I did the worst thing the other day. Okay, not the worst thing. I didn’t murder someone or kick a kitten. But we had tickets for Macbeth and I completely forgot.
What kind of spoiled, privileged douchenozzle does something like that? I am so annoyed with myself I can’t even. I bought the tickets forever ago and we’d had a really busy week, what with various things going on and the jaunt up North, so it’s borderline understandable. But it’s still an entirely stupid, utterly frustrating thing to have done.
I consider it just reward for taking a time out in the shower to contemplate how dangerously happy I was feeling.
To be honest, I’m generally a bit leery of ‘big star’ productions. More by luck than judgement, I’ve seen a fair few in my time – the Tenant Hamlet (which, in my humble opinion, was largely stolen by Patrick Stewart’s urbane, mature and rather sexable Claudius), the McKellen Lear (which was … okay … but then I’m not a big fan of the play), Whishaw’s Hamlet, and yes I am obsessed with productions Hamlet and no Whishaw doesn’t really count as a ‘big star’ as he was fresh out of acting school at the time but, dammit, he’s a big star to me. It was your typical Whishaw performance really, delicate, raw, intense and broken. With lots of crying (the man could cry for England). And it blew my tiny mind.
If a person could give you Stendal syndrome, Ben Whishaw would be that person. He is like art personified.
I booked tickets for this one based solely on the silliness of the poster.
We were calling it, with affection rather than derision, The Badass Macbeth. It looks like it would secretly, or not so secretly, prefer to be Macbeth Versus Zombies. But, alas, this all the insight I can offer into the production because I fucked up and failed to attend. I’m sure it was excellent but, when you get right down to it, Shakespeare is Shakespeare is Shakespeare and – Whishaw aside – some of the most striking, meaningful and lasting performances I’ve seen have been provided by Just Some Dudes. I don’t mean to be all “ah the enduring genioos of the bard” but there’s simply nothing like seeing Shakespeare done with real passion. I saw a very exuberant 1.5 hr Titus Andronicus up in Edinburgh one year. It was slightly ridiculous (they seemed to have take ‘goth’ a little bit too non-literally and dressed them all in black PVC with lots of eye-make-up) and mainly, I think, an excuse for the cast to roll around in buckets and buckets of fake gore. I can distinctly remembering a vast pool of blood spreading so far across the performance area that I had to pull my feet to avoid it. And I wasn’t even in the front row. It was fun, though, so much fun. And splatter-joy is very contagious.
By far the best (best in the personal sense, at least) Shakespeare I ever saw was a production H and I still talk about, and refer to as The Hairdresser’s Tempest. That sounds deeply patronising I know, but it was directed by a guy who had previously been a hairdresser. It said so in his biography, okay? Essentially, it was the final project of the local ex-polytechnic’s performing arts programme. Every year the cohort puts on a play of their choice and they’d chosen to do The Tempest. I can’t even remember why we went to see it. Probably because it cost a fiver to get in and we didn’t have anything else to do.
But, honestly, it was amazing. We see (or used to see, before it broke us) a lot of student theatre (it’s cheap and sometimes, just sometimes, you can see something spectacular) so we’re fairly inured to 3rd year undergraduate programme notes, high on pretension, low on actual sense: “what is not commonly understood about Coriolanus is that, at its heart, it is play about cheese, which we have encapsulated by setting it on a Star Destroyer.” (actually Coriolanus on a Star Destroyer would be pretty rockin – since he’s basically Darth Vader, omg, I’ve missed my calling!)
But the director’s notes for the Hairdresser’s Tempest basically said this:
“We read this play and we thought it was brilliant, and there is loads of cool stuff in it, and we realised that Shakespeare is not just some dead person in the past and once you get the hang of it the language is amazing and so we’ve put on this production because we want to show you how much we love this play and then maybe you’ll love it to and, by the way, we’ve tried really hard to talk in a way that makes the language sound natural. WE HOPE YOU REALLY LOVE IT!!!!”
And, yes, we really loved it. It would have been impossible to do otherwise. I have never ever ever, even to this day, seen Shakespeare performed with such enthusiasm, such passion and such genuine pleasure. Even thinking about it, makes my little heart beat harder. They weren’t trying to do anything fancy with it – no batshit interpretations, no weird settings – but it, strangely enough, a straight production can often be pretty subversive and engaging on its own terms precisely because it strips everything back to the words and the text. They were all fairly young, so their Prospero ended up looking, and acting, like a mad tramp in a Technicolor dreamcoat. And it worked SO WELL. I’ve always thought Prospero was a bit of a control-freak psycho anyway so it was nice to get away from Ye Wise Old Man and see him genuinely revelling in the power and chaos of his magic. I mean, I know he was usurped but steady on old boy. You can’t just put your daughter to sleep because you can’t be arsed to talk to her any more. Ariel was sprite-ful, Caliban was tragic, the clowns were funny. Even Ferdinand and Miranda seemed like a real romance somehow when they are probably the wettest couple in canon. Oh, and they’d made this enormous papier-mache tree that they lovingly wheeled on stage to tell the story of Prospero and Sycorax.
