Friday, October 9, 2015

The Longest Afternoon - Brendan Simms

'The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided The Battle of Waterloo' by Brendan Simms, is my fourth Waterloo book of the year. 

This focuses on the King's German Legion's (KGL) defence of La Haye Sainte, which Simms claims was the key battle within the battle. Their defence held the centre of the field for Wellington long enough to allow von Blücher's Prussians to arrive & effectively finish Napoleon. 

It's a well-written & researched account of the day at La Haye Sainte & does well by all who fought there, including the French. 

He is very insistent about La Haye Sainte's significance, which he points out (at least three times in very similar words): "is still lost amid the (understandable) emphasis on the Guards at Hougoument, the heavy cavalry charges, Picton's death, the resilience of the British infantry squares...and finally Maitland's coup de grâce to the Imperial Guard." 

He makes a good case, but as that list shows battles are more than just single incidents one after another. They are interconnected, often happening at the same time & wreathed in the smoke, chaos & terror of the day. 

The importance of a single part of that battle is often hard to say without straying into counter-factuals. La Haye Sainte was clearly important but if it had fallen earlier in the day would Napoleon have won? It's impossible to say but it is worth a detailed look. And the men - on both sides - who fought there are worth remembering.

Simms does an excellent job of explaining not just the battle but the creation & make-up of the King's German Legion, individual stories from within that battle and putting the KGL into a post-Waterloo context too. He quotes Field-Marshal Lord Bramall who refers to Waterloo as 'the first NATO operation' so multi-national was the army that fought there: British, Hanoverian, Brunswickers, Dutch, Flemish and Walloon (before you throw in the Prussians).  

It is good to be reminded that our history is not as separate from Europe as we might like to believe and that Waterloo wasn't won - just - on the playing fields of Eton. Not that I think this is the book's intention, just something I took from it.

Definitely worth a read if Waterloo is your thing, although it is actually as much about the trials of men in battle as it is the strategic and tactical stuff of military history. The story of Friedrich von Ompteda would be worth a book in its own right (and makes the Prince of Orange the nearest thing to a villain this book has.)


Wednesday, September 9, 2015


"I knew it was my business to protest, however futile protest might be. I felt that for the honour of human nature those who were not swept off their feet should show that they stood firm."

This quote was taken from Adam Hochschild's excellent book, To End All Wars and when, as now, voices start calling once more for us to go to war or when the press start beating the drums of war and start calling anyone who questions the government, 'Cowards' it might do us good to remember this quote. 

The price many of those who objected to World War One paid could be high, especially in the early years when anti-war activists could be attacked by patriotic mobs or when one chose not to fight and ended up imprisoned and - in the case of c.30 concious objectors - threatened with the death penalty for refusing to fight. 

I've just finished To End All Wars, which I'm reading side-by-side with Douglas Newton's The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain's Rush To War, 1914, and the role of press barons and editors in pushing war and punishing and mocking dissidents hasn't changed much. The Sun branding the potential leaders of the Labour Party, 'Cowards' is part of the same culture even if the wars they want us to take part in are very different. 

So the calls have begun for us to bomb Syria. A country that has already been pretty comprehensively bombed. Our bombs, of course, are special stability bombs. Designed not to kill but to bring stability to a region that has clearly already massively benefited from our previous stability campaigns. And yesterday we announced the killing of two British ISIS fighters by drone. 

We're all supposed to be OK with this because these people were ISIS fighters. They, apparently, wanted to organise terrorist atrocities in the UK. So killing them without trial is perfectly fine. They chose to fight. They deserved to die. anyone else uncomfortable with a politician playing judge, jury and executioner without consultation? Is anyone uncomfortable with vague discussions of 'intelligence', which since the Iraq War is questionable in both accuracy and/or its use by politicians eager to make a case for war. 

We talk about how untrustworthy politicians are seen to be. We talk about cover-ups, sexed-up dossiers and conspiracies. Yet we seem willing to allow David Cameron to - effectively - reintroduce the death penalty with barely a whimper. 

These things matter because they set precedents. We have nothing to fear from our government, I hear, if we've done nothing wrong. And perhaps that is true but history shows that laws accepted on the basis of being used in the fight against terrorism have a tendency to creep into other areas. 

So I write this and paraphrase Bertrand Russell: I know it is my business to protest, however futile protest might be. I feel that for the honour of human nature those who are not swept off their feet should show that they stand firm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Project 45, Part I

So in January 2016 I turn 45. Yes, 45. I may act like I'm 11 but I'm 45 so I've set myself a number of projects for 2016.  One of which is this film list. I've randomly picked one film from every year since 1971 to watch that I haven't seen.

