Monday, October 12, 2015

The latest Macbeth Film and Banquo's Son

I was very excited about going to see the newest outing of William Shakespeare's Macbeth by Justin Kurzul because the trailer looked amazing. Yes, the acting is brilliant (no question) and the scenery breathtaking. Visually all wonderful. But the rendering, the STORY, that's what delighted me so. Kurzul directed as well as wrote the screen play which is what I really want to talk about.

Here's where I might be a bit different to a lot of Shakespeare fans, and The Tragedy of Macbeth fans in particular because 
  • I have taught this play almost every year for 27 years (and I studied it myself at high school)  I have seen the magnificent and bloody Polanski film as many times 
  • I have seen it performed on stage often (the best was with Michael Hurst as Macbeth) 
  • I have staged two productions with my students 
  • I have written a teaching play text for high schools 
  • I have written a 15 mins version 

and, like those who pondered the question 'so how DOES Banquo's Son' become king?' 


But, although I may have written the sequel, after viewing Kurzul's film, I feel like he has written my prequel. 

To do what we both have done is to have a profound understanding of the play and Shakespeare's intent and Kurzul, IMHO, has done this: 
  • he got the man, Macbeth, 
  • he got the pull of family, 
  • he showed Macduff and Banquo as I often feel they are not portrayed: 

Macduff’s anguished response to the young Malcolm who tells him to 'dispute it like a man' goes to the very heart of character, the very heart of humanness and proves Bloom's assertion of Shakespeare's that he nails every human condition. Macduff spits back at Malcolm  
I shall do so; 
But I must also feel it as a man: (Act 4, sc 3)
showing the great heart of the character that he was in Shakespeare’s play but also, the performance by Sean Harris showed the promised of the older man he was to become (and which I imagined for my novel).

But, of course, it was to Banquo and his son Fleance that I was most (almost nervously) keen to see. There is a wonderful depth to the relationship. Fleance never speaks but he is often present and the ending is as many people said, ‘setting up to a sequel.’ This is another example of how I believe Kurzul has understood the play: "all the world’s a stage...."  and this play was but one part of the stage (pun on the word above); that the story did not actually finish with Macbeth’s death.

Many people have spoken of the PTSD shown by the characters and that is as it should be – this is a play that so deeply explores the human condition and the reactions of the men (and women) to trying circumstances – not all who suffer terribly go on to be monsters or go mad but one must have some sympathy or at least understanding for those who do.

The film challenges the audience to do this.
Personally, I hope this latest film directs interested people to my trilogy and I hope lovers of Shakespeare look not for the differences or assumed inaccuracies but read it for what it is: a story that seeks to find an answer to that question ‘what must I do to secure happiness for myself and those I love?’

I went to see the film knowing that I knew a lot but also understanding that to do the viewing justice, I was not to compare to ‘the original’ rather to take the story as it was presented to me.

I came out totally filled with admiration and appreciation not only for Kurzul and his fabulous cast and crew but for William Shakespeare once again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Audio Book of Banquo's Son (aka a post about reading aloud)

I've been an English teacher for a long time and I don't recall a time I wasn't able to tame a class of wild animals year 10 boys or disinterested Y12 girls with a story read out loud. In fact, I have read the entire book of To Kill A Mockingbird at least 15 times, scores of Shakespeare's plays (with accents when I can though I usually hand the job over to more capable readers) as well as lots and lots of novels over and over as each new year brings a fresh batch of readers.

This morning, the audio copies of Banquo's Son arrived via the courier. Produced by Brilliance Audio and performed by Napoleon Ryan, I knew that there was a very good chance it was going to be excellent (I have a number of Brilliance Audio books on my laptop and phone and I've been stalking Napoleon Ryan since I learned he would be the reader).

I was nervous because the voice of Fleance has been in my head for so long. How would it feel to hear it out loud? Would I be disappointed? Would Napoleon 'get it right'?

Well, the dogs didn't know what to make of my squeals of delight as each new 'voice' came on but it was when Fleance spoke, I whooped with joy. Even the hubby was grinning.

It is so good. No, the audio is awesome. Napoleon makes me sound like such a great writer. Thanks to him and the team at Brilliance Audio. You've made my day, week, year.

I love reading, I love reading out loud to others, and I love being read to. Long car trips or bus rides, long walks, times waiting, all empty spaces of time are coloured in with the beauty of audio books.

Here's a wee taste of the audio

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Count down to international release of Banquo's Son

In less than 20 days, Fleance and his adventures will become available to readers in the UK and the US. In anticipation, my publisher Thomas & Mercer are offering a Good Reads giveaway 

It's been very satisfying having the chance to tweak the books but also interesting to see how much I have 'grown' (read: improved) as a writer.

When the advance copies arrived (all the way from Seattle, home of 'Grey's Anatomy'), it felt for me like they were tangible evidence that my life had shifted back onto the road of writer I had left behind to become a teacher. (Don't get me wrong - I have adored my career as a teacher. Students energise me!)

The other thing I recognised as I held one of the books is that it was a symbol of so many joys and tears and disappointments and jubilations since September 2008 when I woke from the dream which began Banquo's Son. The book represents the unworded story of faithful friends and staunch supporters of the potential of the narrative and its characters as well as the writer (me who penned it). In particular, I would like to acknowledge Vicki Marsdon, who first got excited about the story and Josh Getzler who became my wonderful agent, as the cheerleaders who drove me the book toward a world wide audience.

It takes huge commitment and persistence to be a writer or to do writing (the more active phrase). When you look at these books, you see pretty and new and, hopefully, when you open to read, you won't see the working parts because of the incredible skill of the editors, my agent, my faithful gaggle of 'babes', my family - all who helped me knock this book into touch. To them: Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa (thank you, thank you. thank you, all).

When I look at this book, I can't avoid seeing the shadow of a small stone of dried grief that sits to the side of the whole writing of the trilogy because I continued to write Fleance's story through very very hard times - battling with a close family member's ill mental health as a result of inexplicably bad behaviour of a few in position of power and the repercussions to me personally of standing up to injustice. We all got through it and the years of suffering and, like my characters (who had it much worse), we became better people: wiser, stronger, and, for me, a deeper faith in God.

So I like happy endings and there are happy endings to this as well. The family member is healthy and flourishing, as am I. The books are set to reach the world. Let this post be a lesson/reminder/encouragement - never lose hope; never give up. Langston Hughes says it better:

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Crown of Blood and Honour

The release of books one and two (Banquo's Son and Bloodlines) is approaching and rapidly. Book one has had a thorough review and tweaking and book two is now about to get a good going over. Here are the new covers of the novels and I'm utterly delighted. Go here to pre-order in kindle, hardback, paper back and/or audio.
Publication date August 16th