Adaptation #116: Cinderella, Dressed in Yellow

header116Our team geared up for the new live-action Cinderella by reading and watching an insanely large amount of versions of the classic tale, from the 7 BC Egyptian Rhodopis to the 2011 A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song. We get into themes of beauty and it’s worth, social status and neglect as well as why there are just SO many birds.

Make sure you let us know in the comments if there are any other versions we should pick up!

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For a similar discussions, check out our episodes on all the versions of Snow White, Into the Woods, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time, Starkid’s Twisted, and Frozen/The Snow Queen.

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Vlog: Five Best Shakespearean Adaptations

In which our Adaptation hosts had the impossible task of picking just five amazing Shakespearean adaptations…and Jessica has a bit of a crisis in listing them!



Adaptation #111: Into the Woods of Deconstruction

header111As fairytale connoisseurs, the team has been looking forward to the film Into the Woods for a long while. Most are extremely pleased, but someone has some issues with the plot.

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For a similar discussions, check out our episodes on Once Upon a Time Season 3, Starkid’s Twisted, Frozen, and Jack the Giant Slayer.

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Vlog: Five Best Fairy Tale Adaptations

In which Jessica lists our top choices for fairy tales on screen – from classic tellings to “historical” renditions!


Adaptation #110: We Got Annie


header110After rolling their eyes through the 1982 Annie, the hosts are pleasantly surprised with the 2014 version. The plot changes, the updated music, and better character development led to an incredibly fun film experience.

*NOTE* We tried a few things with the audio this time, trying to make it a bit louder for you commuters out there. Let us know if this is better, worse or the same!

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For a similar discussions, check out our episodes on Big Hero 6, Alexander and the Very Bad Day, The Boxtrolls and The Giver.

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Vlog: Favorite Adaptations of 2014

Jenn lists off our favorite Adaptations of the year!


Commentary #3: Annie (1982)

comheader003The team sits down to watch and dissect the 1982 film version of Annie to prep for the upcoming remake. Pop in your DVD and watch with us!

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For a similar discussions, check out our episodes on The Boxtrolls, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time season 3, Frozen, and Snow White.

Other commentaries: The Lion King and The Princess Bride

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Cancelling shows this early in the fall season is totally ‘Selfie’

As we pass the quarter season mark, it seems it is that time of year when networks “trim the fat” of their weekly line-up and begin to cancel shows. The first to go are generally the half-hour comedies that aren’t making the grade. This year Selfie is on the chopping block. It was new to television this season and was created by Emily Kapnek, who also created Suburgatory.

This delightful show, staring Karen Gillan, most known for playing Amy (Amelia) Pond on Doctor Who, and John Cho, known for many things but especially as Harold from Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and more recently as Andy Brooks in Sleepy Hollow, is a new and neat take on the Pygmalion/My Fair Lady story.

Gillan plays Eliza Dooley, a top sales rep at a pharmaceutical firm, whose obsession with social media, lack of real interpersonal skills, and questionable professional attire make her unpopular with other staff. Cho plays Henry Higgs, an executive at the same firm, with a flare for being a stodgy workaholic. The two, as in the original story, are a mismatched pair, but unlike the original it is Eliza that initiates the path to transformation.

After an embarrassing misread of signals from a co-worker leads her to make a strong pass at him, a married man, she finds herself airsick and makes a mess of herself when the barf bags break on her. After this, Eliza becomes aware that she has no real friends, only followers. The next day, Henry is being praised at a meeting for re-imagining and re-branding one of the company’s products. Eliza figures that he might be able to do the same for her, and goes to him for help. Strangely and sadly, that only lasts an episode, he continues to help her, but she is back to her old tricks. I guess old habits do die hard, and good thing; they wouldn’t have a show without it!

abc-upfront-selfieIn this day and age, good etiquette and being proper are not held with the same weight as they were years ago, when “polite society” was something to aspire to rather than just a term used when scolding someone’s who burps or farts in public or at the dinner table, elbows on it and all. I don’t, by any means, want to glorify a class society, where people need to “know their place”, but am only referring to it as the setting and general whole to the original story. By taking that away, it changes the way the characters seem, act, and fit together.

