Macbeth (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series). Edited by Sandra Clark and Pamela Mason.

Theatre  After a couple of years away from the core series whilst they pay attention to other Early Modern Dramas, Arden returns to Shakespeare with their third edition of Macbeth. Glancing through the list which appears in this year’s Arden catalogue there aren’t that many plays still waiting for the edition uplift from the second and a glance through Amazon indicates that by September 2016 everything but A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be available. Not that it will end here; editors for the fourth series have already been announced with those editions due in the 2020 (which just demonstrates the lead time that some of these books require). How these will differ to the A3s, time will tell.

Anyway back at Macbeth and this edition edited by Sandra Clark, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies in the University of London and Pamela Mason currently a lecturer in English at the University of Birmingham. The former provides the introduction and discussion of textual legitimacy in the appendices, the latter is the editor of the text and provides the textual notes including editing justifications also in the appendices. There’s some heroism in this division of labour because while Clark’s work will implicitly be read by the book’s whole audience, Mason’s notes sit within an interstitial consultation space, only referred to if needed which is a shame because they contain a fascinating quantity of trivia.

The introduction freewheels around Macbeth ignoring anything like a traditional structure or reiteration of the usual themes, this being the sort of play for which there isn’t really a shortage of that sort of thing already. So we have a short discussion of Macbeth as an example of tragedy. A close textual analysis of the use of time in the play. It’s setting and realisation of Scotland as a geographical and historical event. A discussion of its sources but note, its adaptation from Holinshed rather than how that chronicler developed his version. Plus a theatrical “history” which chooses themes a key elements of the play, the extent of Macbeth’s culpability, the pre-eminence of the witches, the setting and how various actors and directors have treated the ending.

Much of this underscores that like most of Shakespeare's plays, Macbeth is set in "Scotland" rather than a real place, the the featured "history" is nothing of the sort and that when productions do affect accents and have the cast sweeping around in kilts they're deluding themselves with an approach which has about as much legitimacy as Hamlet wearing clogs and a fez whilst affecting a Scandinavian pronunciation.  Which isn't to say Scottish actors haven't made great Macbeths and there haven't been useful productions set in Scotland, it's just that the underlying elements of the play don't support it, not least because in other plays Shakespeare made the Scottishness of characters a key component.

As is also so often the case with these Ardens, my eye is caught in the appendices which is where the textual discussion resides. For decades, critical mass has focused on the notion that the version of Macbeth we have now is not as originally written by Shakespeare, that its single textual version as it appears in F1 has been interfered with or adapted by another hand, usually attributed to Thomas Middleton, largely because of the similarity with his own play The Witches, notably in relation to some songs. This led to Gary Taylor including the play in his Oxford Complete Works of Middleton’s plays and it’s this analysis that I’ve seen cited as an example of Shakespeare the collaborator.

Clark reiterates of all of these arguments at length with sources before, like so many A3 editors before her, stripping away the hearsay and presumption to reveal that we actually don’t know anything, that the evidence is circumstantial at best.  She cites an electronic analysis by Marcus Dahl, Marina Tarlinskaya, and Brian Vickers (which is available to read online here) which compares the supposed added passages with Middleton's work and doesn't find a match (though she does note that others have argued against their work because the Middleton database they used it incomplete.  But the general message is that just because the play is short and is interestingly structured in places doesn't mean any of it is missing.

Macbeth (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series). Edited by Sandra Clark and Pamela Mason. 2015. RRP: £8.99. ISBN: 9781904271413. Review copy supplied.

Film Handling.

Film .tiff's Reel Heritage event investigated the process of preserving the physical aspects of film and its two primary lectures with media archivist Christina Stewart are online. Firstly, here she is with a primer of all the different types of film available and their various aspects which will answer many, many of the questions which have been prompted by technical commentaries on dvd across time:

Next, here's Stewart leading a workshop on handling the actual film which is almost a piece of slow cinema in and of itself:

MARVEL Climaxes.

Film MARVEL have posted a press release about how the Avengers: Infinity Gauntlet films will be shot completely in IMAX or at least a joint customized digital version of ARRI’s new large format Alexa 65, with the directing Russos testing the technology on what's looking increasingly like the direct prequel, Captain America: Civil War.

