LISTEN TO – The Reith Lectures – Hilary Mantel

Just sat in the car for ten minutes to the last moments of the forth of Hilary Mantel’s Reith Lectures on BBC Radio 4 – I didn’t want to lose a word, while relocating! Don’t know how I’ve missed the previous three – clearly I’m very successfully sleep walking through life right now – but really looking forward to a catch up!

Mandatory Credit: Photo by SUTTON-HIBBERT/REX (424360ae)
HILARY MANTEL
THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, BRITAIN – AUG 2003

Now, I don’t always ‘get’ Hilary Mantel, but after a rough start with Wolf Hall (see HERE and HERE) but had a much happier time with its follow up ‘Bring up the Bodies’. However, she is always an unusual and spirited speaker and I very much enjoyed listening to how she viewed her world as an author (and NOT a historian!).

For your convenience, links to the 4 parts that have currently aired are below.

From the BBC website:

Over this series of five lectures, Dame Hilary discusses the role that history plays in our culture. How can we understand the past, she asks, and how can we convey its nature today? Above all, she believes, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity.

This series is chaired by Sue Lawley. The producer is Jim Frank.

Part 1 – The Day Is for the Living

Art can bring the dead back to life, argues the best-selling novelist Hilary Mantel, starting with the story of her own great-grandmother. “We sense the dead have a vital force still,” she says. “They have something to tell us, something we need to understand. Using fiction and drama, we try to gain that understanding.” She describes how and why she began to write fiction about the past, and how her view of her trade has evolved. We cannot hear or see the past, she says, but “we can listen and look”.

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 2 – The Iron Maiden

How do we construct our pictures of the past, including both truth and myth, asks best-selling author Hilary Mantel. Where do we get our evidence? She warns of two familiar errors: either romanticising thepast, or seeing it as a gory horror-show. It is tempting, but often condescending, to seek modern parallels for historical events. “Are we looking into the past, or looking into a mirror?” she asks. “Dead strangers…did not live and die so we could draw lessons from them.” Above all, she says, we must all try to respect the past amid all its strangeness and complexity.

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 3 – Silence Grips the Town

The story of how an obsessive relationship with history killed the young Polish writer Stanislawa Przybyszewska, told by best-selling author, Hilary Mantel. The brilliant Przybyszewska wrote gargantuan plays and novels about the French Revolution, in particular about the revolutionary leader Robespierre. She lived in self-willed poverty and isolation and died unknown in 1934. But her work, so painfully achieved, did survive her. Was her sacrifice worthwhile? “She embodied the past until her body ceased to be,” Dame Hilary says. “Multiple causes of death were recorded, but actually she died of Robespierre.”

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 4 – Can These Bones Live?

Hilary Mantel analyses how historical fiction can make the past come to life. She says her task is to take history out of the archive and relocate it in a body. “It’s the novelist’s job: to put the reader in the moment, even if the moment is 500 years ago.” She takes apart the practical job of “resurrection”, and the process that gets historical fiction on to the page. “The historian will always wonder why you left certain things out, while the literary critic will wonder why you left them in,” she says. How then does she try and get the balance right?

Click here to have a listen on the BBC website 

Part 5 – Adaptation

Hilary Mantel on how fiction changes when adapted for stage or screen. Each medium, she says, draws a different potential from the original. She argues that fiction, if written well, doesn’t betray history, butenhances it. When fiction is turned into theatre, or into a film or TV, the same applies – as long as we understand that adaptation is not a secondary process or a set of grudging compromises, but an act of creation in itself. And this matters. “Without art, what have you to inform you about the past?” she asks. “What lies beyond is the unedited flicker of closed-circuit TV.”

This episode hasn’t yet aired.

Check out the trailer for the excellent BBC series Wolf Hall – based on the first of Hilary Mantel’s Tudor trilogy.

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Current Mood…

This has been such a long week…

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March Book Choices!

Hi all,

 

A quick update on what our next few reads shall be! As always, if you spot any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know!