Basically my criteria is:

- I've never seen it
- I think it is a surprise I didn't/haven't
- It's not part of an ongoing series (although there are a couple of exceptions)

There's not much horror or superhero stuff in there, but I'm planning to come to them later. It's pretty arbitrary.

I haven't put 2015 on the list yet as it isn't over yet.

Ideally I'm going to keep a look out for these being shown at cinemas, especially The Prince Charles or the BFI who regularly show older films

Here it is:

1971, A Clockwork Orange
1972, Solaris
1973, American Graffiti
1974, The Conversation
1975, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
1976, Taxi Driver
1977, Close Encounters of the Third Kind
1978, Grease
1979, Mad Max
1980, The Shining
1981, Escape From New York
1982, Fast Times At Ridgemont High
1983, The Outsiders
1984, Paris, Texas
1985, St Elmo's Fire
1986, Stand By Me
1987, Dirty Dancing
1988, Willow
1989, Sex, Lies & Video Tape
1990, Goodfellas
1991, The Silence of The Lambs
1992, Basic Instinct
1993, Dazed & Confused
1994, The Lion King
1995, Toy Story
1996, Fargo
1997, Good Will Hunting
1998, The Big Lebowski
1999, American Beauty
2000, Requiem For A Dream
2001, Spirited Away
2002, Minority Report
2003, Underworld
2004, The Incredibles
2005, Brokeback Mountain
2006, The Prestige
2007, No Country For Old Men
2008, The Hurt Locker
2009, Inglorious Basterds
2010, Scott Pilgrim v The World
2011, Drive
2012, Silver Linings Playbook
2013, Snowpiercer
2014, Whiplash
2015, TbC

So there it is.

Any alternative suggestions etc. Feel free to suggest them in the comments or one Twitter, where I am @Lokster71.

Any of my friends wishing to join me, especially if they like any of these films feel free to step forward.

Be seeing you.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dancing Into Battle, Nick Foulkes

Nick Foulkes has written a rather lovely book here. It tells the story of Waterloo from a different angle. There are soldiers in here. From lowly privates to officers and gentlemen, including The Duke of Wellington himself. But there are also civilians. Particular the wealthy British occupants of Brussels.

Brussels was, before the battle, packed full of Britons. There was an army, of course. There to help stabilize the newly formed (and slightly uncertain) United Kingdom of the Netherlands. With them came a high class of flotsam & jetsam who had joined the dash across the Channel for their own reasons. In some cases this is because they weren't quite as wealthy as they would have liked to be and their money went a lot further in Brussels than it did in Britain.

So there is a lot to hear about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. There's lots of interesting stories and characters but at the centre, in a unobtrusive way, is the Duke of Wellington. The Duke is often seen as a cold, cynical aristocrat (and there's an argument to be made that this is what he became later) but this book let's us see that some of his aristocratic insouciance in the run up to Waterloo was an act designed to reassure a nervous Brussels public. It also reminds us that the Duke wasn't always the clean cut hero he is presented. He could, often, be a very naughty boy, especially with Lady Frances Wedderburn-Webster.

There are balls and races. There is sex and romance. There are aristocratic young men showing off in the parks and streets of Brussels. There are drunken soldiers (of all ranks). There is gossip and gossips: of whom Thomas Creevey MP stands out. Creevey was a Whig MP who - if memory serves* - was in Brussels avoiding the consequences of a trial for libel. He provides an insight in the Duke of Wellington's state of mind post-battle when he basically pushes his way into the Duke's home in Brussels.

Foulkes gradually builds up these stories to the Duchess of Richmond's ball, which has cemented a place in history. There is apparently a whole book devoted to the ball - David Miller's The Duchess Of Richmond's Ball, 15 June 1815, which I would now dearly like to read - such is its fame. Foulkes tells it story in a single excellent chapter.

Then the book moves on to the battle itself. Foulkes writes a sketchy but rather excellent account of the how the battle panned out. Obviously being a social history it concentrates more on people. Both soldiers and civilians, including those waiting nervously in Brussels listening to the distant rumble of the cannon. He does a fine job of bringing the uncertainty of that day to life. Rumours of French victory swept through Brussels at one point causing a panicked flight from the City. It's a reminder of how different a world without instantaneous communication is. A world where no one can agree on the time. It also reminds you that the entire battle might have been won when the gates of Hougoument were shut after a small group of French soldiers broke in. On the smallest things the fate of Empire's hang.

