Tag Archives: review

The True Tragedy of Richard III

We went to Toronto last night on a bit of a whim to see The True Tragedie of Richard III (“wherein is showne the death of Edward the fourth, with the smothering of the two yoong princes in the Tower: with a lamentable ende of Shores wife, an example for all wicked women. And lastly, the coniunction and ioyning of the two noble houses, Lancaster and Yorke. As it was playd by the Queenes Maiesties Players”–as good a summary as any).

This is not to be confused (too much) with Shakespeare’s Richard III. This is the play Shakespeare based his play off of.

I haven’t actually seen Shakespeare’s Richard III. (There’s a Doctor Who audio that messes with it–The Kingmaker–but I don’t think that counts). I know enough about it, though, that it was all pretty familiar.

The play was put on by the U of T Medieval and Renaissance Players. It’s a bit of a research project, as well as a theatrical performance. They tried to stick to Elizabethan acting tradition as much as possible. Which means they didn’t have a director and the performance we saw was the first full run-through. And while you might think that that sort of experimentation would maybe get in the way of the performance, I think they pulled it off rather well, much to everyone’s surprise (including and especially the actors’).

There was a Q&A session at the end which actually ran both ways. They were asking us (the audience) as many questions as we were asking them. I had unpleasant flash-backs of university arts courses.

Thinking if I had a question to ask, though, I kept coming back to the copyfight argument. Much of what Shakespeare did in his time–“borrowing” and modifying whole works–would be outright illegal today. While a writer is able to ask permission to do things like that, unless they have a dump truck full of money, that permission is rarely forthcoming. If Shakespeare was doing his thing today, he’d be sued to oblivion. Or, to put it another way, if today’s copyright regime existed in Elizabethan times, what is considered the greatest body of work in the English language would not exist.

I think that should probably give people pause for thought. And it’s that sort of thing that the Creative Commons was created to address.

I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up that didn’t come off in a “Did you think of this?!” sort of nerdily confrontational way.

Thinking about it, though, I actually started to wonder how the Elizabethans thought about this sort of thing. Today, we get all huffy about piracy!, plagiarism! and our! intellectual property, like culture is a physical thing that we can hold onto and keep from other people. I’m pretty certain they didn’t see it that way.

Which isn’t to say that is was a rosy utopia. The reason that they didn’t do a full run-through until the first performance was the same reason that none of the actors got to see a full script. If the script got out before the performance, somebody else might swipe it and perform it first and, I don’t know, take credit or something.

Kinda like zero day movie torrents, I guess.

To be honest, I don’t know how Elizabethans thought about these things, or even if they did. I grew up with the Berne convention and WIPO treaties. I don’t have much of a concept about how these things were thought of before those existed.

Sarah Jane Adventures

I remember when I was a kid, just starting to get into Doctor Who and just starting to read Doctor Who Magazine regularly, that I was a bit surprised at how incredibly popular Sarah Jane Smith was among fans. People would write in about how she was so much better than any current companion. I remember a cartoon that didn’t seem to have a punchline at all, nor did it make any sense to me. It was just a picture of a boy sitting at the end of his bed, hugging his knees, staring up at the poster of Sarah Jane he had hanging over his headboard.

It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. To me, she was maybe a little silly and annoying, but otherwise totally average as far as companions go. If I was going to choose a companion to obsess over, it would be someone like Nyssa or Zoe. They were smart. And cute and demure, of course. Certainly not confrontational. And not empowered, either, although 13-year-old me didn’t have any particular concept of what that meant.

Sarah Jane makes are more sense to me now. Because of any of the companions, if there was any of them who you could imagine going off and having adventures of her (or his, for the rare case) own, it would be Sarah. Nyssa, while I still think she’s wonderful, ended up an interstellar chronic care nurse. Zoe, while we’re not entirely sure, is probably back living her life as a space librarian. (♥)

And that’s exactly what happened with Sarah Jane Smith. She’s not just having exciting adventures as an investigative reporter, she’s fighting monsters and saving the world, just like the Doctor.

And that’s pretty much what The Sarah Jane Adventures are about.

It’s a kids’ show, but it actually works fairly well. Doctor Who is nominally a kids’ show, although it’s traditionally aimed above the mark. SJA is on the kids’ channel of the BBC and is aimed squarely at kids. Besides Sarah, the principal cast is kids and it’s much lighter.

For a kids’ show, though, it’s surprisingly well written. While not quite to the same level as Doctor Who, the stories have definite emotional impact. It’s a bit silly and light and fun, but it still feels like it matters.

Compare and contrast with Torchwood.

One thing I noticed about the show while we were watching it: the writers seem a bit less reluctant to drop in references to the original series or lift wholesale obscure monsters from the new series. I have a theory about this, too. It’s the kids.

When you present adults with things they don’t understand, they get all flustered and frustrated and annoyed. Obscure references to things that they haven’t heard of are a turn off. Kids, on the other hand, take it all in stride.

What’s more than that, it’s the kids that are likely to pour over Doctor Who Magazine, the Annuals, and the new monster reference books they’ve been releasing. They know this stuff now. And putting sly little references into their show rewards their efforts.

I think it’s nerdily cool too, but they’ve shown considerably more restraint in the past for this sort of thing. I think they’re doing it for the kids.

Anyway, I hope they bring the show over here. I don’t think CBC is co-producing. Maybe it’ll show up on BBC Kids or something. Regardless, if you get a chance and you have any interest in Doctor Who at all, give it a try. I promise it’s better than Torchwood.

Even with the sonic lipstick.