Like Scarlett in front of a tray of sweets

3721657_stdHubby has told me that, even if he will understand one word out of ten (an optimistic guess), he would like to see a theatre play in London and that next year we could spend a weekend there on that purpose.

I feel like Scarlett O’hara in her honeymoon, when she’s trying to hush the hunger she has suffered during the years of the civil war eating everything the waiter brings.

Preparations begin, I’m following now more than twelve different twitter accounts of London theatres. Therefore, next spring I will go back to London to watch a play and to see the the remains of the Roman amphitheatre (in May I arrived there ten minutes after the closure) and other Londinium sites.

Coming up in this blog…

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Graham McTavish in Chapter 6 of Outlander. My edit of screencap

“The Dougal MacKenzie Enigma”. Unfortunately some reasons prevent me to publish a decent post on the matter this week:

  1. lack of inspiration (it switched off when a certain gentleman switch twitter on while I was online… naughty “boy”)
  2. lack of time (second season of House of Cards starts tonight and I have things to do before 9 pm)
  3. a hoard (a barbarian hoard, rather) of shouting kids playing under my window
  4. Thursday I leave for a long weekend in Spain, to hugh, kiss and cuddle mom.

Maybe when I will be able to write the post I want (at least as long as the one dedicated to Mr. Menzies) I will have one more piece to solve the Dougal MacKenzie Enigma. In the meantime I post this… a good excuse to see Graham McTavish’s majestical pose (great dwarfs pose alike).

 

 

Spooks series 8 (why… Sarah Caulfield?)

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Lucas tells Sarah that she disgusts him. My gif from DVD

Several months ago, during a very serious fangirling crisis (I can say as an excuse that it was spring, and we say in Spain that “la primavera la sangre altera”) I made a very cheesy fanart of Mr. A. Nevertheless I still had a minimum of pride and shame that prevented me to publish it anywhere. In a second thought I wondered if maybe it was not as awful as I suspected, and I sent it by wasap to a couple of friends. My dear friend Tanja replied with a single word “why?”. I understood suddenly the message, it was indeed as awful as I suspected and it was better to make it disappear.

I have watched yesterday the last chapter of the eighth season of Spooks and I have thought also: “why?”, adding to the adverb a name: “why Sarah Caulfield?”.

You may have realised that I love proverbs; it is known that “squadra vincente non si tocca” (the winning team must remain unchanged). In my humble opinion, Lucas North and Elizabeta were a winning team. Richard Armitage and Paloma Baeza had chemistry in the screen, a lot. My heart shrank every time they met and felt sympathy with the cruel fate that separated Beta from Lucas who made the ultimate sacrifice; it was impossible for her sake and safety to be together. I have never seen a thumb caressing with such a tenderness a picture as Lucas did before tearing apart theirs.

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Gif from Spooks Season 7. My edit

Summarising: Lucas and Beta were credible. As are were credible the best working pals ever: Lucas North and Ros Myers, another example of exploding chemistry in the screen. Maybe not the sexual type (although the bankers’ chapter was a clear hint that those two may have blown the screen); the lines and puns between Ros and Lucas were simply awesome as this sentence that tells Ros to Lucas on the phone about Sarah:

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Ros Myers, saying out loud what I would have liked to do.

Unfortunately plans for season 8 were different and Elizabeta had to disappear for real, no second chances, re-thoughts or coming-backs. Someone thought, maybe after stuyding the fans reactions after season 7, that they could take advantage of Mr. A’s attractive as well as acting skills, conceding the viewer unwarranted exhibitions of his beautiful body, including also physical activity under the sheets not only to punch a pillow. Let’s be honest, I’m not an hypocrite and the fan-girl in me who makes cheesy fanarts has appreciated the view, but the scene in which he undresses before meeting his torturer is ridiculous as it lacks a subtle detail to make it reliable: he had to throw away his clothes if the Russian wanted to be sure that he was not wired.

