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No. 26 Shakespeare, TV, & A Podcast

Here are the rest of my January Top 10 creative inspirations.

Nabhaan Rizwan and Roger Jean Nsengiyumva in Informer

5. The National Theatre’s simulcast performance of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo is so good. I saw it at my local small town indie movie house -- The Rose in Port Townsend, Washington.

If you can’t get to London to see theatre a simulcast is not just the next best thing but a fraction from being as good. It’s a shared experience with a global live audience of global production for $20. Really, there is no excuse for not doing it.

When you are acting Shakespeare you are taught to initially translate the play into your own words as a cast, and get your personal version improvisationally on its feet during rehearsals. This helps you convince the audience that Shakespeare's words are yours and being spoken for the first time. This level of work is evident with every performance in this production. Every actor owns their role.

The set is lush but simple and the staging takes you from the poolside to the battlefield.

Watching actors on stage that you have only seen on screen gives you the chance to see the whole of their body and how they use it. There are no edits or great shots to mask any habits or forms. I felt like I was seeing Fiennes for the first time.

Here’s a video link of the two leads discussing their work on this production:

6. Informer (streaming)

Written by Rory Haines and Sohrab Noshirvani, Informer is an unrelenting character-based thriller. The finest element of the series is the three-dimensional portrayal of a Muslim community in London. It stars the always great Irish Brando, Paddy Considine, and exceptional newcomers Roger Jean Nsengiyumva and Nabhaan Rizwan. Bel Powley disturbs as an overly fixated cop.

“After a trivial brush with the law, a second-generation Pakistani young man from East London is relentlessly coerced by an unfeeling Counter-Terrorism officer with a questionable past into working for him as an undercover informer, a casual job that will insidiously compromise not only his own beliefs but also the welfare of those he most loves.” -- IMDb

I needed to take a break after every episode and could only watch one episode a day. Each installment gives you a lot of intensity to digest.

7. Map to the Stars (streaming)

Directed by David Cronenberg

My favorite Julianne Moore performance of all time. Map to the Stars is Altman’s The Player with ghosts and horror colored in Cronenberg’s trademark subdued creepiness.

8. "Bunnies can - and will - go to France"

I watched Stephen Frears’ A Very English Scandal on Amazon for the second time in January. I plan to watch it again.

The old cliche of American storytellers rejecting irony for face value is a painful truth for those of us who prefer a complicated story. Which is why I tend to prefer European, Eastern, and Asian theatre and film. Showing the knife’s edge between comedy and tragedy seems to succeed best in the hands of, well, almost any artist outside of the states. Frears is a master at striking this satisfying imbalance and does so with great success in A Very British Scandal.

There is so much great about this three-parter. The production value, the soundtrack, the casting, and most of all the sex - murder - political - true crime - caper script by Russell T. Davies’s. It’s a rollicking visual page - turner.

9. Season four of Schitt’s Creek is now available on Netflix. This show is my idea of comedy heaven. Catherine O’Hara is an acting hero to many women of my generation and she is in full command of her chops as Moira. If you haven’t seen Schitt’s Creek, you have a lot of catching up to do. Get on it.

The season four romance between David and Patrick -- Oh, my heart!

10. Hosted by playwright Simon Stephens (stage: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.), the third season of The Royal Court Theatre Playwrights Podcast started in January.

I will be relistening and writing about each episode of this podcast for upcoming blog posts. I will just say, for now, this podcast has been a life-changing inspiration for me.

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