Troilus & Cressida outdoors in a 15th century fortress, a carriage ride through the old town of Gyula, lunch at a 170 year old confectionary, a ride on an air boat (think CSI Miami) where the Black River meets the White, a tasting at a Palinka factory- A Report from the deep in the heart of Hungarian Shakespeare Country.
In the centre of Gyula you’ll find – indeed you can hardly miss it – an imposing gothic fortress, built as defence against the Turks. This is apparently the only purpose built brick fortress still standing in Central Europe. It’s a terrific setting for a Shakespearian theatre festival. Like many other great ideas it seems obvious – after somebody else thinks of it. Fortunately somebody did. The Shakespeare in Gyula festival is the brainchild of one József Gedeon, the Gyula Castle Theatre’s director. A large man with a winning manner and high hopes, his festival has grown each year since 2004, with theatrical troupes from all over the world now coming to Gyula to perform. This week a Lithuanian production of King John will have its world premiere and a troupe from South Korea will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream!
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London mayor Boris Johnson, AKA Bojo - almost as English as the cross of St. George
Or not, as the case may be.
Today of course, is Saint George’s Day. Which means the more patriotic (jingoistic?) kind of Englishman will be sporting the flag of Saint George; whether worn as a t-shirt over a bulging lager belly, as a tasteful bit of face painting, or a painted cross worn over an equally dashing shaven head.
Anyway as to the provenance of, “Cry God, for Harry, England & old Saint George”. Harry in this instance is not William’s brother Harry, the rapscallion currently third in line to throne, but of course Henry V. The line comes from the play by the same name (Henry V) penned by one William Shakespeare. And as you may already know, today also happens to be the bard of Avon’s birthday.
So, plenty of reason to feel good about the flag of Albion? Perhaps not. For one thing, in the last decade or so, the flag of Saint George has been adopted by some pretty dubious groups within English society. Football hooligans, for one thing. The BNP, or British National Party, for another. For National, read here National Socialist, white supremacist party. The BNP of course would like England, and by extension Great Britain, to enjoy the kind of prestige that it did when a quarter of the globe was coloured pink, and the sun it said, never set on the British Empire. Ironic of course that nothing hastened the demise of that empire so rapidly as their defiant stand against Hitler and the Axis powers. This is one of many reasons the BNP’s particular brand of patriotism is so off-kilter, and just plain offensive.
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O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! that we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts! ~William Shakespeare, Othello
Truth be told, I’m only suffering – if that is the right word – through the final, metaphysical stages of the hangover, which was earned on Thursday night, not last night. That is to say, those parts of the hangover that linger on and colour one’s mentality blue; hours or even 1 day or 2 after the actual physical wretchedness of a genuine, post-brannigan comedown. It was Kingsley Amis who originally coined the phrase ‘metaphysical hangover’ incidentally, in 1 of his many worthy tomes on drink which unfortunately didn’t include advice on how to avoid becoming a fat old embarrassment.
Anyway, Budapest, in my humble opinion (which I refuse to write as an acronym) has some of the best watering holes on the face of God’s green earth, not that I really want to bring God into this. Drink enough Palinka however, and you might start seeing angels and visions at either of Budapest’s greatest dive bars. These would be a 2-storied, somewhat derelict building in the old Jewish district called Mumus, and another little downstairs drinking den named Vittula, just down the road apiece.
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School play at 15: A glittering performance of rare perception
The Jet-Set Hobo thought he might address the subject of his career as a character actor, however abstrusely. Perhaps the reason the Hobo travels so well is that he’s a natural actor, an accomplished mimic, with certain chameleon characteristics. He instinctively knows how to blend in, how to lose himself in a crowd, how to walk as if he knows where he’s going.
…When I was 17 years old and an actor in training at Christchurch’s Court Theatre, I was called upon marshal this ability improvise in a potential opportunity or crisis, while staying in character, when I took over a the role of the romantic male lead – halfway through a performance of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Alistair Browning, who had been playing the role of Ferdinand, had fallen ill very suddenly somewhere towards the end of Act II. (He lived to tell the tale and even played Blake Edwards in a Peter Cook biopic a little while back).
I got the idea when waiting in the wings with one of the stage hands, whose name was Victor. A wonderfully fruity old British thespian named Richard Mayes was doing his best to extemporise. In case you didn’t know, extemporising is improvising Shakespearian dialogue onstage. This was during a wedding scene at which stage managers dressed as nymphs and fairies were supposed to dance for the young lovers, and over which he as Prospero was meant to preside. Ferdi and Miranda’s absence in this scene he had to explain away by saying this was merely the rehearsal for the wedding, not the nuptials themselves. To get this message over in iambic pentameter there was an awful lot of “Hark Thee” and “Thisdidst Thou”ing going on, poor chap.
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