Where the original story takes a well respected man of society, Henry Higgins, and has him take on a wager that he can turn a lower class, cockney, Eliza Doolittle, into a proper lady, this new one takes a similar route, but borders on turning the story on its head, by making us and Henry understand that it might be him that needs a radical change. That is not to say that Eliza is without her own faults. She is still classless, but more to today’s standards: vapid, self-obsessed, almost totally annoying in my opinion, and a slave to what she thinks her followers want (as Henry said, “It’s not an outfit of the day, it is just an outfit” and “don’t tweet it, eat it” to Eliza as she snaps a selfie with her fancy macaroon).

She also wears, as I said, questionable work attire, which although her clothes are not super revealing, they are provocative. I do not stand to shame her on this, most of her clothes have a great style to them, but I do not appreciate that she wears them just to get the attention of lonely doctors, hence top sales rep, and even male coworkers, propagating the continuation of sexism. It irks me a bit… actually, it irks me a lot.

Still, to see the two of them try to balance each other out is an adorable display each week, with Eliza and Henry giving each other a goal to reach, i.e. Henry should not work for the entire weekend and Eliza should do a good deed just for the sake of doing a good deed. Although their relationship seemed to be hitting a climax earlier than expected, it might have come at a good time. It’s a nice giddy jolt to give to the few fans the show has  and might bring in some more.

In last week’s episode (#5 Even Hell Has Two Bars), Henry and Eliza find themselves at the boss’s ranch, where after a string of disappointments for Henry, he realizes that Eliza really is his better half, and brings out a more human, less robotic, persona in him. Eliza is dazzled when Henry rides to her on a majestic white horse to apologize. He claims that he chose the least majestic horse and did not mean it as a romantic gesture, before pulling the famous line “I’ve grown accustomed to [your] face.” This again colors Henry’s character new shades of socially inept and emotionally stunted. The line was said directly to Eliza, instead of to himself in the privacy of his own home, which led her to reply with a quizzical “thanks?”, leaving a bit of awkwardness that we have come to know and love with these two. The kicker is that she tweets a selfie she took with Henry and the horse, saying it got no likes and she would delete it, but she doesn’t and Henry likes/favorites it. It was a nice “awww” moment.

For some reason, they aired two episodes last week, and in the next one their sexual tension is back to its regular level, so it might not be that they went too far too fast with the pacing of the series, but it left me wondering, if for any reason this does not actually get cancelled, where would they go from here?

I say all that because despite many websites saying that Selfie is in fact cancelled, the real news that I have read merely states that the network will not be ordering more than the original 13 episodes for this season. I have read elsewhere that this can be a sign that the show will be cancelled, but some first seasons really are only 13 episodes. This also happened to shows like  A to Z, but it has not been officially cancelled. The fact that they aired two episodes last week is not a good sign, but this week’s episode aired as normal, and we shall see what happens to the rest. It might mean that the network will give this show a second chance. It’s not unheard of to “un-cancel” shows.

I hate to say it, but I have become a loyal follower of Eliza and would like to see where they could go with this show. This, of course, includes the unsung heroes of the show like Charmonique the receptionist and her son, who are amazing actors and characters and have livened up and rounded out the premise of the show. And I can’t forget Larry, an awkward lab guy that seems to constantly latch onto Henry, and Bryn, Eliza’s neighbor and the only real normal person in the show, giving Eliza something to aspire to. The side characters really take the pressure off the main story of Eliza and Henry and add a bit more comedy, as well as give Eliza reason to not be so damn annoying. The show has gone over the top at times, but we live in a crazy world filled with crazy characters, so I like it. If it does officially get cancelled, I will be very sorry to see it go, as will many of my friends, but I cannot say that I didn’t see it coming, in fact I called it after the pilot.