Neverheless, the worst idea of the whole series 8 had a name and a surname: Sarah Caulfield. Why Sarah Caulfield? Lucas and Sarah together were, using Cole Porter’s lyrics “as cold as yesterday mashed potatoes” and my impression when they first kiss under Tower Bridge is that Lucas was seriously thinking about the idea of swimming in the Thames rather than sharing a hotel room with her. I don’t know which was the real problem behind that absolute lack of empathy and chemistry between Richard Armitage and Genevieve O’Reilly. Maybe she felt uncomfortable with her fake American accent (I’ve read that it was a complete disaster, something like someone speaking Spanish mixing catalonian and andalusian accent), maybe they two did not get along well… The fact is that Lucas and Sarah were not reliable as a couple, the only scenes together that worked are those in which Lucas clearly despises Sarah after knowing her treason.

It can be argued by an un-biased viewer that maybe RA is not such a very good actor as I claim he to be, if, after Sarah’s death, he is supposed to feel “distraught” (as Ruth tells Harry) and I just can see him “relieved”. I can only reply with the famous final line in “Some Like it Hot”, nobody’s perfect, and that includes Richard. In some moments, anyway, I’ve felt he had broken that barrier between him and Genevieve, as here, in which he gives her one of his famous iceberg melting love glances.

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Nevertheless, albeit the above, the scenes together in which feelings different from disappointment or disgust had to be displayed were a total failure. Moreover, Sarah Caulfield’s character was a total failure, not reliable as lover but neither as a spy: cold, flat, irrelevant.

What have you done, Mr. Menzies?

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Tobias Menzies as Capt. (Black) Jack Randall in Outlander. My edit from two screenshots

It was not my intention to watch Outlander. I have not read the books and the pictures that I had seen in tumblr didn’t appeal me particularly. My personal tv series dealer told me that she could send it to me if I wanted to, and I accepted attracted by the curiosity to see a dwarf of Thorin’s company without the prosthetics (Mr. McTavish, I have another post in my cartridge bealt for you).

To be honest, I didn’t like the first chapter at all; the photography was awesome, the landscape breathtaking but I must confess that it hurted me a litle to see “my Brutus” as the dull stallion Frank Randall. Fortunately, in the last minutes of the chapter, Randall’s wickedly twisted alter ego and ancestor appears, making me hope for the best.

Indeed the more chapters I’ve watched the more I like the series: the story gained in rythm and interest although I felt more attracted not by the main roles but by the supporting ones. I have always liked time travel stories, but I must confess that the heroic and full of resources Claire irritated me a little as left me small hopes of success in an hypothetical time travel to the XVIIth century Highlands, given that my inexistent abilities as nurse would led me to be no more than a kitchen maid in the McKenzie’s castle.

My favourites chapters so far are the fourth and the sixth, what I call the “revelation chapters”: in each of them the performance of a single actor has striken me. Chapter four is for Mr. McTavish (again, be patient, your turn will arrive ) and the sixth for Mr. Menzies.

As I mentioned before he played Marcus Iunius Brutus in the first season of “Rome”, and I have seen him also in “Persuasion”, “Spooks” and “Game of Thrones” (unfortunately in the season I liked the less).

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Tobias Menzies as Brutus and Ciaran Hinds as Julius Caesar in HBO’s “Rome”. My screencap.

In all these series Mr. Menzies plays ambiguous characters: Brutus is divided between his love for Caesar and the devotion owed to his family and the Republic. The fresh and young Home Secretary Andrew Lawrence of Spooks has undoutebdly something to hide (please note that I have still to watch the last chapter of season 8), and, the Mr. Eliot of “Persuasion”, although he makes a triumphal entrance…

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The first scene of Tobias Menzies in “Persuasion”, very caspardfriedrichlike. My edit from a screencap

… the character reveals himself as an irritating asshole. Undoubtedly one has to be a good actor to achieve that.

