Bodily Fluids – January 2018

January was full of the best and worst of life!

I had two great acting projects with very talented and lovely people:

Acting Project 1 A new writing play, ‘Vaults’ by Jonathan Whiteside, already performed to delighted audiences as part of the Edinburgh Horror Festival in October 2017 (where people responded with the hoped for cries of both shock and laughter), and now touring to Dumfries and Galloway. I played the leader of a ghost hunting expedition with a twist – a great twist, and a great role!

Concerned Professor, Vaults
An audience member told me I was older in character, but then younger for the bow…
Bow, Vaults
Looking at pictures afterwards, I could actually see what was meant!

Acting Project 2 An excerpt of another new writing play also previously performed, but new for me. This was ‘Orlando’, adapted from Virginia Woolf‘s intriguing novel by Emily Ingram for Some Kind of Theatre. I worked on the role of Writer, a Woolf type figure, and research was also interesting for this – I looked forward to more, should another production take place after we performed the extract at the Formation Festival in February.

At home, though, there was much cleaning of bodily fluids from carpet, bed, toilet, hall, etc. which culminated in my mother being taken to hospital, where visits continued for some time before care resumed at home again later in the month.

I have been a carer off and on since I was a child, but for mental health issues. As a member of various care groups (including a co-founding member and committee member of Empathy in Mind), I have heard a lot about what people have to do to look after their loved ones. Being used to aspects of mental health caring, I am often in awe of how others manage with physical ailments. Now I had to step up to the plate here myself (with help from my brother).

Once again, life showed the human capacity to do what is required of us, and that assistance from others is very much to be sought as well as appreciated. In fact, from my experience, any ongoing ‘doing what is required’ does actually require help from others – else you can wind up as I did, back in 2015, having to take time out for a while simply to be able to function on the most basic level.

For anyone in an unpaid caring role, I urge you to find out what is available in your area if you have yet to do so. For Edinburgh, check out the Carer Programme at the Eric Liddell Centre, VOCAL and Care for Carers as a start – there is more available and these groups can signpost as well as help in their own ways.

Meeting with friends was also important and wonderful, keeping me smiling and capable, and then the importance of a great cast and production team was amply demonstrated when I briefly took ill myself…

I had a migraine for the first night of Vaults. This involved stopping the car repeatedly en route to the venue so I could be sick – more of those bodily fluids! – and finding a place for me to lie down while others did all the work of set up and preparation. Huge thanks to everyone involved in providing for me and looking after me!

And yes, I was able to perform – that old miracle Dr Theatre! Vomiting recommenced after the show, but at least it waited until we’d returned to our digs.

Shakespeare in January: Modern First Folio Edition play-reading of The Tempest, with director John Paul McGroarty joining us (and drawing Prospero in the cast lottery) – lots of interesting chat after, including re. Simon Russell Beale’s recent portrayal; actor Eliza Langland held a ‘Shakespeare Party’, which I reached in the snow on coming back from Dumfries and Galloway. We looked at scenes from ‘Macbeth’, swapping roles around. There was much hilarity, as well as Mackers and cue script exploring, and, of course, cake!

Note to self: I love working with others on ideas and development, and thoroughly enjoyed time spent with a friend looking at goals for 2018, using Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever course / book. That said, when it comes to focusing fully on such a project, I need my own space and time, in a concentrated block, in order to really benefit and move forward with this kind of work.

Coming up next month: Orlando showing, horror and more Mackers!


Cats & Dogs as Creatures Vile

Cats & Dogs - Cymbeline - 9th September 2018, Shakespeare Sunday

What a change in attitude towards those now our beloved friends!

“The queen, sir, very oft importuned me
To temper poisons for her, still pretending
The satisfaction of her knowledge only
In killing creatures vile, as cats and dogs,
Of no esteem”
Cornelius, Cymbeline V.5

I found this quote when looking for inspiration for today’s #ShakespeareSunday theme of Cats & Dogs on Twitter. Do get involved with this popular weekly game from Hollow Crown Fans on Twitter : there are always great quotes, gifs & other images to retweet, should you not be up for adding something yourself.

I was inspired to look for more about Shakespeare and animals – there’s a lot on offer! – and below are a few I found and have enjoyed, or am looking forward to exploring. Most are pretty general about animals and Shakespeare, but do check out the folklore link and the beasts one for historical attitude towards cats and dogs and other animals.

