Hamlet: Revised Edition. (The Arden Shakespeare). Edited by Neil Taylor and Ann Thompson.

Books In an effort to acknowledge the passage of time and how even some of their Third Series publications might require some reconsideration, as scholarship begins on the Fourth Series, Arden presents this revised edition of Hamlet, first published in 2006 with some thirty extra pages inserted to present additional scholarship and further productions and publications.  For some reason, having gratefully received review copies of the plays for some years now, in my memory I'd already reviewed the earlier version and was all ready to simply link back to my opinion with some necessary amendations of that opinion.  But it appears not.  Right, then.

The Arden Hamlet was and is groundbreaking for presenting all three extant Hamlet texts, first Quarto, second Quarto and first Folio (ignoring later reprints) across two publications and treating them as separate entities worthy of study in and of themselves.  All three texts contain lines and scenes which don't appear in the others or in the case of the first Quarto whole sections which are simply different, some would argue incoherent and there's been much discussion as illustrated by the authors in their introduction as to exactly where they came from before they were published in this editions.

Previously, with the exception of facsimiles, editors have taken it upon themselves to try and create a "right" or "ideal" version of the play, attempting to reproduce "what Shakespeare intended".  This led them to either choose the second Quarto or Folio as their base text (and including variations at the end) or as was customary for years, and often still is, a conflation, drawing together all three texts, compiling a version which mixes together the three texts.  Before I became a fan, I assumed there was only ever one text of Hamlet, the conflated version, surely studied much in schools for many years and was amazed to find that simply wasn't what Shakespeare wrote.

Taylor and Thompson take the view that because can't really know the origin of the texts before they appeared in the relevant publications and that it's their job as scholarly publishers to present the texts in as readable editions as possible that they should, with the exception of modernising the text and "fixing" error in the original printing,  present them pretty much as is.  For more on the implications that has on the Q1 and F1 texts, see my original review of the accompanying volume containing those texts.  For all its textual "faults", Q1's scene structure has become pervasive as a signpost for directors seeking to the cut the text.

The evidence based approach pervades the publication, as the authors seeking to present the arguments of previous scholars whilst enunciating just how much assumption and hearsay has seeped into scholarship, the need to back-up shaky arguments transforming maybes into certainties.  We can't know exactly the relationship between the various texts whether they're successive rewrites, alternative versions for different venues and even if Shakespeare himself had a hand in their preparation or another hand.  But scholars across history have become lost up numerous blind alleys.

The structure of the book is standard Arden with the "eclectic" approach of the Third Series allowing the authors to choose the topic which mostly interests them.  Here that means that although some lip service is given to the psychoanalytic approach to Hamlet's character, the discussion focuses primarily, across the introduction and appendices, on the textual matters and discrepancies which then feeds into a production and publication history hinting towards a suggestion that the interpretation methodologies of editors, actors, authors and directors converge.

The decadal update extends these themes with the inevitable mismatch between four hundred and then ten years being concentrated on in similar number of pages.  The authors also bravely include criticism of their original publication, from the decision to treat Q1 with the same respect as the other versions to individual choices within the actual text.  Inevitably there's still an obvious cut off point, as the text doesn't noticed that Maxine Peake's performance was filmed for release and there's no mention of the Radio 4 Afternoon Drama production starring Jamie Parker.

Nevertheless, of all the Hamlet editions available this is the publication I'd recommend to anyone seeking a scholarly edition of the play and have on numerous occasions.  Reading appendix 2, which carefully unpicks the differences between the texts and the misapprehensions wrought on them across numerous publications was the first time I really became suspicious of scholarly motive and realised that there isn't one Hamlet.  There's what's in the original text and then the hundred of different versions since, on the page and on the stage.

Hamlet: Revised Edition. (The Arden Shakespeare). Edited by Neil Taylor and Ann Thompson is published by Bloomsbury. £8.99 paperback. ISBN: 9781472518385.  Review copy supplied.

A Viewing Order For Star Trek.

TV Well, I tried. With all of television Star Trek materialising on Netflix UK yesterday, I thought it might be an idea to put together a viewing order. Two hours later amid episodes without stardates, faulty memory after having not seen most of these episodes for twenty years and trying to get my head around the business of meshing the three 80s/90s series together I closed my Access databases and Excel spreadsheets and googled Star Trek viewing order in much the same way as people seem to be finding my Doctor Who list.