I mean, let’s get a sense of perspective here. Would the Badass Macbeth have a papier-mache pine tree? I do not think so.
Apart from feeling like a complete pillock about it, I think I’m basically console-able for missing the production. Though I can remember when I’d been to the theatre once in my entire life and thought it a dream come true – and now I’m the sort of flashy git who casually declines to attend sold-out performances. I comfort myself with the hope that three people, turning up at the theatre door on spec, desperate to see the Badass Macbeth because, I don’t know, it was the play that brought them together or something, got a really really fucking lovely surprise. Also I didn’t really casually decline.
I forgot. I genuinely forgot.
Because I was playing Risk: Legacy.
Talking about adding insult to injury. As I may have mentioned, we invested in our own copy of the thing while North’ard and H has been bouncing off the walls to start playing so I was like ‘fine, whatevs, invite some folks round and we’ll do it.’ I’m magnanimous like that. For someone who doesn’t like unadulterated Risk, I actually now own, or part-own, three copies of the thing: LoTR Risk (I think this was a joke buy…), Risk Godstorm and now Risk Legacy. Most of the variants have taken the time to basically fix the un-funness of Risk – usually by introducing victory conditions that are not ‘until it is six hours later, you are all dead from boredom and nobody can be fucked to keep playing’.
I haven’t played it for years but I was quite passionate about Risk Godstorm for a while – I think because rampaging around, trying to invade the classical world, while not drawing the ire of the Gods, is way more entertaining than driving imaginary tanks across imaginary Europe. Also the model for representing 3-units is an elephant. An elephant! Yay! They also tried to make getting annihilated vaguely more interesting by giving you a section of the underworld you could invade with your deceased armies, which led to a slightly comical situation in which you’d be marching your dead war elephants across Tartarus, like Hannibal Strikes Back or something.
Oh, oh, oh and one more thing! The very best thing about Risk Godstorm is that you can invade Atlantis, and park your armies there, and generally treat it like any other continent. Except, there is a card in the miracle deck (this represents the capricious acts of the Gods) called SINK ATLANTIS.
‘Nough said, amirite?
So, yes, instead of Acquiring Culture, we played Risk. How low can you fall? But, y’know something, pleasure isn’t fungible. We had a lot of fun, it was nice to see our friends, H was basically in paroxysms of nerdish ecstasy throughout and I FUCKING WON. Ahem.
I’m rapidly turning into the man who blogs only about Risk Legacy but it is fucking awesome. Again, it fixes most of the Risk problems by introducing victory tokens, and the whole evolving game wossname is deeply thrilling and deeply scary at the same time. You have to actually … rip up cards when they are taken out to play. And you get to write on the board. In celebration of my AMAZING VICTORY, I got to choose between several awesome things, and ended up founding a city in Peru (where I began the game) called (we’d just finished Season 2 of GoT, okay?) AJH’s Landing. And it gives a bonus ONLY TO ME.
I suspect, however, I will not win another game. Because, sadly, my friends are onto me. I’m not a very, uh, warlike person. I’m quite a handwringer, in fact, so I have a bit of a reputation for not being particularly strategically minded or into this stuff. And it’s true, it is true, I’m not a great strategist, but, frankly, I’m a manipulative little fucker when it comes to Risk and … uh… because of that … I may have won. A lot. It was never meant to be a strategy, it just developed into one because it keeps on working.
And, of course, every time we play H goes on this insane rant about how I’m brilliant at Risk and nobody should trust me and they should gang up on me as early as possible and wipe me out, which, of course, nobody ever believes, and just makes H look like a raging psychopath as I sit harmlessly in my tiny corner of the board, looking weak and vulnerable. Oh dear, I’m rapidly turning into Arnold Rimmer, relating stories of my Risk triumphs to a tormented audience of the deepy ungripped (then I rolled a 5 and a 6!).
But, reader, despite all this, I really am not very good at strategy games… *innocent*
And this will be the last time I write interminably about board games, I promise (okay, that’s a lie).