Tell us what you think of the show and its characters. Are you glad to see it go? If you wish it to not be cancelled, what plea would you make to the network?

Vlog: You’ve Got the Good Old Parfumerie Around the Corner

In which Kendyl gets a little out of hand talking about the different films adapted from the 1937 play Parfumerie, including The Shop Around the Corner (1940), In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You’ve Got Mail (1998).


Commentary #2: The Lion King

comheader002In this commentary episode, the girls try very hard not to sing along with The Lion King… and mostly succeed while discussing Disney’s musical adaptation of Hamlet with lions.

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For a similar discussions, check out our episodes on Maleficent, Once Upon a Time season 3, Frozen, and Snow White.

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Vlog Spotlight: Starkid Productions

In which Jenn gives us a rundown of the amazing work of Starkid Productions.



Vlog: Four Worst Musical Adaptations

In which Jenn follows up the Best Musicals with the Worst, once again in song.


Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus on the London Stage

frank3It is hard to know what to expect from a stage production of Frankenstein, especially when all of the films called Frankenstein have been off the mark on their adaptation of the novel by Mary Shelley. The production for the London Stage was written by Nick Dear (The Art of Success), published by Faber and Faber, directed by Danny Boyle (director of the opening ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics; Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire), and starred Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary) as the Creature and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as Dr. Victor Frankenstein. When this production was put up, on alternating nights Miller and Cumberbatch would switch parts, and although I would have loved to see both, I was only able to see the aforementioned one.

Shelley started writing the story when she was eighteen, and the novel was published when she was twenty. The first edition was published anonymously in London in 1818. Shelley’s name appears on the second edition, published in France in 1823 and was always titled Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, which influenced the creators and actors from this production. They also said that even though it takes place so long ago, much of the story still resonates with current events. It was written in an age before science fiction was a genre, when Gothic stories reigned, and the novel stands out above others riddled with fear of what lengths people will take for science, and what immoral acts can come from it. Can Man really play God? It was the first book to ask.

The production begins with a lit circle in the middle of the stage, something of a womb made of canvas and wood. Inside is the Creature being brought to life and he is birthed from this and onto the stage in view. For a while there is a bit of awkward flailing and noise-making as the Creature learns to crawl, stand, walk, run and emit some form of speech. When Victor enters and sees what he has done, he covers the Creature and abandons him, running for his life.

The stage design was Gothic and minimalist- very fitting for this novel. It was dark and sparse most of the time, with only flares of something more, like a patch of grass or a bonfire, or a small structure for a house, etc. There were some scenes that had much more, like the train and rail workers coming in, which was a spectacular sight to see, or where Victor lived and worked. The center part of the stage rotated and was utilized for space and to move scenery. There was also a curtain of lights above, a mass of light bulbs hanging from the rafters, and when they were lit it was a fantastic sight. All in all, the staging was very well thought out and employed very successfully.

The amazing thing about this production that has never happened in a straightforward adaptation of the novel (excluding I, Frankenstein, which could be considered an adaptation of the novel, but is also based on a graphic novel we discussed previously in a podcast) is that the voice of the Creature, his own thoughts and feelings, are so important and central to the production. This differs even from the novel, where although we heard the Creature speak, the story is told from Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s perspective. I have to applaud Nick Dear for taking this approach. This feature is what attracted him and was essential to this production, as Danny Boyle generally said, and unknowingly agreed with me about how previous adaptations of Frankenstein always took the Creature’s voice away, changing the point and the crux of the story.

A  curious yet fabulous decision was that the casting for this play went for a colorblind array of cast members. We never see Victor’s mother, but his father (M. Frankenstein), brother (William) and fiancée/wife (Elizabeth) were black, and as most people can easily tell, Benedict Cumberbatch is a very pale shade of white. For the time it represented, it was unlikely in all accounts. As a viewer today, the fiancée doesn’t make much difference, but the blood relatives did pull me away from the story for a while, if only because I was trying to figure out if his father was really his stepfather and his little brother actually his half-brother. However, I am one to love it when directors and casting turn things on their head and surprise people.