Shakespeare Gone Wild: Meet the Animals in the Bard’s Plays – Shakespeare quotes and photographs by Joel Sartore from National Geographic

Cat & Dog - Shakespeare & Animals

Shakespeare’s Animals – on animals within Shakespeare’s language, this is a ‘Teddy Talk’ from the University of Oxford (video + audio only)

Folk-lore of Shakespeare by T.F. Thiselton Dyer [1883] at – a listing of animals in Shakespeare with notes on quotes and folklore. Very useful for text work! You can see the difference in attitude to which I first alluded. The howling of dogs foretells death or misfortune (think of the Black Dog tales) & it looks like there were times when dogs were put to death simply because of the season of the year! One of the largest sections is on cats, including their connection to witches and witches turning into cats (apparently these witch-cats have “a great hankering after beer”), leading to some very nasty treatment.

Shakespeare’s Beasts – “Guiding us through Shakespeare’s menagerie,  [Laurie] Shannon provides a glimpse into the long history of how we talk about animals.” (YouTube)

Shakespeare Plays Re-imagined with Furry Animals – Mashable article with images about the book ‘Shakespeare in Fluff’


Shakespeare’s Animal House – how many animals mentioned by Shakespeare can you remember for this quiz? (There are a few little comments that can be fun, too, turning up sometimes for incorrect attempts. The first I saw made me laugh – I’d tried ‘roach’.)

And, of course, for more wonderful images, there are always Susan Herbert’s ‘Shakespeare Cats’!

Maya Angelou & Defeat

Maya Angelou on encountering defeats & not being defeated - Pinterest

Wonderful wisdom from Dr Maya Angelou interviewed by Marianne Schnall, including (among so much!) courage and courtesy, words and the arts, and the difference between being brought low and being reduced.

Continue reading Maya Angelou & Defeat

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Who is the “greatest director of all times”?

Great interview with Nigerian-British actor Chukwudi Iwuji, recently on BBC2 in the Anthony Hopkins ‘King Lear’ and currently playing Othello at Shakespeare in the Park, NYC.

There is a lot worth listening to, and here I’ve listed some favourites of mine – what would you pull out?

07:25 (10:25) “Steeped in the language”: the very sounds of the words, Shakespeare as “the greatest director of all times” – the importance of the language

11:50 (13:15) How Iwuji copes if he doesn’t feel something coming from another actor for him to respond to and he is “looking at dead air”

21:15 On Hamlet (including women playing)

23:00 On Ira Aldridge, great 19th century black actor

29:30 “Acting is happening constantly” for an actor, not just when in a job (part of the Q&A section that starts at 27:00)

So… what strikes you most?  Comment below!


Scarlet Pimpernel Returns to Stage

Leslie Howard & Merle Oberon in The Scarlet Pimpernel, dir. Alexander Korda

Predecessor to heroes from Zorro to Batman, that dashing, disguised saviour with a wonderfully entertaining – and seemingly indolent – secret identity, The Scarlet Pimpernel has long been a favourite of mine. I’ve read the original novel (and more, if I recall correctly) and on screen I’ve enjoyed the performances of Anthony Andrews (with Jane Seymour), Richard E. Grant (with Elizabeth McGovern) and the wonderful Leslie Howard, who played both The Scarlet Pimpernel and ‘Pimpernel’ Smith, the latter set in WWII.

Have you seen any of these? If so, which was your favourite? Comment below…

Now – to the stage! Thanks to a new play, I found out that Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel actually appeared on stage (1903) well before the first novel was published (1905).

The Scarlet Pimpernel is returning to the stage in a play by Helen Bang, directed by Jennifer Dick.

I was delighted to read the script a few years ago in its development period and have followed its progress since. You can now follow along online with Helen’s blog and the Pimpernel Productions website.

Check out the wit Helen is infusing the play with, and sense her joy in working with this special time and hero…

See the wonderful costume designs by Carys Hobbs and help The Scarlet Pimpernel buckle his swash across the stage:

The Scarlet Pimpernel - the original superhero - on stage - logo

Here’s to a rip-roaring, rabble-rousing, rotters-roasting return!