Gormenghast: Titus Groan at Covent Garden

I’ve got invitation to 3 different bookish events in the period of 2 months, which I found amazing, considering how I have turned into a casual blogger. This whole casual thing might just work after all!

So last weekend I was invited to a play of Gormenghast: Titus Groan by Blackshaw Theatre at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden. I was so excited! I love love play and theatre. (Did I tell you I was in theatre club in high school?) And one that is adaptation from a book is a plus. I have not read the Gormenghast series (starting from Titus Groan, which is what the play is based on), but I’ve heard of it and I also went to the Mervyn Peake exhibition of illustrations and handwritten pieces at the British Library a while ago. It was wonderful! (On that day I went for Neil Gaiman panel talk and met Nymeth and Sakura for the first time. I just remember about that and just realized I forgot to write about it here – or maybe was just lazy.)

I love Peake’s illustrations. And from what I heard from people, like Dickens, he created great characters. I was so happy to find out that this is true! The characters were interesting and the casts of the play have portrayed them wonderfully. My absolute favourites were the two sisters Lady Cora (Angela Ferns) and Lady Clarice (Clare Harlow), who talked and moved in unison, in equally tilted body position, both wearing purple dresses, and have this dumb (but adorable) look. For me they almost stole the show! It’s hard to imagine for them to be described better in the book (in the whole book is always better argument). Other standout performances were the Doctor (Alexander Pankhurst) and the Nanny (Sarah Shelton), both hilarious in their own ways. But really, I thought everybody was excellent and so dedicated!

Moving back a little bit, for those of you who don’t know much about the book, Titus Groan is set in this gothic castle somewhere in a high mountain, which has been there for centuries and has pretty rigid custom and inheritance line. Titus is the baby of the Lord of the castle who’s just been born and is the next in line for the throne. (Interestingly though his name is in the title, he’s just a baby, so takes no real part in the scene.) The main character really is Steerpike, the ambitious kitchen boy who does everything he can to go up the ladder with the purpose to overtake the throne one day. But the castle is a crowded place, so we have lots of characters, each with their own interest and problem: the Lord Groan and his wife (yes Groan is their family name!), the eldest daughter of the Lord, the twin sisters of the Lord, the Lord’s personal assistant, the nanny of the baby, the family doctor and his sister, the chef, the Library Lord, plus a bunch of minor characters – some I’m sure have been cut off from the book in the play. After seeing the play I would really like to read the book! And apparently there is BBC mini series based on the book series so I might check out that one too.

So back to the play, my only quibble is that they did not use microphones. Which kinda reminded me of high school time, because we also had the same problem. We did lots of exercise to talk loud and clear, but it’s always tricky to reach all the audience. In Gormenghast play we sat on the third row, and at the beginning it was really hard to comprehend anything they said. The church was a good idea for doing a play, but it was quite echo-ey. It got much better after a while – probably because we got used to it. But still the problem stayed when the characters were positioned further from us or when they spoke not in our direction. Understandably good microphones and sound system are expensive, but it would definitely be a worthy investment for future plays! We sat on the third row from the front and I imagine the people at the back might have more difficulties in catching the words, though I appreciate the team really tried to use the space and moved around, not solely stayed at the front stage.

All in all it was a lovely night and we really enjoyed it. It was quite a unique venue with wonderful performances throughout. I would like to thank Cole and the Blackshaw team for inviting us. I’m gonna keep an eye on their future plays :)

Mee in front of the church

Mee in front of the church. The blossoming flowers were so pretty!

inside the church

Inside the church with my companion for the night at the corner. I wish I had taken pictures during the play! My phone died just before the play started. Have to be more ready next time

gormenghast

Gormenghast: Titus Groan at St Paul’s Church (11-14 April 2012)

 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

the handmaid's tale

I don’t remember the last time I read a book that I totally did not want to put down. Probably Room, which I finished a couple of years ago in 7-8 hours plane ride, and I would say The Handmaid’s Tale is a better book (though completely different, so I don’t know why I made the comparison). Considering how long it takes for me to finish one book these days, I finished this one in a breeze! I spent a couple of weekends just reading for hours, which I also don’t remember the last time that happened.

I’ve read only read Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood before this one, which I wasn’t too impressed of. I’m still not sure if I like her writing style from reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I found it a bit… choppy at times. And it’s not like I’m a fan of dystopian stories, which seems to be the topic she embraces the most. I would really like to read Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin though. I also have Cat’s Eye somewhere in my piles.

All in all, I really liked The Handmaid’s Tale. The way it is written by revealing a little at a time made me want to read more more more and faster. Now I feel like reading another dystopian book, and I’m thinking of Orwell’s 1984. We’ll see.

4.5 stars
1985, 395 pp

sunny reading at kensington garden
Sunny day reading at Kensington garden

thehandmaidstale_movie
The Handmaid’s Tale, 1990, rating: 5/10

As always I could not resist a movie adaptation of a book I just read. Unfortunately the movie is such a silly rendition of a good book. It lacks all the suspense, subtleties, and claustrophobic feeling that the book does so well. You can safely skip this.

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