the void in my mind, which lusts for knowledge as a lecher yearns for carnality; so pray be patient if my inquisition seems unnecessarily thorough.'

Not Shakespeare! But still pleasant if you haven't had enough velvet bodices, wizards and silly hats.

Speaking of Shakespeare, both The Economist and The New Yorker carried reviews recently of two new biographies. I hadn't been quite so aware of the importance of Catholicism, his dead son Hamnet (Ruth knew all about this), and his retirement to the countryside. Interesting.

Giovanni wrote: This is very entertaining. I don't know if I ever told you how I loathe the Globe. I spent one of the most miserable afternoons of my life in captivity at Richard II, with the sun shining in my eyes.