What I’ve learned from “academic outreach”

As I go through my DPhil, I receive regular emails from my university/funding body encouraging me to embark upon “academic outreach”. Whether it’s pitching for a TV show or setting up a blog, there seems to be no end of encouragement for broadcasting research outside of the university’s ivory tower. And the arguments presented are... Continue Reading →

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Review: ‘King Lear’

Review of Creation Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’.

The Oxford Culture Review

2016 is proving to be the Year of Lear. Shakespeare’s most troubled tragedy seems to be dominating his anniversary year — it’s hitting stages with Anthony Sher and Glenda Jackson in the titular role, and has been the subject of both historical and performance-centered scholarship. It’s also Creation Theatre’s Spring production, currently running at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Oxford, as part of Oxford’s Shakespeare festival.

Creation Theatre set out to find ‘unusual spaces’ to stage their plays, and the Norrington Room has proved to be a pretty perfect space for King Lear. With audience members nestled among the alcoves holding volumes on philosophy, religion, and psychology, there seems to be no more fitting setting for Lear’s descent into madness. The written word is pivotal in Lear — miscommunication and manipulation largely occur via letter, when there is no physical presence to confirm or refute their meaning. So holding the…

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Review: ‘Noose’

Review of Anthony Maskell’s new drama ‘Noose’.

The Oxford Culture Review

Noose is something of a reviewer’s nightmare, as the entire drama rests on the (excellent) plot twist as the curtain falls. It’s almost impossible to give a proper opinion without significant spoilers. A new play by Anthony Maskell, it revolves around a couple’s final day together as one of them prepares to commit suicide. They’re interrupted by a blind pilgrim, whose presence begins to unravel their plan. Throughout, there’s a sense that you’re missing something, there’s something not quite right. And it suddenly makes sense as the play ends, and the audience is placed in the uncomfortable position of realising that they have fallen prey to the play’s premise — really, we don’t know people like we think we do. We see and hear what we want to and assume is correct, and in the process misunderstand ourselves as much as we do others.

The drama plays out in an…

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Review: ‘Thark’

Review of Clive Francis’s adaptation of 1920s farce ‘Thark’.

The Oxford Culture Review

Thark has earned the dubious accolade of being the play at which I have sustained the most bruises. It’s a rip-roaring adaptation of Ben Travers’s 1920s farce, which relies on exaggerated physical humour for a lot of its impact. Butlers career on and off the stage whilst country gents scurry about trying to placate their jealous wives — this is true slapstick territory. If you’re sat in the aisles there’s perhaps a little too much slap in the balance, having been on the receiving end of many a flailing limb. And this rather sums up the production as a whole. There’s much about it which is delightful and charming in its absurdity. But these elements are overpowered by comedy that is too obvious, and holes in the script that left the chaos that underlies the play rising to the surface a little too often.

Currently running at the Michael Pilch…

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