The acting, I expected, was going to be the highlight of the play, and they did not disappoint. It is no wonder that Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller share both the Olivier Award and London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. They brought the characters to life in a way that made you forget you were watching a play. When choosing which version to go see, I figured that Benedict could play either part very well, but I wanted to see what Jonny Lee Miller could do as the Creature.

For most of the first half of the play the Creature is left to roam through the dirty streets of London, hiding in the shadows and scrounging for food. Anytime he is seen, like when he saves a prostitute from an assault, she sees him and backs away wanting to leave him alone, which is the tamest way a person reacts to him.

As I have said in a previous podcast about the 1931 Frankenstein, the Creature Frankenstein creates is like a child. Everything around him is new and interesting and absolutely terrifying. That is Miller’s take on the Creature. When he comes to a patch of grass he plays on it, feels it and rolls in it. Rain is refreshing and amazing. The sun sets and the birds fly and he laughs and jumps around at all the new stimulation.

My only issue with his portrayal is that it walked a fine line between fabulous interpretation and offensive. This child-like Creature with put together parts and a newly awakened brain had some muscular and speech disabilities, which on one hand I can see how that fits, and on the other hand it took on the guise of someone mentally disabled with stutters, spitting and long pauses in between syllables of speech as he gathered his wits. When the Creature makes it out onto a farm and meets up with the blind man who takes him under his wing and teaches him literature and philosophy, his demeanor and mannerisms smooth out a bit, but still felt a little uncomfortable for me.

***Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence*** (skip next two paragraphs)

Still, the most uncomfortable moment was the culminating one, where Victor and Elizabeth have just wed in Geneva. Victor tells her to stay in her room while he and the guards go hunting the Creature. The Creature is actually hidden very well under the sheets of the bed and springs upon Elizabeth when Victor is away. At first, it seems that they are just going to talk. Elizabeth calms and tell him that they can be friends, which seems to be all that the Creature wants at this point, even though we know that he is desperate for someone like himself to be created.

The mood turns quickly as the Creature says that he feels bad that he has to do this and then proceeds to hold Elizabeth down on the bed and rapes her on stage. I do not remember that being part of the book and  I think that a disclaimer was warranted. It made me very upset and sick and while I want to applaud the actors and director for making me feel so much, it was a bit too much for me and I’m sure for other audience members.

Besides that, the production was highly engaging. There are so many moments that just tug at you: You watch the creature learn and grow, and you pity him; you see him commit his first crime, and anger takes hold; he pleads with his creator to make a companion, and you sympathize with him; Victor takes into account all the ways this could go wrong and destroys the companion after showing the Creature, and you don’t know what to feel; the Creature murders all that is near and dear for Victor, and you feel disgusted. In the end it all culminates with the both Victor and his Creature in the North Pole, where we learn that they are nearly one and the same: both monsters, both human. All the Creature wants is to not be alone.

This play was dark and gritty, it easily held up a mirror to the audience asking who is the real monster? And it was not afraid to go darker and deeper; nothing was held back. Nick Dear really understood the original novel and made a play worthy of it. I applaud all those who worked on this successful production and now I hope that I can see how Benedict portrays the Creature. Can’t wait!

Have any of you seen this production? Are you going to see it now? Let us know in the comments!

Vlog: Eight Best Musical Adaptations

In which Jenn gets musical while listing the best film adaptations of musicals!


The Emotions of War Horse

war-horse-1300x630__artist-largeThis story has captivated the world. It’s that simple.

From the Queen’s favorite production in London, to the creation of an award winning film and finalizing its popularity by bringing the original novel back to bestseller lists, this is the story of a farm boy and his horse, and how their lives become disrupted by the start of World War 1. One day the biggest concern is how Albert will keep his horse, Joey, out of his father’s hands. The next day, Joey is taken by the army to become part of the proud British Calvary. After that, Albert takes himself to the very edge to recover the life he lost the day Joey was taken. Together, horse and boy, fight their own battles in a war that no longer has room for proud war horses, rather, the battlefield is laden with tanks, machine guns and barbed wire.

