Watching and listening to all of televised Doctor Who in order: The Third Doctor.

A Brief History of Aspect Ratios.

Susan Foreman.

Education Madison County Record reports that Susan Foreman is retiring from her teaching role at Columbia Elementary School:
“I have taught in Madison County and Madison City Schools for 25 years,” Foreman said. She worked at New Market Elementary School, Liberty middle and Heritage elementary schools and finally at Columbia as a sixth-grade science teacher.

“I know the person following in my job. He will do a fine job,” Foreman said. “I would just tell him to have materials ready in advance.”
Foreman is joining a local reality company in Madison. She says she hopes to do some travelling.

Who 50: 1994:
Whatever Happened To Susan Foreman?

TV Whatever Happened To Susan Foreman? was an episode of a Radio 4 series authored by playwright Adrian Mourby which satirically suggested the further adventures of various fictional children’s characters and is also one of the most released audio adventures appearing on both AudioGo’s “… at the BBC” compilation and as an extra on The Dalek Masterplan dvd.

The synopsis of the play is in the title, as Susan, or a metafictional version of the character, addresses her time travelling in the time travelling TARDIS and the fates of a few of the Doctor’s companions including herself.

If you haven’t yet, do go and seek it out. It’s one of the most unsettling hours of Who related material ever broadcast, especially if you’re a fan, because throughout you’ll be hooting at the continuity errors.

The whole play is built on continuity errors.

Both the TARDIS Datacore and the online DiscContinuity guide gleefully list these so there’s little point in me repeating them here. They seem to be the result of either Mourby misremembering details from his own viewing of the programme and not carrying out research from available materials due to time or deliberately getting details wrong for satirical reasons.

Despite that, it is still an interesting relic because of what it says about Doctor Who in general and 1994 especially.

For a start, Mourby casts new actors to play the already well-established characters. Jane Asher appears as Susan. James Grout as Ian. Various other members of the cast as the likes of Jo Grant.

This is a good thing.

If Carole-Ann Ford and the rest had reprised their roles, despite the variations on a theme, it could have become wound up as some kind of “official continuation” rather than the curates egg it is now.

Did Mourby care about such things? Is Asher somehow playing a regenerated Susan?

It’s certainly in contrast with Paradise of Death broadcast the year before, which would arguably become the model for Big Finish’s entire business, adding new stories in between the old, featuring the original actors and where Carole-Ann Ford herself has later reprised her role offering a different take on whatever happened to Susan.

But what’s more interesting is the company she keeps in this series. All of the rest are characters who, with the exception of Postman Pat, exist primarily on the page. Mourby puts Doctor Who in the same bracket as these literary greats almost instinctively at a time when the franchise was effectively being kept in existence by its shift to that page.

Except she’s arguably the only character who didn’t still have some currency with children, the readership of TARGET novelisations (I assume) now very much the preserve of adult fans as the only way to experience many of these stories with plenty of them still unavailable on VHS or at least officially released VHS.

Yet there she is. Creating misinformation perhaps, but included poignantly in the same bracket at Mowgli and Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Now, of course, with so much of early Doctor Who as accessible as those books, and indeed the character appearing in an ebook designed especially for children, Eoin Colfer’s A Big Hand For The Doctor (though arguably with about as much veracity in canonicity terms as Whatever Happened To…), perhaps the character’s currency with children has increased. From what I hear they’re fascinated with the history of the series.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be that harsh on Whatever Happened To Susan Foreman? It’s a curiosity, which like Paradise of Death and like Dimensions in Time, kept the series within the public conscience, however briefly and however small an audience it must have had on Radio 4.

But like Dimensions in Time, let’s just be thankful it wasn’t the last word on the character or the franchise.

Crinkley Bottom.

Geography Nkuthu Gardens in South Africa ...
"... formally known as Crinkley Bottom Park is currently owned by Jeff & Anne Gard. The history of the property before it became Crinkley Bottom Park is colourful to say the least, as it was once used as a nudist resort by the infamous Beau Brummell. Many older residents of Waterfall still remember this, but few are willing to admit that they ever visited in those days. The recent rechristening to Nkuthu Gardens was to ensure that the energy, positivity and personality of the property continue to grow. A new management team and revamp have made the natural beauty of the area shine through."