First thing to notice is the mention of "IMAX's exclusive aspect ratio" which as anyone who's been following the tussle between actual IMAX and FauMAX will know is a bit of a moveable feast. Since its digital presumably this means the 16:9 like affair which usually turns up in the likes of The Hunger Games and Guardians of the Galaxy rather than the square frame that everyone expected when such things were shot on "film".

But buried in the text is this quote:
"The intent with the Infinity War films is to bring 10 years of accumulative storytelling to an incredible climax. We felt that the best way to exploit the scale and scope required to close out the final chapter of these three phases, was to be the first films shot entirely on the IMAX/Arri Digital camera."
Here we are then, actual notice that Infinity War is acting as a kind of season finale for the MARVEL Cinematic Universe.  Presumably it won't be the end of the end, unless the whole thing fails in the next year or so which seems unlikely given the box office cash Avengers 2: Ultron Boogaloo has made.  Plus there's bound to be a Guardians 3 not to mention 2s for any of the characters handed their own films in Phase 3.

But it will be the end of the Thanos's glove storyline and has the tantalising prospect of what will come afterwards.  Will it be something as intricate as the jewels business, and will it have tentpole features like the Avengers (assuming the Avengers films don't simply continue)?  My guess is still something along the lines of Secret Wars, or even Secret Wars, but I'll probably be in my fifties by the time that comes around ...

Updated later:

MARVEL have also published a press release about the start of production of Civil War. First of all, we have a "synopsis":
“Captain America: Civil War” picks up where “Avengers: Age of Ultron” left off, as Steve Rogers leads the new team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. After another international incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability and a governing body to determine when to enlist the services of the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers while they try to protect the world from a new and nefarious villain."
Which pretty much explains exactly how the adaptation is going to work and also how it puts Steve Rogers front and centre in the narrative and also a cast list, which is filled with the annoying "other films they've been in nonsense which I'll strip away to leave just a cast ... list:

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Paul Bettany as The Vision
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye
Don Cheadle as Jim Rhodes/War Machine
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch

I'm not sure that we understandably knew about Bettany before but there they are The "New" Avengers. But hold on, there's another paragraph ...

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man

Blimey. Oh hold on, there's some more:

Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter/Agent 13
Daniel Brühl
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow/Crossbones
William Hurt as General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross
Martin Freeman

Which makes this an even more stuffed movie than Avengers: Ages of Ultraman but can justifiably allow for some cameos. Black Panther's being introduced before his own film is out.

 But the real surprise here is General Ross as played by William Hurt as he was in the stand alone Hulk film with Edward Norton and what's interesting about that is that Mark Ruffalo suggested MARVEL didn't have the standalone rights to a Hulk film, those still being at Universal. Have those now reverted back to MARVEL in the time it's taken to produce Avengers or is Ross on loan somehow? What will his role be? On top of that, what do Daniel Brühl and Martin Freeman have to do with it? [Updated again: io9 has a potential explanation for why he's there]

Also in a vaguely related topic, Scarlett Witch has been retconned in the comic not to be Magnetos daughter and not a mutant presumably in an attempt to stop FOX retaining the rights. Perhaps at a certain point they'll decide there was no such thing as mutants and The X-Men have been Inhumans all these years ...

And on an unrelated topic, isn't it strange that MARVEL haven't schedule a film for November 2019? In 2017 and 2018 there are films out in May, July and November but there's a gap there. Hmm ....

Theatre on Television. Updates.

TV Having pleaded and implored for there to be more theatre on television, I was entirely remiss in highlighting the broadcast of Juliette Binoche appearance in Antigone at the Barbican on BBC Four the other week, directed by Tim Van Someren and now available on the iPlayer.

The presentation, from BBC Arts notice, not BBC Drama, was a near perfect demonstration of how theatre can work in the home, visually interesting and with performances that do translate, though it's also true that the heightened, deliberately theatrical requirements of the piece is a factor.

Also available to watch for the next week is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: From Page to Stage, a Learning Zone collaboration with the National about the making of the production featuring Nicola Walker from Spooks and Doctor Who.  That's also available as clips if you're reading this after that.

Election Day.

That Day Here we go then ... Norah Jones wrote the following on the eve of the 2004 US election but the lyrics feel just as valid in this moment too.

'Twas Halloween and the ghosts were out,
And everywhere they'd go, they shout,
And though I covered my eyes I knew,
They'd go away.

But fear's the only thing I saw,
And three days later 'twas clear to all,
That nothing is as scary as election day.

But the day after is darker,
And darker and darker it goes,
Who knows, maybe the plans will change,
Who knows, maybe he's not deranged.

The news men know what they know, but they,
Know even less than what they say,
And I don't know who I can trust,
For they come what may.

'cause we believed in our candidate,
But even more it's the one we hate,
I needed someone I could shake,
On election day.

But the day after is darker,
And deeper and deeper we go,
Who knows, maybe it's all a dream,
Who knows if I'll wake up and scream.

I love the things that you've given me,
I cherish you my dear country,
But sometimes I don't understand,
The way we play.

I love the things that you've given me,
And most of all that I am free,
To have a song that I can sing,
On election day.

Soup Safari #25: Potato and Leek at Left Bank Brasserie.

Lunch. £4.50. Left Bank Brasserie, 1a, The Beacon, Halsall Lane, Formby, Liverpool L37 3NW. Phone:01704 832342. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1997.

Film There have been some years in which it's been almost impossible to choose a single film. It's the plague of the cineaste. Some of us can say what their favourite film ever is (you'll see) but outside of that when faced with a limitation, a genre or year, we've seen so many worthwhile, good and potentially meaningful pieces of work that it's then impossible to tie things down.

Which is essentially me saying that although I've chosen The Fifth Element, it could equally have been Contact, Chasing Amy, Scream 2, LA Confidential, Men in Black, the various Star Wars rereleases, Titanic or The Peacemaker or a dozen other films that year which weren't made in Hollywood. Wilde. Smilla's Feeling For Snow. In The Company of Men. Shooting Fish.  1997 was some year.

I've chosen Luc Besson's The Fifth Element not just because I think it's a peerless example of production design, of fun and of how single characters like Milla's Leeloo can be so intriguing that they have the ability to eclipse the less impressive, well, elements like Chris Tucker's whatever Chris Tucker is doing and not just because  Eric Serra's soundtrack is also still one of my favourite records, alien and familiar, futuristic and contemporary.

But I also wanted to acknowledge the circumstances of when I saw it, at the second National Cinema Day.

National Cinema Day first happened on June 2nd 1996 on the hundredth anniversary of commercial cinema when I was just at the tail end of my final year of university and I spent the day at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds watching amongst other things, Wayne Wang's Smoke, a preview of the David O Russell comedy Flirting With Disaster and (I think) the rerelease of Withnail & I amid trailers for other upcoming attractions.

Here's a promotional film which was created for it that has one of the best pieces of unexpected swearing you'll ever see.

In 1997 I was back in Liverpool town where I was born and on Sunday 15th June was at a packed Odeon on London Road for the second go around.  As ever there was the usual mix of new releases, rereleases and preview screenings and as I write this remember the order.  The Fifth Element in the cavernous screen one then Scream (for the second time around) followed by One Fine Day, the underrated Pfeiffer/Clooney comedy.

Here's what I remember about seeing The Fifth Element.  Sitting in about five different seats.  With entry reduced to £1, packed auditoriums led to multiple code of conduct violations.  Even without mobile phones then people just didn't seem interested in bothering to watch the film presumably because it had only cost them a pound to get in.  So I moved around a lot trying to find a seat where I could actually concentrate on the film.

This wasn't helped either by two kids who kept throwing popcorn at the back of my head.  They followed me twice.  I'd settle down then there they'd be again and I'd feel something getting caught on my hair or bouncing off my shoulder.  Eventually they were chased out by ushers because someone else complained.  Which sounds like me passing the buck but really I've always found it easier to move than anything else.

National Cinema Day returned the following year but on that occasion tickets were "only" half price so my understanding is that attendances were much lower so it wasn't repeated which is a shame because it was a great way to promote cinema and increase audience numbers.  It'll be interesting to see the effect the end of Orange Wednesdays, its distant discount cousin will have on same.

Of course having written all of this, I've realised that the premise of this project has to change by a year. I was going back as far as 1897, but I'd not realised that the Lumiere Bros began commercial cinema in Paris in 1896 so I'll have to add an extra year on at the other end. Not that I'm sure what my favourite film of 1896 will prove to be but there's a high probability that the list of potentials will be shorter than from the mid-90s.

Talks Collection:
UK Parliament.

Politics Something a bit different this week, in this election week, which will shortly be over, thank goodness. In the midst of all the backbiting and shouting about who will form the next government, not much has been said about the institution of the parliament itself, which as anyone who saw Michael Cockerell's superb Inside the Commons series will know is just as much about a building as the people who work there.

The UK Parliament.  

Launched about six years ago, this YouTube channel collectively features short documentaries from the BBC and elsewhere about the chamber and how it works (many of which has seen service recently as filler between campaign events on the BBC Parliament channel) as well as snatches of the official tour, lectures from events inside and outside the building and key parliamentary sessions.

House of Lords.

The upper chamber has its own channel for some reason with plenty of much shorter interview snatches covering anecdotes about the place as well as explanations of their business.

TEDx Houses of Parliament

For the past three years, the House has hosted its own event with speakers including MPs, journalists and academics.  My initial plan for this post was to recreate the 2014 event here, but all of the events have been recreated on various pages linked here.  Last year began with an address from Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hansard Society.

"The Hansard Society believes that the health of representative democracy rests on the foundation of a strong Parliament and an informed and engaged citizenry. A charity, founded in 1944 and working in the UK and around the world, we are an independent, non-partisan political research and education Society devoted to promoting democracy and strengthening parliaments."

Historic Royal Palaces

For ceremonial purposes, Westminster retains a status as a "royal palace" and features on the fringes of their channel, though I also think that if we're talking about the history of UK government, you can't really overlook the importance of its predecessors, especially Hampton Court.

"One of the hardest companions to categorize is Compassion."

News Usually when the "mainstream" media covers Doctor Who, it's still with an eye to anything on television. Well then here's a fabulously off-piste list from the Houston Press, which currently has a shot of Kamelion on its front page and also goes here:
One of the hardest companions to categorize is Compassion. She was originally a human from a distant colony that through a series of bizarre accidents became a living, sentient Tardis in human form. At the time the Eight Doctor had lost his own Tardis and the Time Lords were looking to capture Compassion to breed their own fleet of sentient ships. This led The Doctor, Fitz and Compassion to go on the run using her as a portal through space and time. Eventually she returned The Doctor to his own ship and left to explore the universe. Like the rest of the Eighth Doctor novels this likely happened in an alternative timeline.
I'm assuming the image of Tenth talking to Frobisher is from one of the IDW comics by the Tiptons I didn't get around to reading.

Big Torchwood Finish.

Audio Not too long ago there were rumours of things going astray, and a great confusion as to where things really are, and nobody will really know where lieth in relation to new radio Torchwood. Here's Gen of Deek reporting John Barrowman mentioning them during an Arrow press conference. Everyone and but probably not his mother assumed that it would be in the form of another Radio 4 thing.

No. Actually in a moment which probably took everyone surprise which I missed because I was watching the astonishingly rubbish horror, Grace: The Possessed, Big Finish have announced they've secured the license from BBC Worldwide and are producing a series of six audio dramas starring Barrowman initially (and in the first one John Sessions, Sarah Ovens and Dan Bottomley).

Good grief.  I'm actually very pleased about this.  Other than Children of Earth, some of Torchwood's best hours were on audio both in the Radio 4 series and the linked audiobooks produced by AudioGo.  David Llewellyn wrote the very good PC Andy focused installment of those, Fallout, and he's the author/writer of the first release The Conspiracy (directed by Scott Handcock).  Here's the synopsis:
"Captain Jack [REDACTED] has always had his suspicions about [REDACTED]. And now [REDACTED] is also [REDACTED] about [REDACTED]. Apparently the world really is under the control of [REDACTED]. That's what [REDACTED] says. [REDACTED] have died, disasters have been [REDACTED], the [REDACTED] have disappeared.  It's outrageous. Only [REDACTED] knows that [REDACTED] is right. [REDACTED] has arrived."
Along with the UNIT news (and dare they cross them over?) this is Big Finish making strides into new Doctor Who. How long will it be now before we have announcement of new material for the 10th or 11th Doctor (with 9th about twenty years in the future when Eccleston mellows)?  We feel closer and closer to the tipping point.  McGann was five years on from his TV appearance when he began.  It's five years since Tennant left...

Black Widow Trailer.

Film Funnily enough I've been "campaigning" for years for MARVEL to make a rom com set in the MCU. Just not this. Obviously. The meta-irony in this is overwhelming.