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (if available) or The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula L Guin
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

i-wish-to-go-home-and-read-a-book

Quick Update on The Kite Runner

Just wanted to let anyone heading down south know that the superb production of The Kite Runner is currently running in the West End!

Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE to get all the details on how to catch this very impressive production.

 ‘For you…a thousand times over…’

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

the kite runner

This should be an impossible book to adapt. Afghanistan is a changing place in 1975. Religion and politics are evolving the landscape further. It is in this background that two boys attempt to navigate their path, which happens to be an emerging family tragedy. The book covers a span of 30 years. That Matthew Spangler succeeds and succeeds beautifully  in distilling the essence of this tale into a mere two acts – well it ought to be an impossible feat.

On a sparse stage, populated only by a musicians mat; a flowing backdrop and a carpet with a thousand interpretations; an intensely emotional story unfolds. The lack of clutter, heck, the near disdain of props merely served to emphasis the interpersonal focus of this play.

The hero of this production has to be Ben Turner. Aside from being the only constant presence on the stage; he manages to pull off a difficult task with aplomb. At no point is he ever in denial that he is portraying Amir as a deeply flawed person – indeed for much of the play the character appears to be cowardly, unlikeable with few redeeming features. He flies a kite, embodying enthusiastically a 12 year old and brings equal weight to his reflection as an older narrator. However, as time passes, Ben makes the audience aware of something that Amir never quite realises. He is as much a victim (albeit to a far lesser degree) of Assef’s violence as Hassan and certainly of his father’s coldness and – as becomes apparent – lies.

In a stellar cast of consummate professionals – it is impossible to understate the menace that Nicholas Karimi brings to the bully Assef. From the second he appears, spitting out insults and swaggering a la John Wayne; he dominates and intimidates. His interactions with Andrei Costin (in the dual role of Hassan and Sohrah) in particular are just harrowing.

One of the most lovely and touching aspects of a play that confirms, defies and compounds expectations (frequently in the same passage of dialogue!) is a character that emerges intact from the pages of the book. The sole (significant) speaking female role is that of Soraya, portrayed by Lisa Zahra. Though she only appears in the later sections of the play; she is the most honest and brave character – following her heart and owning her mistakes. On a male dominated stage; her every interaction with Amir is refreshing and cleansing – not necessarily what one is led to expect from a story set mostly in Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

The music throughout the play plays a powerful role and is primarily provided by Hanif Khan; an internationally renowned classically trained Indian musician and performer, who – like Ben Turner – remains on stage for the bulk of the performance. The melodies he provides both inform the story and provide emotional context. The music and sounds created by the cast provide an atmospheric backdrop; at once unobtrusive yet pervasive. A constant and haunting refrain throughout that serves as a reminder that while the story may be set in lands far away; the ultimate search for redemption is a universal one. That the sheer act of being human makes us strive to better ourselves, to make up for those things that we have done wrong, to seek to make amends…even when it is too late.

Adapted by Matthew Spangler from the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Music: Jonathan Girling
Director: Giles Croft

WYP_red_greyThe Kite Runner at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Buy tickets HERE

Visit the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre website HERE

Visit the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse website HERE

Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE

Theatre Reviews

February and March Choices

Hi all,

As I’ve been a bit out of things, I’m only just getting around to finding out what books are when. Please do let me know if I get the books in the wrong order, the dates muddled and so on!

Shall be aiming to catch up with emails and admin over the next fortnight – apologies if you’ve been waiting ages!!

February

  • 8th – Horsforth – The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
  • 12th – White Swan – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – TBA

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – TBA
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

happy-reading

LBCWhiteswan non-picks

As you know we always have leftovers and it’s interesting to see what people put in.