It is clear that this adaptation from book to stage has been successful. From London to New York City to Melbourne to Berlin, audiences flock to the theater to sit through the most heart-wrenching production of an English boy, a German general and the horse that brings the humanity out of those he touches.

When I sat down in the round theater, I knew I had volunteered for something that would open the floodgates, though I could’ve have guessed what that really meant. With the music bursting into my chest, I was caught in the first breathes of the production. From foal to stallion, Joey pranced around the stage with the echoing excitement of Black Beauty. Three men worked the puppet that becomes Joey and not once did I ever notice them on the stage. Joey trotted, galloped, charged with the grace of his puppeteers for the entirety of the production and as an audience member you can only be captivated by the brilliance of the artist who created life out of metal and gears.

By the end of the evening, you could see the tears flow from every member of the audience – it’s the blessing of the round theater in which we sat. Husbands comforted wives, men pretended not to wipe the tears from their eyes, the woman next to me was inconsolable and I myself couldn’t dry my cheeks fast enough. There was a pride in the room as our world darkened. It was not pride for the English Calvary, though that was there. It was not pride for soldiers or victory or the strength the in horses were made march to march off to war. The pride that was felt by all of us was that even in the darkest moments there are those amongst us who never forget our humanity. The strength to sacrifice for a cause that is just, to care for those who cannot care for themselves and to remember that there is always a choice.

This is one adaptation that cannot be missed. The message is there, the success is clear.

War Horse will add to your life.

@kristinbergene @riverrampress

Enemy of Man: Adapting Shakespeare with the Help of Kickstarter

Right on the heels of the release of Veronica Mars– a Kickstarter-funded film that provoked many in entertainment media to ask if this will change the future of film- another exciting Kickstarter has made it’s pitch to the public.

Director Vincent Regan is asking for help funding the production on his independent feature film Enemy of Man, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth that already has an A-list cast committed to it. Sean Bean will take on the tragic title role, while big names actors Charles Dance, James D’Arcy and Rupert Grint will be playing Duncan, Banquo and Rosse respectively.

As I’m writing this, the project has 16 days left and just under half of it’s $250,000 goal has been pledged. But director and cast haven’t just been sitting around in the beginning stages of the project waiting for funds. They’ve already shot an 8-minute proof of concept film and a teaser trailer to show backers what the film will look like. The full 8-minute film, called Instruments of Darkness is available for a $10 pledge to the Kickstarter.

While that trailer does send a chill of excitement through me, the video pitch for the Kickstarter itself is what really sold me on this project. Regan’s passion for the story told in Macbeth comes across strongly as he talks about adapting it and the cast itself seems to really believe in the script. Sean Bean describes it as “not word-heavy” Shakespeare and Regan says that he added a bit more action. That originally made me weary as it seems a very Hollywood thing to do.

But he won me over with his reasons for funding through Kickstarter. With the cast that is attached to the project, I imagine that it wouldn’t be overly difficult to sell the idea to a studio and go through traditional funding methods. But Regan came to Kickstarter because he believes that his vision falls outside of what the industry would be willing to take a chance on. Instead of changing his vision, he is changing his methods.

Watch the video for yourself at the Kickstarter page.

After the Veronica Mars Kickstarter success, most articles focused their industry predictions on cult-followings, on shows like VM that ended too soon. Not to say that Shakespeare doesn’t have his own group of fans, but I’m not sure this is what they had in mind. And that makes me even more excited about the possibilities.

The film industry is in the business of making money and so it’s hard to blame it too much for sticking to the tried and true formulas. But I think that we can all agree that it has gotten stuck in a rut with those formulas and that is why seeing projects like this pop up seems to fill the air with promises to shake things up.

I encourage you all to head over to the Kickstarter for Enemy of Man and give it a look through, even if you’re not interested or able to contribute. If you are interested in backing it, $15 and up with get you a digital copy of the feature film, which isn’t much higher than a theater ticket. They are also offering exclusive t-shirts, posters, and concept art.