This book actually makes a good companion to Paul O'Keeffe's, Waterloo - The Aftermath as both books talk of similar topics but from different angles. So both books talk about the treatment of the wounded. Amputation was a pretty standard practice for the time. Foulkes gives accounts of how Lord Uxbridge and Fitzroy Somerset dealt with their amputations with a stoicism that is almost unbelievable. O'Keeffe gives a detailed account of how a leg was amputated in a chapter that I would not read if you are squeamish. Both books remind us that some of the wounded lay untreated on the battlefield for days. Both books emphasise the shear horror of the post-battle field. The tightness of the space. The density of the bodies. Both books show us how the site became a tourist attraction pretty much immediately.

Foulkes also makes a fine job of showing how miraculous it was that Wellington wasn't killed. His officers died or were badly wounded all around him. As Foulkes himself says, "Often in accounts of the battle given by those who fought at Waterloo, there comes a time when the writer admits he finds it hard to believe how anyone survived..." The Duke himself realised it was a miracle of sorts. He said - almost - as much to Creevey.

I think the section on Wellington after the battle, when his 'act' slipped in the face of realising what the cost of the day had been, is genuinely moving. The quote from the letter Wellington wrote to Lord Aberdeen on June 19th to commiserate with Aberdeen on the loss of his brother illustrates his feelings admirably.

The book ends with an epilogue.

That's all I am going to say on that.

This is a fabulous book, which is written with a clarity that other writers of history would do well to emulate. I can't recommend it enough.

*I really should make notes when reading but I'm generally reading them on buses, tubes and trains so...blah blah blah. (Consider this an apology for the slipshod nature of this blog.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Omega Factor (Part One)

If you've never heard of The Omega Factor then I wouldn't be surprised. I hadn't heard of it myself until Big Finish announced they were going to bring it back in audio form. When I discovered it starred Louise Jameson - for whom I have a bit of thing - I zipped off to Amazon to pick up a copy on DVD. Second hand.

The 1970s seems to have been a bit of a paranormal decade. Or at least that's my impression. The great powers were definitely working on these areas, although whether they achieved anything more than create the conditions for a thousand and one conspiracy theories I don't know. The 70s is the peak decade for Uri Gellar too. So this was fertile territory for a television series.

It's a single season ten episode series made by BBC Scotland in 1979 and shown the same year. It's the tale of Tom Crane (James Hazeldine), a journalist. He's been writing articles of the occult but basically lives an ordinary life with his wife Julia (Joanna Tope). However he also has suppressed psychic powers, which it turns out are about to complicate his life in significant ways.

I don't want to spoil the series. Suffice it to say after an unfortunate set of encounters with Edward Drexel (Cyril Luckham) and his sinister lurking 'friend' Morag (Natasha Gerson) Crane finds himself drawn into the work of Department 7. Department 7 is a special department headed by Scott-Erskine (the magnificently named Brown Derby) that is involved in investigating the paranormal. They poke, prod and test. They're trying to make sure Great Britain isn't left behind in the Cold War quest for advantages over the enemy.

Also working at Department 7 is the laconic and rather annoying Dr Roy Martindale (John Carlisle), who heads up the Edinburgh section (which is where for various plot related reasons Tom Crane ends up). And Dr Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson), who knows Tom through his wife. Anne is the other main lead. She plays the Scully to Tom Crane's Mulder.

Ah, yes the X-Files comparison.

The two series do have similarities but The Omega Factor is more about the personal than the conspiratorial. Even if there is a conspiracy. But The Omega Factor is Tom Crane's personal journey into a strange new world that occupies the same space as the ordinary new one. His journey also involves Dr Anne Reynolds more and more.

The other thing I should note is that it is interesting to watch a series like this that is set in Edinburgh (and other parts of Scotland) instead of the familiar streets of London. It does have that grey, washed out look that the late-70s has in my memory.

The series was created by Jack Gerson, who also wrote a novelisation of the - effectively - the first couple of episodes of the series, although the plot goes in slightly different directions. [See Below] It has moments of real creepiness and can be rather dark and unpleasant. It certainly seemed to aggravate Mary Whitehouse with its portrayal of the dark arts, although the risks involved of dabbling are made pretty clear throughout the series. People in The Omega Factor pay a price for getting involved. It certainly isn't glib.

