This weekend I saw Jubilee at the Lyric Theatre, adapted by Chris Goode from Derek Jarman’s 1978 film.

Jubilee sees Queen Elizabeth I travel to the present day to see a gang of young women living together in a squat. Its members live out a hedonistic and carefree existence until two of their number are shot by police, whereupon the survivors kill the police in revenge before running away from their home to escape arrest.

The description I have given of the play’s narrative does no justice at all to its wildness – there’s lots of swearing; several scenes involving full frontal nudity (Interestingly of men rather than women); the fourth wall is broken throughout, and there is no real attempt to maintain the play’s narrative integrity. Jubilee is about themes rather than story or characters.

It’s central theme is – I think (I’m not going to pretend that I understood all that the play was about) – defiance. The gang members live how they want to live; do what they want to do; be how they want to be. Sexuality is also at the heart of the play: Jubilee is a celebration of queerness.

I found Jubilee to be a rather mad, reckless but enjoyable play. I thought Rose Wardlaw as the nymphomaniac Crabs and Lucy Ellinson as Ariel/Viv particularly good in their roles. The people I saw the play with recognised some good performances, including Travis Alabanza as the transvestite (or transgender – I’m not sure which) Amyl Nitrate, but criticised Goode’s adaptation for being unfaithful to Derek Jarman’s screenplay.

I haven’t seen the film version but can sympathise with my friends. If one is going to adapt a play (or book, etc) one may change as many scenes as one likes but really ought to remain faithful to the original writer’s vision. Otherwise, one produces not an adaptation but corruption.

Travis Alabanza as Amyl Nitrate in Jubilee

If I have one criticism of the play it is that it fancied itself as something rather edgy. But it wasn’t. Swearing and nudity has been done before; being queer is now mainstream; ‘girl gangs’ have been seen before as have drag acts.

If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, it would have interrogated the current dogma that a man can call himself a woman and on account of his word alone be regarded as such.

If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, the gang members would have stood up for migrants and refugees, for people with criminal convictions being harassed for crimes they have already paid for, or for people they regard as their enemies.

If Jubilee had wanted to be edgy, the gang members would have stopped for one minute, turned off the music, been silent and asked themselves why – why am I doing this? and how – what can I do to make good that which is bad?

I don’t recall any self-questioning or selflessness in the play. It seemed to be all about me. now. why? because. I enjoyed the play but its shallowness made it disappointing in the end. 7/10.

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A Day at the Royal Geographical Society

Today, I took a day off work to visit the RGS for a talk titled Travellers to the Near East and the Great War.

Three men and one woman were under discussion – Harry St. John Philby, Gertrude Bell, William John Childs and David Hogarth.

I took notes during the four lectures but did not try to make them coherent. Instead, I just wrote key words and phrases that will, I hope, act as memory prompts now and in the future.

What did I learn?

Well, I already knew that Harry St. John Philby was double agent Kim Philby’s father. Today, though, I learnt how Philby Sr served in the elite India civil service before being trained by Gertrude Bell after joining the Arab Bureau.

During the war (and after) Philby was a firm Arabist. In fact, he not only advocated that the British support Abdulaziz Ibn Sa’ud in the latter’s battle for dominance against the rival Rashidi family but became friends with him.

Philby appears to have been something of a maverick – he did not always keep his mouth shut when he ought to have. In India this meant he did not get the promotions that might otherwise have come this way. He was also a keen ornithologist. He named birds after women he liked!

Gertrude Bell: A born adventurer. She climbed mountains and traversed deserts. After the war she worked for the British administration in Iraq. She died as a result of overdosing on sleeping tablets; as with Alan Turing, however, we do not know for sure whether she did this deliberately of by accident.

Bell had a doomed romance with Charles Doughty-Wylie, helped create the modern state of Iraq and was in the process of creating a national museum when she died.

William John Childs. I had never heard of this man before today, and as evening falls over London, I still know precious little about him. This is not the fault of the lecturer – the biographical information just isn’t out there. Childs crossed Turkey from North to South, wrote a book about it called Across Asia Minor on Foot, spied for the British and died in the early 1930s. We do not know for sure what he looked like.

David Hogarth. Anyone who knows me will know that Hogarth is one of my historical heroes. I didn’t learn too much about him today, therefore, that my own reading hadn’t already shown me.

The basic details of his life, though, are as follows: He was born in Barton-Upon-Humber (in the 1860s), he attended Winchester College and then Magdalen College at Oxford. Upon graduation he was awarded a Fellowship at Magdalen. He didn’t settle in Oxford, however, but ended up working with William Ramsay in Asia Minor. During the war, Hogarth became the acting Director of the Arab Bureau under Gilbert Clayton. Afterwards,  he served as Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum back in Oxford.

I knew that Hogarth excavated at Knossos under Arthur Evans but not that there are “Hogarth Houses” there. I have no idea what exactly these are! Unfortunately for someone who spent a lot of time in hot places, he disliked hot temperatures. Also, by the time Hogarth left the Arab Bureau in 1918 and Government service during or following the Versailles peace talks, he was rather fed up of the whole business.

As you can tell, the above is a very quick sketch. Please forgive any errors and uncertainties. They are all mine.

What is most important to me is to say that I had a really good time at the RGS learning about these four people. If you are at all interested in history, I strongly encourage you to go to a talk sometime. Reading is great but hearing other people talk about the subjects you are passionate about is in its way even better!