What do you think of this project? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Vlog: Seven Worst Casting Choices

In which we list some of the worst casting decisions Hollywood has made for film adaptations.


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#57 Hi-Yo Stupid, Away! (The Lone Ranger)

#31 Vive la Revolution pour les Miserables (Les Miserables)

#13 M. Night, You Used Your Power Irresponsibly (The Last Airbender)


War Horse: An Enchanting Stage Production

WarHorse-HeaderNational Theatre Live recently broadcasted encore screenings of War Horse from the New London Theatre in London’s West End. It is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel of the same name and was adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford.

The story starts in rural Devon just before WWI, where two rowing brothers, Arthur and Ted Narracott, fight for a horse at auction. Each has a son at their side, one named Billy who immediately wants the horse, and the other named Albert who would rather that his drunken father not spend their mortgage money on the purchase. The drunkard wins and brings the horse home to his family’s dismay. His wife, however, tries to think positively about taking care of the horse so it grows up big and strong, which may enable them to sell him and make their money back. She leaves the responsibility to Albert, who bonds with him and names him Joey. The rest of the story tests the strength of their friendship to overcome obstacles through their separation as well as the hardships of war.

Michael Morpurgo described it best during an interview at intermission, when he said that the story is not only about a boy and his horse, but it is also about the human condition of universal suffering and a story of redemption. It brings forth a rainbow of emotions, from pride to sadness, fear to hope, laughter to tears and back again all while reminding the audience that we are all living, breathing and caring human beings… or in some cases, horses.

The production was directed by Marianne Elliot and Tom Morris, and stars Sion Daniel Young as Albert Narracott, Steve North as his father Ted, Josie Walker as his mother Rose, Alistair Brammer as his cousin Billy, and Tom Hodgkins as his uncle Arthur, amongst a long list of other actors and puppeteers that make up the full cast. Many of the actors played a few different characters which led my friend to ask me during the play “didn’t that guy die already?” though I personally had no trouble following along.

This play on its own is a theatrical masterpiece. From the moment the spotlight drops onto the stage until the finale, there is folk music to guide your way. From seeing the horse, Joey, as a free running foal, to him growing up on the Narracott farm and bonding with Albert, to the boys trying to keep morale up on the front lines, songman Ben Murray fills hearts and ears with his breathtaking and haunting sound, singing live on stage  and enhancing each situation in this enchanting tale.

The acting was way above par and although I am unfamiliar with these actors, I would love to see them again. Each one of them took on their roles as if the stage wasn’t sparse. Even the puppeteers became their characters, breathing and moving like the animals they should be. The background characters were not just stand-ins either, they became part of the little scenery, being fences and gates and moving so the audience knew that the scenes had moved from stable to the field, or down the battlefield and over the barbed wire. Adding to the action and movement of the production, the center of the stage was a turntable giving it a movie feel, further enhanced by the ripped sheet of drawing paper (representing one that Albert rips out of Captain Nicholls’ sketchbook) which had projections of drawings, animated visions of Albert riding Joey, and images of war on it.

The puppets alone are a great reason to see this stage production, made by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa. These life-size and life-like puppets were characters of their own and although you could easily see the puppeteers, especially when Joey was a foal, it did not distract from the animals themselves. In fact, it is nice to see the puppeteers credited as the horse’s head, hind and heart. One of my favorite characters was actually the feisty goose played by puppeteer Tom Meredith.

Throughout the play, it amazed me what they could do with the puppets. Characters mounted the horses like a real ones (which is amazing in itself) and as they galloped and jumped the puppeteers could feign slow motion which was not only an amazing sight to see but added to the already building tension of warfare and a failing cavalry in a war that had advanced past their means. Besides that, when *Spoiler Alert: highlight to see text* Topthorn dies, not only is it gut wrenching, but the puppeteers come out from under him once he is down and walk away, letting people know for certain that the horse has died.