The only episode I didn't really get on with was Child's Play, which has its moments, but also features the silliest sequence in the whole series. But the best episodes are the first two, Illusions and Double Vision (which has some really creepy moments) and then The Powers of Darkness. I should also stop and note the rather unsettling title sequence and music.

The performances of the main cast are resolutely excellent. James Hazeldine plays the hero well as he struggles to come to terms with his own powers and the world he now finds himself in. He does righteous indignation well too. He'd have made a fine maverick cop in the right series. Louise Jameson also plays off of Hazeldine well. Dr Anne Reynolds is a scientist* but also a friend. She's more skeptical than Tom, even though she's been working for Department 7.

John Carlisle is brilliant as Martindale. He's dry, cold and almost reptilian. He's not sympathetic, which makes him ideal 'boss' material. Brown Derby's Erskine-Brown is a more traditional man of government corridors and gentleman's clubs. The sort of man that the Third Doctor would have been put up against during the Pertwee era of Doctor Who.

There seems to be a central argument in the series between the possible scientific truth of paranormal powers and the more old-school occult: computers and clip-boards v pentacles and demons. (And Gerson's novelization makes that more explicit.)

I don't intend to review the individual episodes. I think you should go watch them yourselves. Then come back and comment.

The series ends with some threads still dangling implying that there was more to come but it never did. Until now. Big Finish have today launched the first series audio The Omega Factor featuring Louise Jameson as Dr Anne Reynolds again. I look forward to hearing these.

Prior to that Louise Jameson narrated an unexpurgated version of The Omega Factor novel, which can be ordered here. It's an excellent book actually that isn't quite true to the series but has a bit more depth to it. There's some fantastic darkness in it. Some scenes are very hard to shake off. And Drexel is a nastier character here than he is in the television series, where I found Cyril Luckham to be a tad too avuncular to be as terrifying as he should be. Louise Jameson narrates excellently. She doesn't do 'impressions' of other characters. There's an accent here and there, a tone change and/or a step up or down in her vocal range to make it obvious that different people are speaking. Although her Dr Martindale really did seem to get the spirit of John Carlisle's performance. It might be a good way of dipping into the series in audio form if you're not sure it'll be your cup of tea (and can't get hold of the DVD).**

In Part Two I'll talk about the Big Finish series, which will feature words from Louise Jameson and David Richardson who were kind enough to spare me some of their time a while ago now. I would have written this later - for some reason I thought they were releasing Series One in August.

Be seeing you then.

*She also wears a fetching selection of jumpers but this may be my own personal thing.
**The series might be available in unofficial places but I couldn't possibly recommend them.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Waterloo : The Aftermath by Paul O'Keeffe

Let me begin by explaining that I won this book in a Vintage Book competition on Twitter so it made perfect sense to follow-up Andrew Roberts', Napoleon The Great with Waterloo - The Aftermath

It's an excellent piece of narrative history that takes us from the Ligny and Quatre Bras through to Napoleon's exile on St Helena via Brussels, Antwerp, London, Torbay and Guadalupe (among other diverse geographical locations.)

The book finely illustrates the theory that an army in retreat is only one step away from turning into a mob. The retreating French army, pursued by the vengeful Prussians, were at some points falling apart quite spectacularly.  

It's a dark book too. The sections on the looting of the battlefield, on how Napoleonic armies dealt with the wounded (including a section on amputations that the more squeamish among you might find a tad difficult to read through) and on that Prussian rage. 

When confronted about this by Wellington, Blucher just said, "My Lord Duke, the French were never in England." Napoleon's humiliation of Prussia had led to this and as part of the law of unintended consequences would also lead - eventually - to the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership and the fall of another Napoleonic Empire. 

Like Andrew Roberts' book we also get to see how slippery a large number of French political figures were and how tired of war the French had become. There was no attempt to scorch the Earth of France in front of the invaders as the Russians had in 1812. Sometimes even a great man has to call it a day.

Napoleon's abdication and eventual surrender to the British is also well told. Napoleon missed a chance to flee to the USA. He then hoped that he'd be allowed to live in British exile but it was not to be. He was exiled to St Helena. There was no way a British government would have allowed Napoleon to settle in Britain and his flight from Elba showed that he couldn't be trusted to stay near Europe. It made perfect sense but it always seems rather unkind (as did separating him from his son), which I know is stupidly wet of me in the circumstances. 

Again to cut a long blog short this is well-written, well-researched and well good innit. (Sorry. I won't do that again.) It seems an obvious thing to say - but I'm going to say it anyway - but wars and battles don't just end in neat and tidy fashion and Waterloo - The Aftermath perfectly explains that by telling a tale of disaster, debacle and defeat.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Napoleon The Great : Andrew Roberts

First let me begin by saying this blog is written by an amateur. My knowledge of Napoleonic history was limited to a couple of years of study in and around A-Level history. Back then I read Pieter Geyl's book about Napoleon (of which I remember next to nothing.) So I'm reviewing this book with almost minimal context. So forgive me.

Roberts sets out to justify the title of his book. He wants us to see Napoleon as deserving of the title 'Great', which as he points out in his conclusion isn't a word that many rulers get given (or keep). And I think he manages to do that. For me though the justification for 'The Great' probably isn't because of his abilities as a soldier but as an administrator.

As a General his abilities can hardly be called insignificant. After all, as Roberts points out, he fought sixty battles and sieges in his career and lost only seven. The problem is that it doesn't matter how many battles you win if your last battle is the one that matters. And you lose it. In the end he over-reached himself, created too many enemies on too many fronts. As the stakes got bigger, the armies got bigger and the more he had to rely on others to do his work for him. The fighting went on a long time and you get the impression that by the time of Waterloo he wasn't thinking as sharply as he had before. Roberts points out that at Waterloo the French made a series of unforced errors that ignored Napoleon's own maxims.

But all that I already knew. Sort of. If we think of Napoleon, we think of the soldier. He's an ancestral British bogeyman.

However what Roberts's book does well is cover the other parts of his life. His codification of French law is pretty much still French law. He took what the French revolution had given him, but which floundered in the face of violence, and solidified it. Then the Bourbons came back and screwed it all up again.* Roberts is rightly impressed with Napoleon's energy, the breadth of his interests and his ability to compartmentalize his mind. Napoleon was a man of the Enlightenment.

The book also deals with Napoleon as lover, husband and brother. Indeed I'd argue that the strength of this book isn't that it makes you realise that Napoleon was a Great Man but that he was a fully-rounded human being. He was capable of great things and he made terrible mistakes. He could be cruel, although rarely vindictive (which actually may have cost him in the end). He could also be generous and loving.

Roberts does try and contextualise Napoleon's worst acts by comparing them with contemporaries actions and justifications. He also does a fine job of giving alternate accounts where available, although he tends to err in Napoleon's favour. But not always. This isn't a hagiography by any stretch of the imagination. There are warts and all in here. However** I would now love to read a really anti-Napoleon biography in order to compare and contrast.

So to prevent this turning into pages of waffle let me say that I enjoyed this book. It's well-written, smart and fascinating. It does what a good biography or history book should do, which is make you want to find out more about the person and the period.

I recommend it.

I'm now off to read Paul O'Keefe's, Waterloo - The Aftermath, which I won via Vintage Books. Seems to be the perfect follow-up. Then I'm going to find a biography of Napoleon to compare and contrast this one with.

*One thing this book also did was to remind me of the idiotic nature of the Bourbons in and around Napoleon's time and their magnificent ability to screw things up by failing to realise that things had changed irreversibly since 1789.
**That's one for Michael Gove.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Rabindranath Tagore

I was reminded of this poem, which fits both my current mood in post-election fugue.

Where the mind is without fear 

And the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free 
Where the world has not been broken up into 
fragments by 
narrow domestic walls 
Where words come out from the depths of truth 
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards 
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its
way into the
dreary desert sands of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into
thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my
country awake

Must read more Tagore. 

[Goes off to do some reading]

Monday, April 20, 2015

Measure For Measure [Barbican]

Here's a truth before we begin. If this were a review of a professional theatre reviewer I'd probably have a hinterland to draw on. I'd have seen other performances of Measure For Measure. I'd be familiar with the well-known productions. I'd have actually read the play so I could talk convincingly about what scenes were cut.

Alas I have never studied the play. I haven't seen any other production, whether that be stage or screen, so I can only reflect upon what I saw tonight. I am aware, mainly from reading Clive James, that 'Measure For Measure' is a 'problem play'. The problem seems to be one particular scene revolving around swapping in one character for another in a way that fools a third character. We'll come on to that later. What I will say is that it didn't seem like a problem play watching this production.

 I have no in-depth understanding of Russian theatrical craft, although I have actually read 'Being An Actor' by Stanislavski.

I haven't seen another Cheek by Jowl production. I have no idea what their production philosophy is, although I could find out if I were to read Declan Donnellan's* book 'The Actor and The Target'. I might do that one day.

