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Coming out of blogging hibernation – what I’ve been doing and my thoughts on Muse of Fire

The old blog has been a bit quiet of late – as you may or may not have noticed. I’ve found myself very busy. I’m getting myself an edumacation through an online university, which has been fantastic as I have rediscovered brain cells that have been tucked away for a few years and which have now come out to stretch their little limbs. Combined with my baking, and my arts & craft projects (what I like to call my “old lady hobbies”), as well as work, it has meant that my blog has been left to moulder in the corner of my life (before I began getting educated, I wouldn’t have considered using a word such as ‘moulder’, how fantastic). When I started my studies, I promised myself I wouldn’t neglect my blog but promises to myself are generally the only ones I don’t keep, so for those of you who enjoyed reading my thoughts – I’m sure there’s at least one of you out there (that’s you, mum) – I apologise.

Anyway, coming up in one of my units of study, I’ll be doing some Shakespeare. There will be no acting involved – it’s all literary, which is very lucky for anyone who may have come into contact with my “acting” (drama was not my best subject at school, but it did make me less petrified of standing in front of people). I was hesitant to do Shakespeare initially – studying modern texts hurts my head sometimes, let alone trying to comprehend something that was written over four hundred years ago and is written in what might as well be a foreign language to many, but I figure if I’m going to be getting educated on literature and writing, it would be remiss of me to overlook Shakespeare. The fact that his work has survived and grown in popularity over such a vast period of time speaks for itself and is evidence that he is an important point of reference for any aspiring writer.

This guy. (Wikipedia)

Anyway, I was trawling the Twitters yesterday and discovered a little documentary called Muse of Fire made by a couple of friends, Dan and Giles, who also happen to be actors. The guys wanted to understand where people’s fear of Shakespeare comes from, so they self-funded a little trip to find out as much as they could about the man behind the quill. They documented everything as they went and the result is this wonderfully entertaining film. It seemed pretty interesting to me and as I was soon to be looking at Shakespeare’s work, I thought I’d have a watch. Before I go too much into it, I just want to say that it was the most enjoyable documentary I’ve ever watched, and I’m a HUGE fan of Sir David Attenborough so that’s saying something. In fact I loved it so much and was so inspired by it, I felt it necessary to emerge from my blogging hibernation and share it with you all.

Made over a period of seven years, the guys travel here there and everywhere speaking to all manner of people about their thoughts on, and experiences with, Shakespeare. From actors such as Dame Judi Dench; directors such as Baz Luhrmann; scholars who have devoted much of their career studying the work of Shakespeare, like the wonderful Harold Bloom; right down to the average person on the street, Giles and Dan leave no stone unturned. There are many moments throughout the film that had me thinking to myself, “yes, I can relate to that”, or, “I’d never thought of it like that before”; there were others that had me giggling quietly to myself at my desk, my very favourite part of the entire film being when they were attempting to compose an email to Sir Ian McKellen (how do you even do that?).

HOW TO BEGIN AN EMAIL TO (SIR) IAN MCKELLEN
“Dear Ian.”
Sir Ian.”
“Sir -”
“Although he doesn’t like the ‘sir’, does he?”

Then there are moments that make it clear the true impact of words on people and leave you feeling quite emotional. This was especially true of one scene taking place in a German prison, at which point I realised that the words of this one man not only transcend time, but also the personal situation of the individual reading them – Shakespeare’s words touch us all in different ways, but somehow have the same effect. While the main focus of the film is obviously on Shakespeare, it also serves as an excellent example of finding something you want to do and doing it, even when the money runs out, the car breaks down, and it takes a while to get a ‘yes’ from people. Because it’s not all roses for the boys, yet they pushed through and we are now left with a beautiful documentary that is testament to their passion.

What I discovered while watching, is that there really is no reason to fear the Shakespeare, at least not from a literary perspective – I’ll not speak for those brave enough to speak his words to audiences. It’s actually got me really excited to study Shakespeare now (I’m basically a Shakespeare fangirl, almost).  What can I learn by looking at his work intimately? How can I apply that to my own writing? How can I write so amazingly brilliantly that people read my words four hundred years from now? Ok, that last one’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

I think back to when I studied Hamlet in high school and we went to watch a production of it at the Belvoir Street Theatre here in Sydney. I remember that the thing I found the most exciting back then was the fact that Hamlet’s mother was played by the “not happy Jan” lady (if you grew up in Australia, you’ll get that – everyone else, Google it) and the actor who played Hamlet, I believe it was Jeremy Sims, I had also seen very fleetingly on tv. Imagine a bunch of teenagers sitting in a theatre, whispers of “not happy Jan” echoing around the room as we realised who Hamlet’s mother was, which I am sure she had NEVER heard before, and giggles of shock as Hamlet shouted his lines up into the audience, with one smarty pants saying his line for him when he paused just a fraction too long between lines. I don’t know that anyone else’s first experiences of Shakespeare were like this, but looking back now, I realise that it was perhaps this way because it was something we were essentially being forced to learn and therefore we cared little for it. The fact that we were young with next to no life experience meant that we were unable to relate to many of the themes which no doubt compounded our disinterest. I wish now that I had a greater appreciation for it and was able to remember it better.

Where am I going with all of this? Well in a very long winded and round about way, I’m encouraging you all to watch it, as soon as possible. I hear you asking why, so I’ll tell you.

  1. If you love Shakespeare, the documentary will reaffirm your love for him.
  2. If you hate him, you’ll hate him a little less and possibly have a better understanding of what he’s all about.
  3. If you’re not particularly fussed either way, you’ll be very entertained for an hour and a half and you’ll probably learn something, which is always good.
  4. Finally, if you need any other reason, think of the purchasing of this film as an act of charity, because Dan could really use a new car – if he doesn’t already have one.

They have a Twitter here, https://twitter.com/museoffirefilm, and a website here, http://www.shakespearefilm.com/. If you’re in Australia and feel inclined to watch, you can get it on Vimeo, otherwise I think the rest of the world has it available on iTunes (but not Australia because we’re a bit backwards).

If there’s anyone reading this that has already watched the film, or watches it based on reading this (which would in all honesty shock me), I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. OR I would love to hear some other first experiences with Shakespeare – did you love it or could you have imagined nothing worse?

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