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Tobias Menzies as the irritating Mr. Eliot

I wonder what was Mr. Menzies’ reaction when he first read the script of the sixth chapter of Outlander. Did he jump on the couch? Said “yes! yes! yes!” as if his favourite football team had won the Champions League? Because that character and specially that script would make any actor the happiest man in the world. Another confession, I feel a little bit hurt for not having had the chance to see (yet, I long for Digital Theatre to release “The Crucible”) Richard Armitage playing a scene and a character like that. That half an hour in the screen is like a symphony of acting and writing; I will talk about it dividing it in movements.

*****WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*****

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Jack Randall. Overture. My screencap

The overture. Jack Randall enters the room where the English commander, Lord Thomas, is dining with his men. The clash between Capt. Randall and his superior is instantaneous and, when Thomas reproaches Randall for bringing a lot of dust in the room he leaves and in the threshold of the room he stomps his feet and cleans his jacket, glancing all of them with contempt. Because Randall sees where the others are blind, he despises them all because he realises that there is something wrong with Claire and Dougal. He needs information, and obtains it talking of the English soldier killed cruelly by the Scottish, Claire replies talking about the highlanders crucified in the fields; he then counter attacks hinting maliciously that there is something between her and Dougal. Claire, hurt, makes a passionate defense of the Scottish, betraying herself. Jack Randall 1 – Claire Beuchamp 0

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First movement begins – my screencap

Movement I – The Examination

When Claire returns to the dining room after nursing a wounded soldier, Jack Randall is shaved by his attendant. In that instant there is a a flashback-forward of “the good” Frank Randall being shaved by Claire during the war using that same blade. After that, examination begins and with it the deception game set up by the mischevious red coat: he appears in a first moment dangerous, razor in hand, to apologise a very few moments later for what happened the first time they two met. His purpose is to make us all feel at ease before the interrogatory. When she’s about to tell the old known story of the Oxfordshire lady assaulted by bandits he encourages her, even kindly, to tell another one. He summarises what he knows and insists to have the truth. As Claire sinks deeper and deeper in her lie, instead of reacting with anger, he makes a theatrical pose, as if hurt.

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Peak of the first movement; the theatrical pose. My screencap

That pause perplexes her, and she is even more confused by his next move. He stands and very slowly takes a charcoal from his redcoat, sharpens it, and makes her portrait in a handkerchief, calling the piece “beautiful lies”. Always calm and cold blooded proposes her a deal: to spy the Scottish for him. After her obvious denial, everything is ready for the second movement.

Movement II – The mousetrap

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After announcing Claire that he has “his methods” to make her confess, he starts his masterpiece. Which is not, as he will describe later, the work of art created by his flog: the broken back covered with blood of the young McTavish and his silence despite the torture, but how Randall deceives Claire and us, hinting to his humanity, ending this sentence the thought of the whip going down that pityful raw flesh made my stomach flutter and my legs shake with another theatrical pose.

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The theatrical pose of the second movement. My screencap

The sadistic description of the flogging continues for several minutes, accompanied by a superb crescendo score which makes you arrive to the end of the scene even breathless, and shocked as Claire is. If Randall’s monologue were limited to the blood, the pain, the screams and disgust of the crowd there will be no room for mercy towards the torturer but Claire, and the audience, are being deceived also by the existence of the Randall of the future who is a good man incapable of such a cruelty. Of course the XVIIIth century Randall is not aware of this, but he unconsciously (and here is where the actor consciously plays his part) sprinkles his discourse to references of the tortured man’s feelings or his own’s. He has fulfilled his promise to Claire, to reveal himself, and she abdicates. As we all have. If he is capable to analise and understand his wickedness maybe there’s room for salvation. He agrees, maybe he’s able to do the right thing and maybe the first right thing to do is to accompany her to Inverness to start her way back home.

Finale – The Truth

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Finale – Do not trust anybody. My screencap

I recognised I’ve shouted when I’ve seen the unexpected punch Randall gives Claire. The key of his personality is in what he tells her, grasping her hair, his face red with fury but with a calm, deep voice I dwell in darkness, madam, and darkness is where I belong. I need no sympathy from you and you’ll get none from me. This sentence reminded me suddenly the one I have used for the fanart opening this (very long) post, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Medea saying “I need and approve of the better, but I follow the worst”. Black Jack Randall is not mad, he has no excuse, he consciously chooses the evil, and he likes it. There’s no room for doubt either, as he calls the caporal outside the door and orders him to kick Claire, adding “it’s very freeing“.