The Woman Who Fell To Earth.


Art The artist Penelope Walford creates work inspired by the sea from her houseboat:
"I am probably best known for my large contemporary canvases of the Solent Forts (see prints) which I must admit I am a little obsessed with, and for incorporating the written word in my work, often using a scratchy vintage dip pen and ink to write directly on top of a painting.

"Living on a houseboat my work is inevitably sea-themed, and now that I have the space, mostly on a large scale, although I do still while away the odd hour at my old beach hut studio working on smaller pieces.

"As for my background, I have very little formal training having dropped out of art school in my youth, and barely touched a paintbrush again until I moved to the Isle of Wight some years ago.... however, since then I have been making up for lost time!"
She has exhibitions in the Isle of White throughout June and July.

Expectedly longer.

Film As someone who actually thought the theatrical release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's Extended Edition was too short, I'm pleased to see Peter Jackson is indeed releasing an extended version which amongst other things will hopefully iron out a few of the pacing issues. He's told Empire about some of the bits and pieces he's putting back in:
"You are going to get more Goblin Town, and the Great Goblin singing his song," adds Fran Walsh, Jackson's other half and fellow screenwriter. "It is a great song, but it was just another delay in terms of moving the story along."
Does anyone actually watch the theatrical cuts of Lord of the Rings given the choice?

Rosalind Nashashibi in conversation with Jonas Zakaitis at Liverpool Biennial.

Art Hello Rosalind Nashashibi, how are you? Tonight offered another of the Liverpool Biennial's monthly artist conversations, the first I've attended, with Rosalind Nashashibi, film and video artist, a film and video artist I wasn't necessarily familiar with beforehand but being intensely interested in everything meant I had to find out who she was, what she does, what she's interested in. The Biennial website offers some background and says, her
"best known films combine close observation of everyday life with constructed scenes, inhabiting the same place or time to capture the friction that occurs at the border between the real and everyday and the fantastical or mythological. These works often explore issues of control, internalised into citizens or exerted by the state."
Do I feel like I have a better understanding of her work having spent just over an hour watching two examples and two fragments of examples in a small room at the back of Camp and Furnace with Jonas Zakaitis as our interviewer and guide? Well, sort of.  Yes.

All of the above is true.  Her film, Eyeballing is about finding faces in every day objects.  Yes, to an extent it's the internet meme, Faces in Places, but Nashashibi reduces it to its most simplistic level so that the top end of an electric toothbrush, the three holes become a face, and she notices how each of them project a different emotion, all human emotion.

She's also very passionate about her work and has a can-do attitude, desperate to capture her ideas as soon as possible, fired up even if it puts her potential danger.  One of the works we were shown, Jack Straw's Castle, begins with scenes of gay men cruising in a park, and she was in there, with her camera, in full view.

She's clearly very aware of the risks she takes, but something within her, that kind artistic obsession, the itch, means she has to do it.  Somehow.  Zakaitis notes that in the past when she's told him what she was interested in doing, he can't quite believe the thing that she's about to do, and that sometimes it changes to become something even more extreme.

I was fascinated but equally frustrated because as is the way with such things the conversation didn't quite go in the direction I might have wanted, Nashashibi sometimes saying something unabashedly amazing, like the above, but Zakaitis never quite picking up on it, sometimes changing the subject.  We also didn't get much in the way of first principles.  The four double-yous and a hache.

Which might be why my own filtering and so this blog post is so thin.  But here are some cool facts.  The IMDb says she was a stand-in on Terence Davies's House of Mirth (assuming it's the same person).  She was also a runner up for the Northern Art Prize this year and has an upcoming commission for the Imperial War Museum in London.

During the Q&A, I decided on something fairly generic but which always fascinates me about artists, about  audience reception.  I asked if the artist thinks about how her work is approached in art galleries and spaces and whether she tailors her work on the assumption that unless we're lucky, we won't approach it in the same way as a "cinema" film and might see the end before the beginning.

In short, she doesn't.  She works on the assumption that we all realise that's the structure of how the work is approached in galleries and modify our behaviour accordingly and doesn't really care that much if we do see the end first, which is interesting considering how thematically rich and highly structured some of her work is.  But she says, it's not really about surprising the audience in the traditional way.