Happily someone else has done the spade work and utilising much the same methodology I was and would have done, placing Enterprise's These Are The Voyages… with TNG's The Pegasus and smoothing over continuity errors and broadcast dates generally messed up because someone in the Trek office wasn't paying attention to stardates when sending the scripts down to the sound stage or audio recording booth.  You can see the writer pulling their hair out trying to fit Insurrection somewhere in much the same way I did when faced with Doctor Who's Planet of the Dead.

About the only omission is the animated series, which Paramount recently decided is canon after all and I was planning to drop in between TOS and TMP.  It's here that the T in James T Kirk was originally revealed to be Tiberius and it has the brilliant The Lorelei Signal episode in which Uhura, Chapel and the female members of the crew have to take over the running of the Enterprise.  The Wikipedia page reveals a ton of other connections including the news that Manny Cotto was planning to include the Kzinti in a fifth season of Enterprise.  Sigh.

That watchlist also reveals, including the animated show, if you did want to binge your way through all of Star Trek, you're looking at a mountain about 728 odd episodes and movies high which would take two years to work through assuming you're just watching one episode a day.  It took me a year to do Doctor Who, but only because of the month in the middle when I was prepping and then recuperating from my hernia operation so did nothing but watch Doctor Who for two months.  Plus in this instance you're at the mercy of Netflix and just how long they have the rights.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted.  Before Doctor Who, Trek was my franchise of choice (see here) and I still haven't seen the last two seasons of Voyager.  But I'm still ploughing through the tail end of Gilmore Girls as well as a pile of other stuff waiting to go and there aren't enough hours in the day.  But I rewatched TNG's Parallels last night and was engulfed by waves of nostalgia as I remember just how much the teenaged version of me loved the show (and Marina Sirtis) even if some of the acting is just the right side of creaky.  Oh sod it.  Broken Bow, here I come.

Shakespeare at the BBC: Talawa Theatre Company's King Lear.

Shakespeare Big news. Talawa Theatre Company's King Lear, recently at the Royal Exchange in Manchester with Don "Rassilon" Warrington in the title role is to appear on the BBC iPlayer for three months. BBC News has the news:
"The critically-acclaimed production also featured Philip Whitchurch, who appeared in The Bill and My Hero, and former Emmerdale actor Wil Johnson.

"The film has been funded by digital commissioning body The Space and will be made available across a range of platforms including cinema over the next year.

"The Space's chief executive Fiona Morris said the move would "ensure that the audience for this powerful production continues to grow".

"King Lear: the Film is being included on the BBC iPlayer as part of the corporation's Shakespeare Lives digital festival."
I'd add the usual grumble about why this isn't on BBC Two on a Sunday night, but since I barely watch linear television at all now it hardly matters.

Vogue 100 at Manchester Art Gallery.

Fashion In an attempt to take a break from hearing about the total destruction of our way of life (or whatever this is) for a few hours, yesterday I travelled to remain-stronghold Manchester for the Vogue 100 exhibition which has toured from the V&A up to Manchester Art Gallery. This didn't quite work. Included in the exhibition is a shot of BoJo sat on a girder in front of the Anish Kapoor piece during the 2012 Olympics. Little did any of us know back then he would help bring about the destruction of Western democracy just a few years later, the fuck.  Another visitor took a photo of the mop headed uruk-hai's image.  Why on earth would you want to do that?

Despite being a normcore, man at Asda type, I've always had a deep fascination for haute couture and fashion design.  Note this does not stretch to me understanding the mechanics of how these dresses are made exactly, but it's always felt like a shorthand way of being able to appreciate history and who we are as a people.  Recently fashion feels like it's stagnated, clothing worn on the street a mish-mash of recent decades, but that in and of itself says much about our own times.  My #ootd was a red t-shirt sporting the 70s Wonder Woman logo, which is pretty much what I wear all the time, a design classic, I'm sure you'll agree.

Not that this has stretched to buying fashion magazines but I've recently kept an eye on Vogue, led in no small part by watching The September Issue, the expose/advertumentary about the production of the most important issue of the year for the US publication, highlighting the personality of its editor Anna Wintour (who must have been one of the influences for the Cat Grant character in TV's Supergirl).  The notion of a magazine which sits slap bang in the middle of promoting artistic expression for the purposes of selling clothes or at least the idea of a lifestyle to people who aspire to at some point being able to buy versions of the clothes in the high street depending on their credit rating.