Joey and Topthorn moved and nearly breathed like real horses would. A glint in the eye, a flick or perk of the ear and a swish of the tail could tell you exactly what the horses were thinking. Which is great because although the play is staged so you can get everyone’s perspective, Michael Morpurgo’s novel was written in the first person perspective of the horse. During the aforementioned interview, they also spoke with Marianne Elliot who mentioned that they changed it because they “didn’t think a talking horse would work.” I agree that was a good choice.

This production has become a smash hit all over the world, with productions now being put up not only in England and America, but also Germany and China. It is a story that resonates with everyone, and I am not surprised. I was, however, surprised to learn that when Michael Morpurgo’s book was first published, it was not an immediate best seller. He said that if it wasn’t for the diligence of his publishers it might have fallen into obscurity. “There is also another similar book that no one has ever read called Black Beauty” he says, which may have attributed to that.

He was a bit concerned about the stage adaptation because when he read it, as it was clearly different from what he wrote, but he says that it was also because he was unfamiliar with the craft of playmaking, so to him a lot of things didn’t seem to work, but when you “put it in an actor’s voice and the actor doing what the actor does” it becomes terrific and it really works.

The whole production was seamless and although you could see how much work went into the design, staging, and music, the flow of it made everything seem so easy. It is more than worth the watch, so luckily it is available on DVD. For more information on the cast, crew and behind the scenes action go to

I have yet to read the book myself or see the film version, but seeing this has made me want to scope them out and get a full view of the story in all its forms. I will post my thoughts on those once I do.

Has the stage adaptation created any other book readers? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Coriolanus: A Modern Man

elle-reviews-coriolanus_GBI never really considered productions of plays being adaptations of the original written play. Unless it is play to screen – like Joss Whedon’s film and modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, it seemed that productions were just productions of the written play, but when I saw the live stream of the London Theater production of Coriolanus, in my local movie theater, it changed my perception.

The play is formally named, The Tragedy of Coriolanus and is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays and is part of his Historical play set. The story is of a man named Caius Martius, who is a patrician, or aristocratic soldier who has little compassion for the lower classes. He is heralded as a hero after nearly single-handedly defeating the attack of the Volcians, led by his rival Tullus Aufidius at the neighboring Italian city of Corioles and is given the name Coriolanus. However, a famine had rampaged Ancient Rome and the people are in a rage against the upper class. To have their voices heard they have tribunes (representatives) to stand up for them. Coriolanus is given a hero’s welcome, and the Senate offers to make him consul.

In order to gain this office, however, he must go out and plead for the votes of the plebeians (common people), a task that he undertakes reluctantly. At first, the common people agree to give him their votes, but they later reverse their decision at the prodding of two clever tribunes, Brutus and Sicinius, who consider Coriolanus an enemy of the people. This drives the proud Coriolanus into a fury, and he speaks out intemperately against the very idea of popular rule; Brutus and Sicinius, seizing on his words, declare him a traitor to the Roman state and drive him into exile, where his rival surprisingly takes him in and together they plan a bitter attack on the city that betrayed him. For those who have not read or seen this play, I will not spoil the rest.

It is not like a British theatre group to change Shakespeare’s work, and this followed suit, only possibly taking out extraneous and unnecessary but unnoticeable moments from the play. It was done as it would be read, but with more life.

This production of Coriolanus was directed by Josie Rourke and starred Tom Hiddleston as Caius Martius Coriolanus, Mark Gatiss (Mycroft from BBC’s Sherlock) as Menenious a friend and mentor to Coriolanus, Hadley Fraser as the rival Aufidius, Deborah Findlay as his mother Volumnia, Birgette Hjort Sørensen as his wife Virgilia, and Elliot Levy and Helen Schlesinger as Brutus and Sicinia respectively.

Put up at the Donmar Theater in the West End of London, this Coriolanus was different than what you would expect from a Shakespearean play. The theater itself used to be a banana-ripening warehouse, and was utilized as a minimalist theater border lining a black box theater. They used the back brick wall for all of their scenery, which stayed painted half way up in red. It was painted with a bit of graffiti at the beginning, and had firm metal handles in it, which became multi-purpose throughout the play. It was also used as a projector screen to display words of the people chanting in glowing letters.