That's a topic I'll presumably return to when I'm less tired, except to say that this is the kind of work which does stand up to multiple viewings and indeed demands them.  This isn't in the“tut” or “cuh” genre of art I tend to despise, in which there's not much there once the point has been made.  Nashashibi puts much thought into it, happy to excise beautiful images if they fall outside the remit of what she's trying to accomplish.

Was the event worth attending?  Yes, because if nothing else it did leave me fired up and intrigued to see more of Nashashibi's work and listen to some of her other conversations elsewhere.  Here she is at the ICA twice:

There was a camera there tonight so if that's uploaded, I'll post it here too.

Updated 02/08/2013 Here we go:

Rosalind Nashashibi in Conversation with Jonas Zakaitis from Liverpool Biennial on Vimeo.

Coriolanus (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series). Edited by Peter Holland.

If ever the preface area of a book threatens to derail the introduction and main text, it’s the preface area to this Arden 3rd edition of Coriolanus. Firstly because after the notes on the text, in his notes on the introduction, editor Peter Holland cautions us against expecting a formulaic consideration of the play, no discussion of plays major concerns, chronological production history, nothing on the current state of critical analysis (especially in footnotes). Secondly, due to the romantic picture he paints of writing the textual commentary, sitting on parallel desks with his wife Romana, also a professor (editing Stevie Smith’s poems), in an apartment in Montmartre, listening to Jazz CDs “looking out across the roof-tops at the Eiffel Tower”. Envious sigh.

Elsewhere, Holland offers some tangential explanation for his approach to the introduction. The extended gestation period meant that a number of other editions were published in the meantime, notably the Oxford and New Cambridge, whose quality he acknowledges. With these texts and the earlier Ardens still available and readily, it’s unlikely that a student will consult a single edition in study, so he’s decided it’s important to add to the critical mass rather than regurgitate it. Which is actually much in keeping with the “eclectic” nature of all these later Ardens, which have tended to go, for better or worse, with the given editor’s area of interest rather than forcing them into some rote consideration.

What that means for Corolanius is that Holland doesn’t offer much in the way of Freudian commentary on the Roman general’s relationship with his mother, or the implications of us only having a single version of the play in the First Folio rather than sundry other Quartos good and bad, or anything other than a cursory glance at contemporary staging. Which is fine to some extent. Philip Brockbank’s Arden 2nd does indeed cover all of that in a more typically methodological manner. But it is disconcerting to be suddenly thrust initially into a discussion of how the play inspired artists in the 1930s, in an eclectic US production, an unfinished TS Eliot adaptation and a Parisian translation which was turned into a Cause célèbre amongst various contemporary political factions.

Plus, in actuality Holland does still covering many of the topics you might expect to find in an introduction, just not necessarily in the typical order. A section entitled “Beginnings” investigates the sources of the play, from Liby and Virgin, Plutarch and North, and a close textual analysis suggests that like a screenwriter tackling a Jesus film when faced with the gospels (my analogy), Shakespeare utilised the various aspects of contradictory sources to craft his own story, extending the lives of some figures so that unlike is other tragedies, only the title character dies in the climax. The difference is that Holland expects the reader to already have some working knowledge of the play, that this isn’t the first time they’ve held a version in their hand. If you want an entry level introduction, I’d seek out the Oxford instead.

When you’ve returned you’ll find much that is of interest. In dating the play, Holland isn’t able to quite find anything conclusive, but his approach, an In Our Time style investigation of the peasant riots in the Midlands in roughly the same period as the writing of the play reveals many parallels with Shakespeare’s treatment of a populace so often either cut or left in the margins. Like the best Arden intros, Holland does however refuse to be drawn into suppositions and guesses and will only work with available evidence. We don’t know within which playhouse it originally premiered, the act and scene structuring of the Folio confirming nothing so much as the potential decisions of compositors or the stage traditions within which it was printed.

Holland also does still include much about the stage history of Coriolanus. In “shaping the play”, Holland notes how audience reactions change depending on the placement of the interval and how when, in 1964, Sir Peter Hall decided not to end his first modern half with the banishment scene, including instead the two coda scenes from the opening of act four, it disconcerted the audience who were already beginning to make for the bar. Hamlet’s rather like that too. The prince’s triumphant reaction to Claudius’s storming from The Mousetrap seems like the ideal conclusion, but I’ve seen productions which eek things out so that the second half begins with the closet scene or even with Hamlet being sent to England, which also has a logic due to the time gaps, all a reminder that Shakespeare was structuring his plays for a different audience and production sensibility.