One thing I am going to try and do more of in the future is look up talks on You Tube. Sparing the time and money to attend either a talk or day study isn’t always easy, but thanks to You Tube, they are also available for free. In fact, this is something I have already started. I shall try and mention one or two later this week.

  • I can’t end this blog post without mentioning that the talks today were put on by ASTENE – the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East. Their website is here. Thank you to them!


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The Last of Us Part 2: Trailer 2

Like everyone else who played The Last of Us, I have been waiting with great impatience for the arrival of its sequel, The Last of Us Part 2.

At the end of last year, the first trailer was unveiled by the game’s developer, Naughty Dog. It featured the two protagonists of the first game, Ellie and Joel, and all was well.

In the last few days, Naughty Dog have released a second trailer. No Ellie or Joel this time. Instead, the trailer opens as a muscular woman, wrists bound behind her back, is dragged through a forest and then lynched.

As she swings in the air, another woman is dragged into view. It looks like she once belonged to the same group because the leader of the lynch party asks her, ‘where is the other apostate?’

The prisoner spits at her contemptuously. In revenge, the leader has her left arm broken by a vicious hammer attack.

The missing apostate then appears – killing one of the lynch party before the prisoner kills the two others. The lynched woman is cut down and gets ready to help defend the group as clickers appear out of the darkness.

The graphic nature of the trailer – you miss nothing in terms of the lynching or hammer attack – make it a very powerful piece of work. I hope, though, I really, really hope that there is a strong narrative reason for its graphic nature because otherwise, Naughty Dog is going to stand accused of releasing something that amounts to a kind of torture porn. Every crunching blow. The slow strangulation of the woman. It’s all there and is not at all easy to watch.

Here is the trailer. It is not for the faint hearted:

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Gone Home

Most of the console games that I play are by recommendation. Gone Home was no different.

In this little adventure game, you play Katie Greenbriar, who has returned home from a year long holiday in Europe. Her family’s house is empty. There is a note from her younger sister, Sam; she has left and doesn’t want you to follow her.

What has happened? That is what you must find out as you go from room to room finding various objects and reading letters and notes. Not everything that you find will give you information but it will still tell you a story.

Sam’s fate is at the heart of Gone Home, but Mr. and Mrs. Greenbriar are not neglected. The game even has time for the now deceased previous occupant of the house who may have been a rather murky character.

As I mention in my tweets, Gone Home felt like it went on just a tad too long for what it was giving but I really recommend the game to you – especially if, like me, you are very partial to the Grand Theft Autos of the world. It was good to play a slower, more thoughtful, adventure game.

To read my Storifyfied tweets, just click here.

Credit Where It’s Due
Gone Home poster: Wikipedia

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm (Episode 1)

There are games that you play, enjoy, then move on from, never to think about again.

And then there are games that don’t just get under your skin but into your heart where they claim a piece of it for themselves. It hurts but my goodness you would not have it any other way. For the hurt teaches you, enriches you, makes you a fuller person ever than you were before.

In my post on The Wolf Among Us Pt. 2 (here), I mentioned my top five games. Of them, none affected me more than the original series of Life is Strange. I remember how I gasped at the end of Episode 3 when – in the alternative time line – Chloë appeared at the door in her wheelchair, paralysed from the neck down, and the turmoil that I felt at the end of the fifth and last episode when I decided to save Chloë’s life rather than the lives of Arcadia Bay’s residents.

So, Life is Strange: Before the Storm had a lot to live up to. One episode in, it isn’t doing too badly. Chloë’s broken heart following the death of her father, her love for Rachel Amber, Rachel’s agony over her father’s deceit and all the poignancy that comes from knowing what will ultimately happen to her are making for a meaningful and bittersweet game.

I can’t wait for Part 2, which is being released on 19th October. As I write this post I am playing Uncharted: Lost Legacy but will be pausing it to return to Arcadia Bay.

If you would like to read my thoughts about Before the Storm Episode 1 as I played it, you can read my Storyfied tweets here.

Credit Where It’s Due
Chloë and Archer Amber ride the train: Polygon

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The Wolf Among Us Pt. 2

So, back in August I played The Wolf Among Us to a finish.

Looking back, I have fond memories of the game. It will never become one of my all time favourites* but if I would recommend it. I like what they did with the old fairy tales and the story was neatly told.

What did I think about the game (Episodes 3 to 5) as I played them? You can find out by reading my Storyfied tweets here.

For my first post on The Wolf Among Us, click here.

* Which at the time of writing are – Grand Theft Auto IV, Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, Life is Strange, The Last of Us.

Credit Where It’s Due
The picture of Bigby smoking yet another cigarette comes from Trusted Reviews

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The Bell Tolls For Thee

Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was most of all a rebel.

She was a rebel against the idea that women wouldn’t learn.

She was a rebel against the idea that a woman couldn’t travel alone – across the desert.

She was, most of all, a rebel against the fact that her world belonged to men.

If you would like to know more about Bell, the New Yorker has published a short article about here here. I thoroughly recommend both it and Letters from Baghdad.

Bell was an explorer, writer, Arabist, and archaeologist. After the First World War, she joined the British colonial administration of Iraq. We did not do so well in our treatment of the Middle-east after the Great War but some individuals, Bell among them, bucked the trend. She is well worth spending with.

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