This scene forms from now on part of my top-ten ever favourite tv scenes, thanks to an incredible writing, and an incredible Tobias Menzies.

My first fandom

… and my fan-vid I’m most proud of. It took me a lot of time and when I finished it my head was literally exploding but… gosh, I like it! (Remember, I don’t have a granny). The sixth season of this Spanish tv series has just began, it is called “Aguila Roja” and, as you see, is a mix of things seen everywhere (the good guy uniform recalls Assassin’s Creed and the baddy the one of Guy of Gisborne), but, I can assure you, very well done. After a dissappointing fifth season, the beginning of the sixth looks promising (the last famous words?).

 

The date: Dec. 14th 2013

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The date I made my very first fanart on Mr. Thornton/Richard Armitage. I declare it my official RAnniversary date. I had not opened tumblr for a while, and, being today Thursday, Mr. Thornton dominates my dashboard. I have felt a warmth in my heart, I have so many things to thank him for.

 

 

Always distRActed (in case you doubted it)

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Maybe I’m not posting fanarts (this was the last one), writing reviews or comments in the subject of my RAstudies but, nevertheless, a certain Leicester gentleman has settled down in my life. A quiet but constant presence revealed in the books I buy of the things I write. I’m working now in a very small… I don’t know how to call it: scene? ficlet? fanfic? reverie? mixing the man, the stones and the north in about 1.500 words, more or less (Spanish version available in this page). This September is weird; the awkward sensation of losing control of time, of not arriving anywhere, of losing myself in a glass of water (or better the Sicilian Syrah I had with lunch last Saturday). I’m distracted by too many things and I’m afraid I’m the classic example of, as the Spanish proverb says: “aprendiz de todo y maestra de nada” (trainee in everything and master in nothing).

 

The Lost Prince – BBC (2003)

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Miranda Richardson as Queen Mary – my screencap

A friend of mine sent me several months ago this BBC miniseries; my friends know very well my tastes and, when some of them tells me “you will like this”, I am sure I will. I have taken too much time to watch it, distracted by other things (ehem) but today I’ve seen the two chapters. It is the true story of the sixth son of King George V and Queen Mary, prince John. The child suffered of epilepsia and mental retardation and lived most of his life apart from his family under the care of his nanny, Charlotte Bill, known as Lalla.

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Prince John of the United Kingdom 1913” di Agence Rol – Bibliothèque nationale de France. Con licenza Public domain tramite Wikimedia Commons.

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Matthew James Thomas as Prince John – my screencap

The story is centered in the boy and his relationship with Lalla and his brother George, the future Duke of Kent. Miranda Richardson plays Queen Mary and Tom Hollander, the repulsive Mr. Collins of the Pride and Prejudice film version with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen, plays King George V.

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Tom Hollander as King George V – my screencap

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Gina McKee (Lalla) with little John and his brother George

The world and his politics passes in front of the eyes of Johnny, who labels naïvly the historical figures he meets: Asquith, the Prime Minister, is “the man with the big head”, Tsar Nicholas is “the fish emperor”, or “the Tsar, my cousin”. When the Romanovs are talked to be exiled in England he imagines them hosted in the small farm where he lives, with a haughty Tsarina cleaning the carpet. This series gathers all one can expect of a BBC Drama: superb acting, beautiful locations, excellent writing.

Watch it.

The Wall and I – Part 1

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The iconic image of the wall – View from Housesteads crags

I didn’t know how to start talking about the wall-side of my Northumberland trip, but linnet has given me a clue: “my first impressions of seeing the wall”. Therefore here it is, “the wall and I”.

