Reading: An Entry into Other Worlds

I bumped into a friend and his 12-year-old daughter at a market recently. The young girl, whose pen name is Tamika, enthusiastically told me about a book she’d been reading, Cue for Treason by Geoffrey Treese. Words like ‘Shakespeare’ and ‘Queen Elizabeth’, and Tamika’s excited description whet my own appetite for what sounded like an historical fiction book for children.

Using history as a base for children’s fiction is a wonderful idea. After borrowing Cue for Treason from my local library and reading it for myself I read another children’s book in the same genre, The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. The Explorer is a story about four children whose aeroplane crash lands in the Amazon jungle. There they meet an Explorer who – though unnamed throughout – is reminiscent of Percy Fawcett, the real-life adventurer who went missing without trace while searching for the Lost City of Z (see my previous review https://wp.me/p4c1s1-nS). All the children are transformed by the experience and at least two of them grow up to be explorers themselves!

Like my young friend Tamika, Rundell is enthusiastic about her genre and about reading. Copious historical research as well as a visit to the Amazon made up Rundell’s groundwork for The Explorer. But so too did books Rundell read as a child, books that caused her to be ‘in love with the world of a book’. (Read an interview with Katherine Rundell here https://bit.ly/2vVaEAp). As a writer herself Rundell is wonderfully descriptive. And, like the books she read as a child, Rundell has likewise created in The Explorer a book that easily transports the reader to another realm.

Descriptiveness – or lack thereof – was Tamika’s one criticism of Cue for Treason, a book she otherwise loved. Read Tamika’s review of Cue for Treason here:

‘The main characters in this book are Kit, Shakespeare, Sir Joseph and last, but certainly not least… Peter.

‘Pete or Peter is accused of a crime, a crime he did indeed do and all the people in his small town know it. The 14-year-old has to escape from home with a few of his family’s pennies and bread and cheese. He has to survive on the road where he meets Kit and then Shakespeare. Kit and Peter learn that the queen will be killed. When Pete becomes an actor and Kit’s friend, they go on their way to warn the good Queen Bess about her murder. Will Pete be kidnapped with all the things he knows? Will Kit have to travel alone? So many secrets, so many lies. Who is a friend, who is a foe?

‘I think this book could have used more description of the characters but I guess everyone can make up their own characters. I mean I’d like to know what Kit looked like. I did love the vigorous verbs. It was a wonderful book and we read it every night. We couldn’t put it down! 70%’.

Tamika, thank you for sharing your review and for your passionate recommendation!

 

 

 

 

Hearing King Lear – with National Theatre Live

The National Theatre Live screening of Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear is not to be missed if you’re studying it at school and certainly not if you just love anything to do with this 16th Century literary genius. It is showing (in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and at Ster-Kinekor Blue Route Mall in Tokai) on 14, 15, 18 and 19 June only.

It goes without saying that Shakespeare was meant to be performed. Not read. But it’s worth reiterating. During my school days we watched one of Shakespeare’s plays on film. Another one was accompanied by a voice over. For the rest it was reading. And that was difficult.

Watching a play being performed brings it to life and helps the viewer understand this writer’s often inaccessible old English. The inflections, the pauses, the tone of voice, facial expressions and movement of the actors all communicate and help the viewer/listener understand and therefore appreciate the words.

I had never read (or watched!) King Lear so this production was a superb introduction. Whilst the language is true to the original, director Sam Mendes brings some modernity to the play by using modern-day clothing and stage set. But, as alluded to above, it was the performance of the excellent actors that enriched my experience of this play.

The action opens with King Lear dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia, based on their professions of love for him. Devastated by his favourite’s (Cordelia) unwillingness to flatter him, the king hands his estate to the other two and then gradually descends into madness.

Goneril and Cordelia become greedy and turn their backs on Lear, an act which contributes to his poor mental state. Shunned by his family, Lear’s only companions become the faithful servants in his realm. A parallel story of filial love/betrayal is that between the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons (one of whom is illegitimate).

As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, weather conditions act as portents of things to come. This one is no different. Thunder and even rain accompany descriptions of lightning.

A brief interview at intermission reveals the thought and research that were used to make this production the emotional, understandable one it is.

King Lear screens at 7.30pm on 14, 18 and 19 June and at 2.30pm on 15 June at the theatres mentioned above. With an intermission, the performance is three and a half hours long. Visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or call Ticketline on 082 16789.

A 1600s print out for King Lear

A 1600s print out for King Lear which is to be screened in South Africa from the National Theatre in London. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear's court, a scene from Shakespeare's play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear’s court, a scene from Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons