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review 2018-06-01 19:42
#33 - Huis Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre
Huis Clos and Other Plays - Jean-Paul Sa... Huis Clos and Other Plays - Jean-Paul Sartre

This book is actually really dificult to review as it is not really a story. I've read excerpts of this at school and have been wanting to read it even since. I actually really appreciated it and it made me think about so many different things. It was a really intriguing and interesting read, I'm glad I finally took the time to read it.

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review 2018-05-10 10:36
Golden Child by David Henry Hwang
Golden Child - David Henry Hwang

From the author of the Broadway play M. Butterfly, Golden Child travels across time and place from contemporary America to mainland China in 1918 and depicts the challenges of a culture in transition to the influences of western civilization.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This play includes a scene describing a suicide being carried out. 

 

 

Playwright David Henry Hwang grew up hearing amazing, almost mythical stories of his great grandfather's life, a life crafted by the choice to swap Confucianism for Christianity, boldly breaking with Chinese tradition when he decided to let his daughter grow up with unbound feet. Such decisions would impact future generations and came to inspire Hwang to write the play Golden Child

 

The timeline of the story alternates between a small village in Southeast China during the Winter 1918 - Spring 1919 and Manhattan in the late 1990s. The opening scene combines the two when Andrew Kwong in Manhattan, awakens with a start one night, puts on a robe and begins to take on the personality of his grandfather, Tieng-Bin. Andrew converses with Ahn, his grandmother. She appears to him as a young girl of ten but her voice is that of an elderly woman. This conversation between them eases the audience into the transition to early 20th century China, where we are soon fully immersed. 

 

In the village of Amoy, we meet the three wives of Tieng-Bin, a prosperous land owner: first wife Siu-Yong, second wife Luan, and third wife Eling. Tieng-Bin has recently returned home after a three year absence. He'd been living in the Phillipines for business and now that he is back, man and wives settle into a nice dinner where everyone gets reacquainted. The conversation starts to shift into Tieng-Bin telling of his observations in the Phillipines, mainly the growing influence of Christianity and western culture throughout the area and how that got him thinking about his own upbringing. At first he claims that he merely finds western ideas interesting, the inventions amusing --- some of these inventions he presents to his wives as gifts. First wife Siu-Yong's response to her gift, a cuckoo clock, was the best: "I'm sure it will do wonders for my insomnia." 

 

His traditional wives are suspicious, especially 2nd wife Luan, who fears that their polygamous lifestyle will soon be threatened by Tieng-Bin's experiences. Though the play does incorporate serious cultural themes, the bickering and shade-throwing between the wives ends up offering comic relief. Though Siu-Yong is one of the most entertaining of the bunch at the start of the play, later on I was disturbed by the manipulative nature of some of her conversations with her daughter, Ahn (Andrew's grandmother from the opening scene). 

In the later portions of this story, Tieng-Bin introduces his wives to Reverend Baines, a minister from England Tieng-Bin became acquainted with during his travels. The wives come to know Baines as "white devil". At first I was confused as to why Baines' lines were presented in broken English, as this play is printed in English (my reasoning being "wouldn't the characters understand each other just fine?"). There aren't really too many clues within the text regarding language barrier. Then it dawned on me that what was likely going on was that Baines was probably actually speaking in poor Chinese, so, when translated, his words would come out as oddly constructed. But I do love Baines line that says "You must not fear to speak the truth you know in your soul."

While the story comes off somewhat light-hearted in the early scenes (but mildly snarky, hinting at underlying feelings of discontent to surface later), closer to the end there is a noticeable shift toward the more serious, as discussions between the characters growing increasingly tense as they all finally address the strains they feel as, culturally, the old ways clash against the new. 

"It's not that I want to forget my family, quite the opposite. But to be Chinese -- means to feel a whole web of obligation -- obligation? --- dating back 5,000 years. I am afraid of dishonoring my ancestors, even the ones dead for centuries. All the time, I feel ghosts -- sitting on my back, whispering in my ear -- keeping me from living life as I see fit.
>> Tieng-Bin



An interesting story, but one that didn't REALLY grab me til just before the climactic end. This script may fall under the type of plays where the words alone just aren't enough and perhaps infinitely more is gained by seeing it on stage.

