On Reading, Part Four

Since finishing uni, my book consumption has dropped dramatically. Reading has always been a bit of an escape for me, something I do instead of doing what I’m meant to be doing, something that lets me escape the word around me and lose myself for a couple of thousand words, spend time with people I’d otherwise never have the opportunity to meet. Very rarely do I go anywhere without a book, even if it is just to feel the weight of words in my bag.
Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten was one of this year’s Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist awardees, and is essentially, the story of two people – Clare and Andi – and their struggle of co-dependency, seen through the Stockholm Syndrome. Cleverly appropriating the Stockholm syndrome (from which the book is titled), we slowly see Clare and Andi’s world collapse in upon itself, their needs and want destroying the beautiful obsession which brought them together in the first place.

Hellbent: Bell Shakespeare’s 'The Duchess of Malfi'

“I know death has ten thousand several doors
For men to take their exits, and 'tis found
They go on such strange geometrical hinges,
You may open them both ways.”
 – The Duchess [IV, 2]

Elizabethan tragedies – and by extension, their natural Jacobean successors – are a strange bunch, all fire-and-brimstone, hellfire and damnation, a never-ending downward spiral of revenge and death and murder that ends only through the extinguishing of the lives of the play’s characters. Of all of the Elizabethan-Jacobean tragedies, none are better or more potently – delightfully, malevolently, gleefully – delicious than Shakespeare’s: Titus Andronicus, beneath the innumerable killings and murders and barbaric acts, is darkly comic and is an absolute blast; Macbeth is a potent examination of power, and what happens when you become drunk on its allure and promise; Othello is devastating in its misrepresentation of evidence, while King Lear and Hamlet are perhaps the pinnacles, the generally-considered perfections, of the form. Shakespeare was not just writing for himself, he was writing in reaction to those that had gone before him – Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd – and those that were writing around him – Ben Johnson, John Webster. Of all of them, it is Webster whose plays perhaps took Shakespeare’s achievements and reverted them to the glory-days of Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy or Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, denying the dramatic tragedy form of Shakespeare’s elegance and finesse, and restoring to it much of the robust and blatant disregard for humanity, along with all the bile and brimstone that one could muster. (If you’ve seen Shakespeare In Love, you’d already be familiar with John Webster; he’s the street urchin kid who’s often seen outside the theatres, playing with the cats and mice, and who facilitates Thomas Kent’s unmasking as Viola de Lesseps.)
This presentation of Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi was written in 2006 by Ailsa Piper and Hugh Colman and first performed by the Red Stitch Actors Company under the title of ‘Hellbent.’ It’s a pretty accurate description of the play, to be honest, as the two brothers scheme and plot the maintenance of their sister’s chastity, her subsequent downfall and eventual death, along with that of her maid and husband (and former steward).


FRAGILE: IDEAS – THIS WAY UP: Remembering Brain Freeze

Four years ago, I assembled a group of friends and we made a film. We didn’t set out to blow our minds or create something of undeniable genius or change the world; we set out to make a film, have fun, and feel as though we’d created something special and wonderful out of a bunch of words on a page. That was our goal, our sole reason.
In a nutshell, the film – brain freeze – is about Leonard, a struggling author, and his attempts to end the writers’ block that has been plaguing him for the past eon. Onceuponatime, he was a successful author, but he hasn’t written anything for months. Desperate and at his wit’s end, he decides to go into his mind to see what old ideas he can use. But as he soon finds out, his characters have other ideas.