Titus Andronicus – Shakespeare’s Globe
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People in Shakespeare’s time must have had stronger stomachs. They were used to public hangings, beheadings, bear- and bull-baiting, various kinds of tortures, and watching punishments of the most vicious kind. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus in the flesh, as it were, has always made me a bit queasy, as he intended. So perhaps the best way to see this goryest of Shakespeare’s plays is online. Unlike him, we can now make that choice because the Globe Player has now made it available online.
Director Lucy Bailey's 2014 production of Shakespeare's bloodiest tragedy sees the Globe Theatre transformed for this immersive staging, with a cast including Indira Varma.
The smash hit of his early career, Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare's most experimental works, a revenge tale of the utmost brutality that centres around the honoured Roman general who fatally refuses to show mercy to the eldest son of Tamora, Queen of the Goths, whom he has defeated in war.
Lucy Bailey's staging sees the Globe transformed into a temple of death, one in which swathes of black fabric coalesce with horrific violence and stand-out performances to create shatteringly powerful drama.
Returning to Rome from a war against the Goths, the general Titus Andronicus brings with him their queen, Tamora, and her three sons as prisoners of war. Titus' sacrifice of Tamora's eldest son, and his decision to refuse to accept the title of emperor, initiates a terrible cycle of bloodshed and revenge. As families, bodies, lives, and Rome itself are torn apart, everyone has a motive – but will anyone survive?
I wonder what Shakespeare would have thought of seeing his play in this new format.
Judi Dench/Benedict Cumberbatch 12th Night
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There’s lots of Shakespeare around at the moment celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio, by his friend and fellow playwright Ben Jonson. Many of the current tributes on television and on stage are excellent, the product of 400 years of thought and appreciation for the greatest of all wordsmiths.
I was looking for just a snippet to share with you, just a tiny indicator of who he was and why what he wrote matters. My friend Adele found this, just a few moments of Twelfth Night, from the incomparable Judi Dench, supported by Benedict Cumberbatch and introduced by director Richard Eyre at the Hay Festival.
Wallow anew in Shakespeare’s glorious words in this tiny clip and, at the same time, use your analytical eyes and ears to appreciate the perfection of her breathing and phrasing. This, in microcosm, is why we still care after 400 years.
UK Jewish Film Festival – Nov 20-27
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The UK Jewish Film Festival takes place this week in London cinemas and many of these films are now available, or shortly will be, online. You can choose to rent a single film of your choice or, for a one-off fee of £45, you can watch all of the films available in the online festival completely free.
Take a look at the film guide to choose what you want to watch. Do reserve your place in advance for your chosen online screenings as online films can (and do) sell out. All online screenings have maximum audience capacities due to film license arrangements.
Online screenings are available from the start of Monday 20th November to the end of Sunday 27th November. Once you begin watching your purchased film, you have a period of 72 hours to complete your viewing. Also do check that the films you have chosen are available in your viewing area as some films are only available within the UK only.
Breaking The Wall
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For example, one of the Festival films I most want to watch is Breaking the Wall, a new documentary about Erica Jong. Unfortunately, this can only be viewed in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Published in 1973, Fear of Flying — a groundbreaking novel exploring the hitherto taboo subject of women’s sex lives and erotic fantasies — became an overnight sensation, making its author, 31-year-old Jewish New Yorker Erica Jong, a household name in the US and beyond.
Nearly 50 years, millions of copies and a few husbands after, Jong looks back on her remarkably rich and varied career as an author and poet, whose trailblazing work has helped popularise the principles of feminist thought and challenge sexual and social norms. In the post Roe v. Wade era we now live, her sharp ideas are more relevant than ever before. £12.99
Medici subscription price down from £129 to £90 for a year.
Occasionally, I recommend a concert presented by a classical music streaming service called Medici. The subscription to this website is expensive, £120 a year, although that does give you access to the world’s largest video-on-demand catalogue in the classical music industry with over 4,000 concerts, operas, ballets, documentaries, master classes and jazz programs available to stream in HD.
This week Medici has reduced their annual subscription from £120 to £90, thus bringing it down within range of the other streaming arts services.
Glenn Gould - Goldberg Variations
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As a prime example of what Medici offers that is not available on other streaming platforms, this week it releases a 3-part documentary on the late pianist Glenn Gould that includes his final performance before his death in 1981, of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I know critics and classical music experts who believe that Gould’s reading of this iconic work, while in places eccentric, like much of his oeuvre, is unbeatable.
More than 15 years after retiring from the concert stage, Gould returned to the repertoire for which he is still so widely known and celebrated today: the keyboard works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Fascinating discussions between the pianist and the documentarian Bruno Monsaingeon are punctuated by performances given by Gould between 1979 and 1981.
The title page of the first publication of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations tells us that this work was "composed for connoisseurs, for the refreshment of their spirits." Soul-nourishing music par excellence, the variations more than live up to this description: this late work, made up of some of the composer's densest and most difficult pages, represents a sublime synthesis of the greatest aspects of his earlier output.
The third episode of Monsaingeon's series offers nothing less than Glenn Gould's final recording of the Goldberg Variations, for which he has been celebrated perhaps more than any other pianist of the last century—historic, awe-inspiring footage to watch, rewatch, and cherish.
Carnegie Hall Plus video
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While we’re looking at classical streaming services, it’s worth mentioning that we can now access the concerts from Carnegie Hall, via Amazon. There’s an affordable subscription of $7.99 month and a fine selection to choose from. But be careful. Not everything is available in every world timezone so, before you part with your money, make sure that the programme you want to watch is available in your area.
Fran Lebowitz – Pretend It’s a Museum
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I really like this short video from the Met which allows the celebrated author and humourist Fran Lebowitz to go behind-the-scenes at the Met’s Paintings Conservation Lab to see Rembrandt’s Aristotle with a Bust of Homer (1653). Lebowitz’ writings outline the vicissitudes of contemporary urban life in New York —its fads, trends, crazes, morals, and fashions.
Always quirky and entertaining, here she contemplates the impossibility of choosing a favorite object in The Met’s collection. Along the way, she tells her favorite story of visiting the Met Museum as a child.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.