VOGUE 100 is a celebration of the history of the UK magazine, concentrating on the photographers commissioned across the years and the models who sat for them.  Although the fashions are inevitably mentioned, this is not a chronology of clothing, at least not in a definitive sense.  It's more about how the magazine sensed trends and portrayed them, and built the careers of photographers and models, highlighting the more seismic shifts and the occasions when the magazine even led those trends, which is more often than not.  There are a couple of moments when the only response is "Oh, so that where that came from..."

Boldly the exhibition begins with the 2010s and works backwards across the decades.  At first this seems counter intuitive, as you know my usual taste is for a good hard chronology, but it makes sense in this context, to begin with the way we live now and work backwards, demonstrating the key influences and how the structure of fashion photography has or hasn't changed across the decades.  Plus it allows for an impressive introduction to the show filled with dynamic images of royalty, surreal dreams of models in bed with crocodiles or dreams of their fighter pilot boyfriends manifesting in their front lounge.

The key revelation for me is that in Vogue and other fashion magazines we're seeing the modern replacement for the paintings of the Renaissance, baroque and Victorian eras, of women in allegorical and narrative poses.  Even designed as they are for consumption in magazine form, none of these photographs, even the more genetic portraits, feel out of place or over elevated within a gallery space.  They're often as startling, exciting or surprising as those masterworks and although the production time is far shorter, the inspiration and creative process mirrors them in a number of crucial ways.  There's little ephemeral about this supposed ephemera.

There's Kate Moss in her first shoot for Corine Day back in 1993, entirely unpretentious launching a career in some high street clothing shot against a cheap carpet, like a Sundance movie taking on the Hollywood might of the supermodels, Kristy, Naomi, Cindy.  The original print of their collective cover is displayed nearby and they're ravishing, commanding, a collective sisterhood of dragon mothers ready to rule the galaxy.  The exhibition is strong on marking how our connection to these figures has changes across the years.  It wasn't until the 1940s that the "average" model was anywhere close to being a household name.

Vogue has also had a strong editorial undercurrent.  When the magazine began, fashion drawings were accompanied by a rich seam of articles about culture, music and art and literature, initiated by editor Dorothy Todd who published a couple of hundred articles by the Bloomsbury group amongst other things.  Her interests were unpopular and there was a drop in circulation, but nevertheless later editors recognised how useful this balance could be, with Lee Miller's reporting from WWII and more recently articles about the plight of the homeless and other social problems.  Perhaps one of the frustrations of the exhibition is that the example articles aren't presented in their entirety.

The other frustration is me not really being the audience for this.  Although I've heard of some of the designers, my knowledge of who they are or what they do is minimal.  I envied the visitors who pointed amongst their friends, perhaps picking out the kinds of clothes they've worn or would like to wear.  Eventually I realised it was ok just to enjoy looking at the photos and it is one of those exhibitions where there is no filler.  You might disagree with the subjects on display, although I understand why Thatcher's here, but it's never boring.  I gasped numerously.  There are plenty of images which wouldn't look out of place at the Liverpool Biennial.

But however many shots of by Bruce Weber of Matt Dillon there are, men's fashions remain incredibly boring and rarely beautiful in the same way as an Alexander McQueen or Coco Chanel dress.  Hell, even the average Marks and Spencers top is more interesting than what men have to wear no matter how metrosexual the cut is supposed to be.  Even as a teenager I was moaning about how women have so much more choice and that stands, we have no equivalent to the halter top or little black dress.  Sarongs do not work.  There was a lot of envy being thrown about yesterday afternoon, and no a velvet jacket is not the same.

A couple of things to note in case you decide to visit.  At the entrance to the show is a video demonstrating the shift to online presentation of the fashions through moving image which has an incessant, repetitious piece of what I think is trance music underneath which can be heard throughout the exhibition so you'd be well to bring some music if you haven't company.  I worked through both Taylor Swift's 1989 album and the new All Saints both of which seemed apt for this material.  Taylor does not appear in the exhibition itself which relies more heavily on actresses, Gwyneth, Salma and Uma before she was famous.  Each is provided with a context explaining film had just been released.

The show also has an audio guide, something which I didn't realise until half way round when it was pointed out to me by an invigilator after I asked why one of the labels featured a wifi logo.  "Did you not read the text before coming in?" he asked before dragging me outside to show me the URL to this page which necessitated me going through the 70s-2010s all over again adding half an hour to the visit.  Narrated by Dervla Kirwan, it's more like an audio commentary featuring the curators of the show explaining their curatorial processes, which can be a bit dry.  There's a solitary piece of interview with Lily Cole about the photography process and I would have liked much more of that.

