Monday, 20 May 2013

My library / was Dukedom large enough

As you can tell from the title of this post, I saw The Tempest this weekend, at the Globe Theatre in London. The seating was hard and open to the air, props were minimal and the actors unaided by microphones. All very authentic, except for the distressing absence of jades, cutpurses, typhoid and the fragrance of Southwark in 1611.

Actually, the performance was rather wonderful. Prospero was wryly played by Roger Allam (Peter Mannion in The Thick of It), Miranda by Irish newcomer Jessie Buckley, Caliban by James Garnon and Ariel by the star of Merlin, Colin Morgan. They were superb, as were the supporting cast. Having taught The Tempest for several years, this production really demonstrated its dramatic qualities in surprising ways. In particular, the jokes worked, which is hard to pull off given the cultural gulf between then and now. Lots of physical humour (especially with codpieces), and a lusty version of Miranda. I hope the students on the trip enjoyed it - they seemed in high spirits anyway. I also got to meet one of my Twitter contacts in the flesh, which was lovely!

I did wonder about the Globe as a theatrical experience. Like going to performances of music on 'authentic' period instruments, I was wary of the possibility of experiencing it solely as a touristic curiosity - like going to a Sealed Knot Civil War re-enactment. You know - thrill to the rain and the smells and the backache and audience in the pit being sprayed by the actors - rather than experiencing the play for its intrinsic worth. And for the first few minutes I did watch the audience and admire the architecture and all that stuff, but the characteristics of this particular production soon took over and the experience rapidly became 'real' rather than an exercise in retro nostalgia.

I paid for the day's pleasure by spending yesterday marking dissertations. I seem to have hit a bad patch: a few unresearched, semi-literate, speculative ones. I now intend to automatically ban any thesis which claims to know what 'everyone' knows or does. As we keep telling the little darlings, 'the more sweeping the statement, the less likely it is to be true'. Statements like 'everybody knows' should be but into the same box as those starting with 'I'm not racist but…', which as we all know, actually means 'I AM a racist and…'.

I'm also sick of seeing 'would/could of', assertions that The Sun is a peer-reviewed journal, and dissertations which claim to analyse things using every single tool in the critical box. I've just read a thesis which claims to give a semiotic, Baudrillardian, Jamesonian and Bauman-influenced reading of 'the retro industry' (which 'everyone' is obsessed with, apparently). You wouldn't think they'd had an entire module on Research Methods…

Anyway, only 4 more dissertations. Then an MA thesis to read and 90 essays. All fitted round meetings. Wednesday: meetings at 10, 11, 12 and 2. And people wonder why I'm a grumpy red-faced blustering bully.

(And by the way, my library is languishing. Down to 2 additional books per week. Trips to the post room aren't nearly so much fun as heretofore).

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