Here’s the non-picks of November and January

The secret of not drowning-Colette Snowden

Anno Dracula -Kim Newman

The End of the world running club- Adrian j walker

Remainder – Tom McCarthy

White Teeth – Zadie Smith

The heart goes last – Magaret Atwood

Dark Matter – Michelle Paver

World War Z – Max Brooks

His Bloody Project Graeme Macrae Burnet

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson

Beloved (Toni Morrison Trilogy #1)  Toni Morrison

The Sympathizer Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Historian Elizabeth Kostova

The left hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin

 

Help fund the 10th Leeds Brownies trip to London!

browniesOur good friend and Eagle Owl @BookElfLeeds is raising money for her Brownies. Here’s why

When we asked our Brownies what they really wanted to do this year, they told us they wanted to visit London.

We’re a Leeds Brownie unit, based in LS4/LS6, for whom money is tight, and we’d love to give our girls, aged 7-11, the trip of their lives. For most of them it will be their first time visiting London, for some their first time away from home.

We’d love to make this as cheap a trip as possible so that ALL our Brownies can join us, and for that to happen we need your help!

Funds will go initially to cover transport and accommodation costs, and to buy food for the girls. If there is any left over we’d love to have some thing special to look forward to, any suggestions let us know!

We’re travelling down in February. The girls are planning a fundraising Christmas Fair (more details as and when) and our plucky Eagle Owl Jess is going to complete the Leeds Country Way-a 63 round trip all around Leeds-all to raise money.

If you can spare a fiver, that would pay for tea for one of the girls. We’re grateful for every penny and will keep updates on things we’re planning, and let you know how the trip goes!

You’ll be making twenty little girl’s wishes come true with every donation-on behalf of them all THANK YOU for your very kind donations.

If you have a moment, please check out the JustGiving page here!

Convinced? Donate HERE!

 

What’s on When

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No Man’s Land at Sheffield Lyceum

Or ‘ that time I saw Magneto and Cap’t Picard on stage together’

no mans 1

No Man’s Land blurb

Following their hit run on Broadway, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart return to the UK stage in Sean Mathias’ acclaimed production of No Man’s Land, one of the most brilliantly entertaining plays by Nobel Prize laureateHarold Pinter.

One summer’s evening, two ageing writers, Hirst and Spooner, meet in a Hampstead pub and continue their drinking into the night at Hirst’s stately house nearby. As the pair become increasingly inebriated, and their stories increasingly unbelievable, the lively conversation soon turns into a revealing power game, further complicated by the return home of two sinister younger men.

What a strange, intense, odd play. I’m  not sure that I ‘got it’ necessarily, but I was enthralled throughout!

Harold Pinter wrote this absurdist play in 1974 and it has either delighted or confused all who have watched it ever since. Hirst – portrayed by Patrick Stewart – is a wealthy, aristocrat, patron and poet. His former Oxford friend Spooner – brought to life by Ian McKellen – is also a poet, but one who has fallen on much harder times. In the initial stages, Hirst is cold and almost rude to his guest, sometimes appears confused as to where he is and who he is with; while Spooner is a long winded, obsequious leach. However, as the show progresses, Hirst has a second wind and the two alternate between reminiscing and baiting one another.

RANDOM FACT – Each character is named after an English cricketer.

The stage setting managed to be both lavish and minimal. It is obviously a very grand room, high ceilings, a well stocked bar discretely placed at the back. However, there is only one comfortable chair – at all times reminding us of Hirst’s status and only two less comfortable chairs scattered throughout the room. I found the negotiation for the chairs – when all four character all onstage, one is conspicuously left standing – to be particularly interesting.

It feels almost unnecessary to speak to the quality of the players. From the second that the (somewhat creepy) moving forest backdrop lifts and Sirs Ian and Pat presented, I was locked into place, utterly focused on the stage. Due to their characters ancient competition and utter inebriation, Spooner and Hirst attempt to one up one another, with increasingly ridiculous assertions and anecdotes. The sheer verbosity of the characters – let alone their ability to articulate some really peculiar lines – and that they remain compelling throughout – well, I personally did feel like I was watching two grand masters of the stage at work. Even though I’m not sure I was following the Pinter side of things at all; it was a privilege to watch.