After having had to double back, I think I was in the exhibition for about four hours not including the break in the middle for lunch, and it still didn't feel like enough.  I savoured a lot in here, awash and absorbed by all of the beauty.  The curators say they designed the exhibition to partly mimic the experience of reading a magazine, but despite everything Vogue on paper fulfils the utilitarian requirement of advising readers on fashion trends however artistically, whereas in a gallery context, the role is reverse and they become art objects in and of themselves and on that basis I'd recommend it to anyone.

Sugababes announce new album.

Music  Siobhan's announced that she Mutya and Keisha are releasing a new album next year.  Even as the world fall down around our feet, it's good to know that some things are as reliable as they always where, not the actual album, of course, but the announcement that there's going to be a new album.

Speaking to Wandsworth Radio (which is a brilliant detail) during the local LGBT+ Pride, a date has been set, preparations have been made. Here's the main quote. See if you can spot the most interesting part of the story:
"Sugababes have got a record coming out next year. I can’t tell you the exact date. I know, but I can’t tell you. It’s next year."
Not MKS, Mutya Keisha and Siobhan, but Sugababes. Does this mean they're re-obtained the name somehow?  Am I going to have to through and change all the labels on these blog posts?

Anyway, seventeen years later, we dare to dream again.


Soup Safari #66: Broccoli and Stilton at Manchester Art Gallery Cafe.

Lunch. £3.95. Manchester Art Gallery Cafe, Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3JL. Tel: 0161 235 8888. Website.

My Favourite Film of 1940.

Film For quite some time, I was in two minds about the notion of an in-vision announcer presenting films, either as part of a strand or the house style of a television network. Being something of a spoiler phobe to the point of trying not to discover too much about a film beyond who's in it and what's on the poster, the idea of someone providing an introduction should be anathema.

Done badly, and I've seen this done very badly, the critic offers too much of an analysis, almost assuming we've already seen the film and in the worst case giving away the ending. At their best, they give some information as to how the production was initiated, how it fits in the time period, themes and ideas to look at for and generally a sense of celebration and excitement about what we're going to witness.

Sometimes they're included on dvds, Leonard Maltin popping up to present a "Night at the Movies" on the Warners dvds which also include an animation, short documentary or drama, a bit of newsreel and an introduction to the main presentation, providing a flavour of the context in which the film would have been originally shown, albeit in a much smaller auditorium.

But thanks to YouTube many of these old and some new introductions are available so should you not want to go into a film without some back-up, you can always watch someone against a white background or sitting on a study set offering some guidance. Here's a short guide and some examples of the kinds of introductions available.


For decades, since its launch in 1994 TCM has utilised researched in-vision introductions to their films during prime-time as way of setting themselves apart from other film channels who almost seem annoyed that they have to interrupt the commercials with content. Here are a couple of examples featuring stalwart Robert Osborne introducing His Girl Friday, my favourite film of 1940:


Doesn't need much of an introduction and indeed there's a website with a wealth of information about this 80s and 90s BBC Two cult film strand usually broadcast on a Sunday night. YouTube is filled with the introductions by Alex Cox and his successor Mark Cousins. Here's Cox's intro to what would be my first viewing of The Terminator in 1990 at the age of sixteen:

Here's Mark Cousins's first introductory gig for Scarface, again the first (and last time) I saw that film:

Booklets were published listing the films in Moviedrome with some of the text from Cox's introductions and you can download these from his website.

Film Four

Film Four's channel is awash with film introductions. Some were recorded for broadcast before films, others to fill the gaps between as publicity for some new release. Some are with directors and actors and some of them are with critics, notable Mark Kermode who himself used to present horror films on Channel 4 as a rival to Moviedrome.

Mark Kermode's Movie Club

A short lived attempt by Kermode to resurrect a version of Moviedrome, introducing his favourite films via the Kermode & Mayo YouTube channel. Here he is on Breathless:

BFI Player

Now a hyperbolic Kermode has a regular gig introducing weekly selections from the BFI Player's catalogue. On Brief Encounter:


The easiest way is probably to the search for the name of the film and whatever the strand is and see if anything crops up. The other seam is the Q&A often recorded at film festivals in which director and/or cast were present for a screening of the film and although the results can be interminable, with the correct moderator they can be fascinating. Here's a bootleg recording for the TIFF Q&A for St Vincent:

An official BFI Q&A about the Shaun The Sheep film: