Ben Crystal lectures in Japan

I heard Shakespearean actor, Ben Crystal, talk today. My interest in Shakespeare – which had wained with my miscomprehension or un-comprehension of it in my youth – had returned with the revelation that what I had been watching until now had been inauthentic. Ben had pointed out that modern performances had tended towards Received Pronunciation (RP) even though most of The United Kingdom (98% in fact) do not speak like the Queen. English is not the English of Lawrence Olivier. It is the English of ordinary folk. So watching Shakespeare done in RP is like watching it in another language altogether.

Modelled performances by Ben during the talk in the more natural pronunciation of English in Shakespeare’s time according to Ben meant a return to rhyme (lost in modern pronunciation of words), in a more natural tempo and rhythm (sounding more like the vernacular we recognise as native speakers), and engagement (actors spoke directly to the audience).

Some recent productions I have seen online have tried to return to these values (probably due to Ben and the Globe’s performances from 2005 onwards). These values, though, have always been there. You can still see it in the ordinary non-Shakespearean theatre of English. But the values were taken away (stolen as it were) by a small group some time in the history of the English stage performance. This revision and return is absolutely necessary if we are to appreciate Shakespeare on this day of all appropriate days – Shakespeare Day (23rd April) – once more. Bravo and thank you, Ben.

Cinema and academic research

I have a love-hate relationship with movies. Some days I hate it to the max. The pointlessness and waste-of-time productions that consists of most films. Then some days I love it when I come across a great piece of cinema.

One of my favourite films Kinema no Tenchi (The World of Cinema) is directed by Yoji Yamada of Torasan fame. The film revolves around the Shochiku Film Studios, the largest of the Japanese film studios, at the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’ in the 1930s. This was also a period in world and Japanese history when Nationalism was at its peak before the onset of Second World War. In it is a scene which Shimada, an assistant director, is talking to Odagiri, an old high school buddy, who is part of the anti-National ist movement. The latter is on the run from police for revolutionary activities. In the house scene, Odagiri, is telling Shimada about how reinvigorated he becomes when he sees a movie particularly ones Shimada had helped made. In those troubled times going watching a film is his one comfort. But Shimada still young and naive of the ways of the world cannot grasp the significance of Odagiri’s words.

Hope is what is all we need. Without hope there is no looking forward to a brighter future.

Ironically Shimada, in his open-hearted generosity to his friend, is implicated as a anti-Nationalist and thrown in jail. It is here that he learns of the suffering and the fight of the people who are branded as anti-Nationalist. But the most important lesson he learns  is that it is the films that give people hope.

In a way when I write my papers, put forward my theories, I am trying to make the world a better place, trying to make a positive difference to the world. If I didn’t have this thought in my mind I could not proceed. The little knowledge that I add to the world I hope will make a contribution to our understanding. I may not see the fruits of my labour but that the knowledge of the seeds of my efforts will make a difference is all that I need to continue in my research. The struggles of writing a PhD are struggles not unlike Shimada’s or the world of cinema.