no mans 2

Owen Teale and Damien Molony in their supporting roles of Briggs and Foster were equally impressive. Their motives – heck, even their relationship with Hirst – is never really clearly delineated and each appears to regard Spooner as a nuisance and a threat. Their presence alone ups the tension levels, as well as introducing a physicality previously lacking. For the first time, there is an undercurrent of violence – it directly ties into Hirst and Spooner’s history, but is separate from it. Really odd, but quite powerful. That the actors managed to apply such nuance to their characters (a few of us speculated about their characters backstories, friendship, protectiveness and so on for some time after the curtains closed!) in such a short span speaks to their respective skills. Irritatingly, I was well into the second half before I recognised Molony from Being Human and Ripper Street – he is transformed in this.

The show ends ambiguously. At least, I think it does. We certainly had lots of questions as we headed out. A new friend, who happens to be a nurse, and I speculated as to whether Hirst had dementia? Was Foster really his son – and he had forgotten it? Would that explain why he knew Spooner one moment, and not the next? How had Foster and Briggs met – from Foster’s point of view? Was Spooner actually the most genuinely masculine, owning his cringing self, while the others puffed out their chests in a show of Alpha status…Did any of this actually have anything to do with anything?

It’s my favourite feeling walking out of a theatre.

Personally, I would recommend this showing and this cast to anyone. However, I would normally be a lot more circumspect in pushing Pinter onto others as I do find his work to be really dense and locked into a particular time frame and context.

Embarrassing aside – there’s a moment where Hirst (Patrick Stewart) face plants onto the floor. For one second, I honestly thought that my Captain had just collapsed on stage, before cottoning onto the fact that Ian McKellen was still in character. I wasn’t the only one either – there was a proper gasp and an ‘oh shit no’ from others in the audience too.

Massive thanks to @HalfPintBlonde for inviting me to join in on this lovely day out. My first ‘live’ Pinter (boy, does his stuff make marginally more sense on a stage as opposed to on the page), my first theatre trip in FAR too long and my first proper visit to Sheffield ever!

By Harold Pinter
Directed by Sean Mathias

Ian McKellen – Spooner
Patrick Stewart – Hirst
Owen Teale – Briggs
Damien Molony – Foster

The Lyceum

lyceumIt would be terribly neglectful not to acknowledge the beautiful setting for this production. The Lyceum opened its doors in 1897, though there has been a theatre on the site since at least 1879. It dates from the Edwardian era  – in fact it is the only surviving theatre build outside of London by esteemed architect W.G.R. Prague (ain’t wikipedia grand!) and has Grade II listed status.

Capable of housing an audience of 1000; it doesn’t feel like a grand space. There is an intimacy and friendly atmosphere that permeated throughout – most notably in the stalls which were a bit on the squeezy side, but I always think that encourages chatter with your neighbours, so for me a solid positive! (Oh and when you exit, there is this weird TARDIS like staircase where you seemed to go down far more stairs than you ever went up. Kinda cool.)

 

SheffieldTheatresSheffield Theatres

Buy Tickets HERE

Tweet @SheffieldLyceum

 

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Sheffield Theatres is the largest theatre complex outside London. Across our three auditoria: the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Crucible Studio, we offer a huge variety of home-grown and touring productions, as well as a thriving programme of participatory events and activities.

PROMO – Open Letters at Hyde Park Book Club

Recently I received an email from Open Letters – letting us know about their upcoming event. We both attended MINIcine at few months back for Never Let Me Go, so they immediately thought of book club when laundching their own literary based event!

Looks like it could be a giggle – do report back if you attend!

OPEN LETTERS

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Date: 13th of July 2016

Time: 7:30 pm

Venue: Hyde Park Book Club

Contact: openlettersleeds @ gmail.com

 

AN EVENING OF LETTERS, READ ALOUD.
Fiction & Nonfiction.
Open Mic: bring a letter to a person, place, or thing. read it aloud.

We will also write letters.
Paper & envelopes will be provided.

FREE EVENT

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