The stage itself looked like a small canvas square with a ladder upstage left, which allowed Coriolanus to climb offstage. The only set beyond that is a square painted in red by a child at the beginning, chairs to hold characters actively or inactively (as if they were offstage), and a small black square that is aptly painted later on to put Coriolanus on trial – twice. The little set was used very well, with unique staging because the audience was on three out of four sides, having everything stay the same and yet change so seamlessly between scenes. The red square looked like the ropes of a boxing ring, and with scenes of social unrest, political distress and all out war it was perfect for each and every scene.

This minimalist idea continued onto the characters. The costumes were a mix of period and contemporary clothing. It was all very simple and clean, with only a flick of leather chest armor and a sword. The near empty stage never felt empty as it was filled with the voices and presence of each character.

Tom Hiddelston is a fearless actor who took this role full on with the ablity to move seamlessly between all parts of the role and emotions. He portrayed Coriolanus as a complex human being, going from loving son and husband to arrogant aristocrat, from fearless warrior to sarcastic fool, from cold-hearted to soft-hearted. He didn’t put on a mask and go overboard or put on any airs like I see most Shakespeare done. It was a stripped down performance that showed him as a real man and did not feel like we were just watching an actor play out a scene, although I will say I remarked that he was an amazing actor because he could cry on cue and it was absolutely real.

His performance along with the smaller and less cluttered stage was a recipe for intimacy that was felt throughout. At times it seemed so real that it felt like we were all voyeurs looking in on something private. We are there with him every step of the way, watching him become warring god and then wash the blood away to become a flawed and scarred human again, and besides making the whole theater cry with him, he brought us to laugh as he went from having a fit to comforting his mother, and his sarcastic jests as he had to humble himself in front of the “unworthy common folk”.

I could continue to fan-girl over Tom, who is a fine piece of man as seen in this with a near see-through humble shirt and a nice tight pair of jeans, and his fabulous portrayal, but he was not the only amazing actor there. The entire cast made up a superb ensemble, whom under the director were able to bring to life this unique vision of a story that is still relevant today. They all became their characters and spoke Shakespearean English as plain as it was modern English. Where most Shakespeare plays I have seen have been put on as Shakespeare intended, with over acting, big gestures, and over explaining so that any person anywhere in the Globe could understand what was going on, this was a toned down version; a modern play with Shakespearean words.

It is so difficult to talk about this production without bringing up every single moment in it. It isn’t just Tom Hiddleston, it is the power of voice and intonation and character of all the actors, especially Deborah Findlay, Mark Gatiss (as one might expect from Mycroft… with a little more heart), Hadley Fraser and the two tribunes. The way they spoke was natural and human even if the words seem foreign, with snark and sarcasm and love. It was all easy to understand, even if you could not fathom how any of them could memorize those long speeches. The only thing that was questionable at times was the choice of music they used as they changed scenes. It seemed, at first, to be a weird techno fusion, but as the play went on it turned into more warlike drums and sounds that built tension.

This play was put up with such integrity and vision that it easily got under your skin and into your heart. All the actors spurred so many feels; anger, friendship, rivalry and camaraderie, and so much more. Honestly, I would love to have played Virgilia, Coriolanus’ wife, because not only was she a fun character, but she got to kiss him about 4 times throughout the play. Though I would settle for being his rival, Aufidius, because he got to sword fight him, oh and *spoiler alert* kiss him too.

The only way to do it justice is to see the production; the patrons of the theatre I was in gave it a standing ovation even though the actors were not present to receive the applause. Check National Theatre Live for broadcasts and rebroadcasts in theatres near you. Hopefully, they will realize that this is a production too good to keep under wraps and will produce a DVD version.

Did anyone of you see the broadcast? Tell us in the comments what your favorite part was!

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