Else the Puck a Wide Boy Call

Numbats and Shakespeare

It’s the weekend, and once again it’s beastly hot. The dominant weather cycle at this time of year tends to be temperatures building up slowly for a few days, suddenly jumping up ridiculously high for a day or two, and then crashing down into a day of cooler temperatures but insane humidity before reseting for another go. This entire process takes about a week, so if you get one stupidly hot day on a weekend, odds are the next few weekends are going to be the same, until the pattern breaks. Fortunately it looks like it’s going to break mid-week, with Wednesday being about 40 degrees, so next weekend might actually be worth living through.

This weekend isn’t worth living through. It was 40 or so yesterday, it’s gunning for 40 today, and tomorrow is going to be so humid we might all evolve into fish without warning. Then it’s back to work on Monday. *sigh*.

In the meantime I have some things to write (or at least complain) about. So let’s begin.

There are some truly awful adds on TV at the moment (I’m obviously becoming old and crochety – expect an entry complaining about kids playing on my lawn soon). One is for some phone company (I truly can’t be bothered remembering which one) carrying on about how getting internet on your phone is the most wonderful thing that could ever happen to you in your entire life. It consists of a father and his two sons out in the wilderness, hiding from the pouring rain in a tent. The father excitedly uses his internet enabled phone to show a photograph of a numbat to his rather annoyed looking sons, saying “See! I said we’d see a numbat out here!”. It then cuts to the three of them paddling along in a dinghy. Or rather two, because the father is futzing around with his phone again rather than pulling his weight. “See!” he says, pointing at a picture of a crocodile on the screen “I told you we’d see a croc out here!”. Then there’s a supposedly humourous moment when the sons see a “real” crocrodile swimming up to the dinghy while their dad is still gesturing gimp-like at the phone (I say “real” crocodile because it’s about as convincing as a plastic log).

Now what’s so annoying about this add you ask? (well apart from the obvious anyway). It’s the father’s absolutely shocking grasp of natural history! He promised his kids that on their camping trip they’d see a numbat and a crocodile. Well, I hope they’re going camping at the zoo, because that’s the only place you’ll ever see the two of them. Numbats (although they once existed across much of southern Australia – a fact I only recently learned) are confined to a small area in the south west corner of the country. Crocodiles can only be found in the northern third of the country. Their habitats don’t overlap! They don’t even come close to overlapping! He might as well promise they’ll see a polar bear and a zebra!

The other add that’s particularly getting my goat at the moment is one for (inevitably) McDonalds. It’s based around the idea that “your children don’t see the world the same way you do” and “where you see a simple trip to McDonalds, they see an unmissable magical adventure!”. The sledgehammer implication being that if you don’t take your kids to McDonalds, you’re denying them an unmissable magical adventure and are hence a Bad Parent. Honestly it gets me really riled up.

TV that hasn’t been annoying me lately on the other hand includes the BBC’s fairly brilliant four parter ShakespeaRe-Told which the ABC finally got around to showing over the last month. I wasn’t quite sure if it would work (as John Safran said “don’t trust anyone who tries to update Shakespeare for the kids”) but was actually really impressed. Particularly by Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which may have something to do with my being most familiar with those two plays). The ABC messed around with the order slightly, playing Macbeth first – but I think this was justified as it’s probably the most familiar Shakespeare play to most people, and it was a much stronger adaption than Much Ado About Nothing (death and murder probably works better as an intro to the concept than romantic comedy).

There were some truly inspired moments through the series, in Macbeth for instance the three witches on the bleak Scottish moor become three bin-men on a bleak landfill, and Banquo’s spectre at the feast manifests (initially at any rate) as a voicemail. In The Taming of the Shrew Petruchio is actually given a believable reason for turning up at his wedding in ridiculous garb, and the writers deftly manage to turn the play’s message from one of wifely subservience to a statement of marital equality. And as for a A Midsummer Night’s Dream, well just about the whole thing was brilliant. Puck, Oberon and Titania were perfectly cast and the writers resisted the temptation to try and modernise them into something other than faries (you can do that fairly sucessfuly – I believe there was quite a good version set at a rave party a few years back with Puck as an ectasy dealer and Oberon and Titania as DJs, but keeping them as fairies makes everything much more authentic). I have to admit I found Bottom rather annoying, but that may well have been intentional.

The whole episode was very entertaining, and actually funny – one of the big problems with Shakespeare’s comedies is that the archaic language tends to block access to the jokes (some of which just plain ain’t funny anymore anyway).

I particularly liked Puck’s monologue at the end. It’s always been one of my favourite bits of Shakespeare and the writers managed to update it while keeping the meaning almost word for word. I can’t find a copy of it anywhere online but I’ll attempt a comparison based on my no doubt faulty memory.

The original…

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:

And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

The rewrite… (more or less 🙂

I wasn’t born offensive. I had to work on it. But you know there are some people who’ll get offended at just about anything. So, if you were offended, I’m gonna give you the third and final nugget from Puck’s bank of wisdom. Pretend it was all a dream. Try it – works every time. But if you’re still not happy, then let me know, and I’ll fix it. I ain’t lying.

Or at least it was something like that 🙂

Right, disolving into a pool of sweat now. I’ll see if I can write tomorrow, if I don’t turn into a fish.

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