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review 2018-04-24 15:53
Timon of Athens / William Shakespeare
Timon of Athens - William Shakespeare,Thomas Middleton

Timon of Athens is a bitterly intriguing study of a fabulously rich man who wastes his wealth on his friends, and, when he is finally impoverished, learns to despise humanity with a hatred that drives him to his grave.

 

This is probably the Shakespearean play that I like the least of those that I have seen thus far. The plot line reminded me strongly of many celebrities today, who have made a ton of money and don’t really pay attention to the details of it. They spend wildly on themselves and their hangers-on, and then suddenly find themselves bankrupt. Just as suddenly, all of their “friends” disappear, leaving them holding the bills. Timon follows this pattern to a T.

But, more often than not, today’s celebrities pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and reorganize their lives and end up living in a more modest, reasonable way. They realize their part in the whole debacle. Timon doesn’t—he blames everyone, even the people who tried to help him. And it’s all everyone else’s fault, he doesn’t accept a bit of blame for his misfortunes. He goes from one extreme to the other—from wealth to living in a cave eating roots. When he discovers buried treasure, instead of taking responsibility & getting his life back on track, he once again uses it to prove that he is hard-done by.

I can see why this play is rarely performed now—Timon’s form of self-denial after his ruin is hard for me to empathize with. I can understand being more careful in relations with other people, but I don’t understand his Unabomber-like withdrawal from human society. For me, roughing it is a cheap motel, so you won’t find me living in cave no matter how low my fortunes may fall.

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review 2018-03-28 18:52
Globe
Globe: Life in Shakespeare's London - Catharine Arnold

[I received a copy of this book through Netgalley.]

I love going to the Globe, although I can’t afford it very often (but I still try to enjoy at least a couple of plays a year, which is the least I can do considering I almost live on its doorstep by London standards ;)). My knowledge about how it came to be was a bit fragmented, so I was glad to be able to read this book.

Throughout it, you can feel the author’s passion for her subject—the device of fictionalising Shakespeare’s first visit to London isn’t what I’d expect from academic research, and I’m not sure it’s pareticularly welcome, but on the other hand, it’s definitely a window on that passion I mentioned, and is entertaining no matter what. It’s also a window on London at the end of the 16th and the early 17th centuries, and I admit I wish this window would’ve been larger, because I couldn’t get enough details on what the city must’ve looked and felt like at that time, all the more now that I can fully compare it to nowadays London (Shoreditch for Burbage’s original Theatre, Bankside for the Globe, the Rose and Blackfriars’ locations, and so on).

I appreciated that the book chronicled the building of the modern Globe, which I believe is as much part of that theatre’s history as the original one, for starters because it’s on its way to last just as long and possibly more, considering the length of its current lease. I learnt about quite a few interesting facts in both cases, from the controversy around Sam Wanamaker’s project (an American trying to resurrect the Globe! So shocking!) to how the original Globe came to be, built from the timbers of the Theatre that Burbage & Co happily scavenged to keep their dream going.

The book also sheds light on the political and social climate at the time, an interesting part since Shakespeare’s plays were often in accordance with current events for his public to better relate. On the other hand, I believe I spotted some factual mistakes that may have been corrected through more careful editing (but I’m not a specialist, so, well, for what it’s worth…).

Conclusion: A good introduction that paves the way for more reading, although not going in-depth.

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review 2018-03-26 20:27
Hamlet / William Shakespeare
Hamlet (Cambridge School Shakespeare) - William Shakespeare,Rex Gibson,Richard Andrews

I went to an encore screening of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch this weekend.  I went in a bit skeptical, thinking that he might be a bit too old to be playing the part of a young man in university, but he won me over.

 

Hamlet is my favourite Shakespearean play and it’s been a long time since I saw it performed.  It remains my fav, and I’m so impressed with how many quotes and sayings from the play are still widely used in current discourse.

 

The theatre, naturally, was filled with mostly grey-haired folk, so there was a bit of a universal snort when Hamlet tells his mother that she’s old and shouldn’t be interested in sex anymore!  Since this is the first time I’ve seen the play since losing my own parents, I found myself much more sympathetic to Hamlet’s situation however, expected to get over the death of his father in a mere two months! 

 

A most enjoyable experience.

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