Holland ends his introduction where he began with talk about adaptations, in this case Brecht and Osborne, and productions and so the recent Ralph Fiennes film. The former has some lovely bits of gossip about the NT production and recasting and the latter will be of interest to film students in relation to bringing the play to screen. Unlike in a theatre, perhaps, film allowed Fiennes even greater flexibility in reshaping the text. Holland’s less than pleased with some of his choices, presumably because this is the version which will be most popularly seen, particularly in the treatment of one of the supporting characters, which changes the sense of the play to some degree. Much as I enjoyed the film, I have some sympathy with that. Unlike Hamlet, there won’t be another Coriolanus film along to offer an alternative reading.

The textual commentary is in keeping with previous Ardens and with the newer innovation of longer notes at the back. The textual analysis explains the working methods of the compositors of F1 and indicates the challenges of making sense of their decisions and how all too often they underestimated the amount of text which would be required on each page leading to abbreviations and some re-engineering of what might have been the playwright’s original intent. A skeletal table listing notable productions follows then a discussion of how the play might be cast, how large a group of actors might be required.  In other words, Holland can't quite steer away from the conventions he says he's ignoring and ultimately this edition is the stronger for it.

Coriolanus (Arden Shakespeare. Third Series). Edited by Peter Holland. Bloomsbury. 2013. RRP: £8.99. ISBN: 978-1904271284. Review copy supplied.

National Maritime Museum.

Space The latest exhibition at the National Maritime Museum is Colours of space - Visions of the Universe, which collects together over a hundred colourful photographs of the heavens:
"See an astonishing array of images of stars, planets and galaxies gathered from NASA, the Russian space programme, the European Southern Observatory and some of the greatest telescopes in the world, plus some of the best entries from the Royal Observatory’s Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Visions of the Universe will captivate anyone who has ever stared up at the night sky in amazement, and anyone who simply loves beautiful photography."
BBC News has a slide show. Don't forget to turn on the captions.

Who is the Secret Actor? #9

Theatre This week, Not Romola Garai, or Secret, sigh, ploughs headlong into Shakespeare. Luckily he manages to dodge her in time.

Whoever is writing this is so shit scared of being found out, when they quote from an interview, they keep the subject anonymous. What's interesting is there also isn't enough for us to find this "legendary" article online, even by wildcarding the quote.

The ensuing anecdote, which is about someone else, so therefore irrelevant because she also neglects to mention their connection if it exists, sounds like it's about the RSC.

Sadly it's not really about anything else other than the arrogance of some actors and doesn't really go anywhere and is even given away in the subheadings of the article, which like a trailer for an Adam Sandler film was presumably scrabbling around for material from the thinnest of scraps..

As the first commenter notes, "Seriously, this is getting painful now."

Which it is. Nine articles in and even I'm beginning to miss the point, if there is one.

Lost in Theatre.

Theatre Just completed at the Royal Court Theatre was Lost in Theatre, in which a number of short audio performances were concealed throughout the theatre, listenable to anyone with the right kind of headset. Matters of geography and only hearing about it five minutes ago meant that I entirely missed it, but gloriously, generously, the theatre have now made them all available to download online, which includes:
"Intruders by Abi Morgan.

#2 The Intruders
By Abi Morgan
The bench below the Sponsors roll call, between the Box Office and the balcony.
The link text is wrong, but the file name suggests it's Abi's play. I've emailed to let them know. The whole lot can be downloaded here.

The Cutty Sark.

Nature Life-sized sperm whale model beaches in Greenwich:
"The model is an art installation from Belgian artists Captain Boomer Collective, in collaboration with Zephyr Wildlife Reconstruction.

"Its beaching today was part of the launch of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF 2013), a nine day event of outdoor performing arts from tomorrow.

"The 17 metre model will be moved by crane to the lawns of the nearby Royal Naval College for the weekend, where it will be part of Greenwich Fair.

"Organisers say the beaching captures our ‘fascination and long relationship with the otherness’ of the sea."
It's very realistic. I wonder if the emergency services fielded any calls from confused members of the public.