I write all that because I want you all to be aware that this review is almost entirely without context and that you can choose to judge it accordingly.

The first thing I should note is that watching Shakespeare in Russian with surtitles takes a bit of getting used to. You have to fight the desire to read the words and ignore the performances. It would be an interesting exercise, having seen it once, to watch it again without looking at the surtitles to see how much the performance itself conveys meaning.

The story goes something like this: Duke (Alexander Arsentyev) has decided to take a few days off ruling and hands over the reigns of power to Angelo (Andrei Kuzichev). However the Duke is bluffing and decides to hang about, disguised as a Friar to see how things pan out. Angelo is a harder man than the Duke intent on getting the City back on the straight and narrow.

Caught up in this 'back to basics' programme is Claudio (Petr Rykov) who has got his lover, Juliet (Anastasia Lebedeva) pregnant. Out of wedlock. The punishment for this is death. Claudio's friend, Lucio (Alexander Feklistov) rushes off to Claudio's sister, Isabella (Anna Khalilulina), who is about to become a nun.

Isabella isn't keen but is persuaded. She meets up with Angelo and something about his bureaucratic coldness rouses her to a mighty defence of her brother. Initially Angelo refuses but haven fallen for Isabella basically offers her a deal: her virginity for her brother's life. This is all brilliantly acted. Anna Khalilulina is a passionate, powerful Isabella and Andrei Kuzichev's cooler, colder Angelo is a perfect balance.

Isabella's convinced Claudio would rather die than let his sister be dishonoured but under-estimates the effect the fear of death has on a man's courage. The Isabella - Claudio scene moves from the straightforward to the uncomfortable as it goes along. Again Khalilulina is wonderful and Rykov's Claudio is both real and pathetic.

All this is witnessed by the Duke (disguised as Friar) and he comes up with a plan to get around this involving a woman Angelo dumped, Mariana (Elmira Mirel). The plan, revolving around Isabella and Mariana swapping places passes off well. But Angelo - boo, hiss - orders Claudio's execution nonetheless.

The Duke scandalised by Angelo's double-dealing gets involved in a complicated plan to stitch Angelo up, which involves blagging the Provest (Alexander Matrosov) into sending Angelo a head that isn't Claudio's but they're pretending is Claudio. It's all very Blackadder "Head". Or rather Blackadder's "Head" is all very "Measure For Measure".

Angelo thinks he's got away with it as the Duke returns but the best laid plans etc. And everyone lives happily ever after. Or not. I'm not really sure the ending is one of Shakespeare's best. The Duke seems a bit feckless, although Arsentyev is very funny as he tries to persuade Isabella to marry him. Angelo is sent off to marry Mariana.

Everyone dances. The end.

Because this is a Russian production it is very easy to see this as a tale of modern Russia but it doesn't quite stack up. Is Putin the Duke or Angelo. Or both? If the Duke were Lenin the sad truth is that he didn't come back and take control off of Stalin. Perhaps though the moral is that the Duke might have issues as a ruler but it could always be worse. Be careful what you wish for as you might swap a Duke for an Angelo.

I actually saw in Angelo some of the darker parts of Britain's recent history. The figure of authority that takes his power and uses it to sexually exploit another person. And then to basically say to Isabella, the victim, "Who is going to believe you? I'm seen as a man of power and honour so who is going to think your story is true?" Angelo only gets caught out because a more powerful man is there to stop him. A powerful man who basically steps in to take Isabella away from her sexless fate as a Nun.

It's interesting designed and directed with a very clever decision made to use the cast like a flock of birds swirling together about the bare stage with a character popping out from within in order to make their speeches before being swallowed up by the flock again. It works particularly well at the beginning, when the flock as a whole peers suspiciously upon the audience. It's almost a Greek chorus but silent. Based on movement. Not words.

I've gone on long enough. Almost. This is really worth seeing. It's well-acted, particularly Khalilulina's Isabella who is the emotional core of the play, even if her decision to agree to the Duke's marriage proposal doesn't quite ring true.

If you don't get a chance to see it in the flesh then the Telegraph are live streaming it on 22nd April so you can watch it then if you're in the mood. The link is here I think.


I'd like to see another production of 'Measure For Measure' though as I'm not sure what I think of the play itself.

Exits to go off and read play.

*If Declan Donnellan is reading this (unlikely I know) I'd love to have a chat about the whole thing and be told how wrong my thoughts on it are. :-)