I’ve always longed to visit the wall. When I was less informed about it I thought that it was placed already in Scotland, not in England (yes, yes, I know… ignorance is something really annoying). Blame it on the movies and tv, I guess. By the way, once the wall is in the “seen dream destinations” list, Scotland, and specially the Highlands, heads now the top-three list “things to see before I die”. Being the other two Australia and the Polynesian Islands (to feel a little bit like Capt. Cook) chances are that Scotland will pass to the “done” column sooner than the other two. The problem is that there are still so many things I want to see near the wall…

As I wrote in the previous post about this trip, I already knew what I expected to see. The current remains of the wall are definitely less impressive of what it once was; this gif I have done mixing my above pic with an still of the film “The Eagle” illustrates the difference.

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Although the fort of Vindolanda was not placed besides the wall as Housesteads (Vercovicium), but a few miles away, archeologists have rebuilt two fragments of how the wall looked like, one in stone and the other in timber; the wall in the east and west was built mostly with wood, as the appropriate stone was more difficult to find.

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Me in majestical and perfectly military pose in Vindolanda’s timber replica of the wall

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Northumberland’s landscape from the point of view of a soldier in one of the vigilance turrets. Vindolanda.

Considering that the wall crossed Britain from Newcastle to Carlisle, even if part of it was made with timber, we are talking of a lot of “lost stones”. They have been used in the centuries to build castles and churches and, should not be for the work and devotion of devoted archeologists most of the wall should be lost now. In the museums of the forts I have visited there is a special section dedicated to this people, the Wall Faces.

During the crisis of the coal mines which left many of the inhabitants of Haltwhistle unemployed, a businessman proposed to create a company (the Roman Stone Ltd) that would quarry what remained of the wall, but fortunately such an action was stopped by the petition of antiquarians, academics and public figures such as Rudyard Kipling. Other Roman archeological treasures have not been so lucky, as the Meta Sudans here in Rome. Their remains stood until almost mid thirties, when they were demolished by order of Mussolini.

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The round base of the Meta Sudans during archeological excavations. Click for source.

Should someone be interested to learn more about the wall I suggest you to read “The Wall – Rome’s Greatest Frontier” by Alistair Moffat edited by Birlinn books. I bought it in Vindolanda’s Museum; I realised on arriving to Rome that there was a mistake in the binding of the book and that the first block of pages was repeated and some missing. I wrote the publisher and this week I have receive a very kind e-mail informing me that they will send me a brand new book, a hardback edition (I bought the paperback). Another example of Northern-Scottish (Birlinn Books is in Edinburgh) kindness; I just asked them a pdf file with the missing pages, not the whole book!

As usual, I am rambling without writing what I wanted: my impressions of the wall. Even if I wanted to visit the wall badly, I travelled not as prepared as I thought. The first night in the B&B, while sipping my mug of Earl Grey (by the way… I saw in Newcastle the monument to the Earl Grey in person) and reading the tourist depliants we had in our room, I realised that if I visited only Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum in Carvoran I would miss the classical-iconical wall image, the view from Housesteads crags (first picture of this post).  Therefore we devoted the second whole day we had at disposal in the north to Housesteads.

Our “members” ticket

The site forms part of the English Heritage. As we are members of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano we can visit English Heritage sites for free; needless to say that I felt moved and proud. While arriving to destination with the bus (number AD122, the year Hadrian begun the construction of the wall) I felt already thrilled when recognising the shape of the hills, or the famous Sycamore Gap.

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The Sycamore Gap – click for source

When climbing the hill leading to Housesteads I felt really happy, and I longed so badly to arrive to the top and see the landscape that I was about to run.

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Me in the path leading to the Vercovicium’s (Housesteads) fort. Needless to underline my expression of profound and deep suffering.

I entered through the south gate, pretended to pay attention to the remains of the commanders’ house on the left and hurried to the top, because I was anxious to arrive to the northern gate, where you can see this.

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View from Housesteads’ North Gate

I finally had it in front of me: the immensity of the North, the wild land of Brigantes and Picts and, on my right, the second most iconic image of the wall, the Knag Burn gateway.

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Knag Burn seen from the North Gate

More pictures, comments and impressions in another post. Stay tuned!