Hamilton

Hamilton: An American musical, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, who is an 18th century immigrant. It is about Hamilton’s rise up from his illegitimate birth in poverty, in the Caribbean, to George Washington’s aid-de-camp and the first secretary of the treasury. Barack Obama said that Hamilton was “a striving immigrant who escaped poverty, made his way to the New World, climbed to the top by sheer force of will and pluck and determination” The music entirely consisting of the hip-hop genre, contrasting with the time period. For example, the cabinet debates are presented as rap-battles, encouraging an audience interest into mundane topics – such as the national debt. I love Hamilton. I can’t believe I haven’t written about it yet! I, unfortunately, have not had the pleasure of seeing it , however if and when it transfers over to the west end, I will be first in line to see it.

Now the reason, I brought it up, is that I read an article in The Observer about Hamilton providing insight into the parallel of the musical to the politics of America at the time. Especially now. Having an article such as this across a double sheet, in a mainstream form of media, brought me hope and happiness . It compared Alexander Hamilton to Donald Trump. When Michelle Obama was talking about how much she loved Hamilton, on the other side of America, a Trump rally was going on, ranting about a wall to keep out immigrants. The culture gap could have never seemed so wide. The liberals on one side spoke for inclusivity, and on the other, thousands of angry, frustrated and defeated Americans, putting their faith in a businessman with a flashy show of promising to make America great again.

The show has become a world-wide phenomenon, and more people talk about it than have actually seen it. It is also going to be used to assist education – the soundtrack becoming a tool in the classroom. Last year The New Yorker published an essay: Why Donald Trump and Jeb Bush should see “Hamilton”. “With its youthful, almost entirely non-Caucasian cast, and its celebration of the possibilities inherent in building a new nation, the poetry of Hamilton is a reminder of the gleaming sense of hope that the election of 2008 engendered,” the essay read.  The essay highlighted two lines from the show which mirror this bonkers election season. “Ya best g’wan run back where ya come from” This is said to Hamilton, however is refuted with “Immigrants, we get the job done.” There is something so empowering about that line. It is sung with such pride and truth in a time – reflective of now – where immigrants are shunned and shooed away. Obama remarked about the writing of Hamilton from Miranda “Lin-Manuel saw something of his own family, and every immigrant family.” I don’t really need to explain the politics of Trump, I’m sure. His racism, sexism, bigotry speaks for itself. One of the most worrying policies of his, is the wall that is to be built across the border of Mexico to keep out immigrants. However back at the White House, Miranda performed a freestyle rap with the first black president in the Rose garden. It could not have been a more vivid symbol of a modern, diverse, inclusive, creative and idealistic America.

“Trump’s ability to stir emotions around the wall and Mexicans is the opposite of Hamilton, which has this hopeful message that immigrants can do anything,” said Amy Austin, president of theatreWashington. “That’s what America is. Hamilton is so aspirational. Trump doesn’t have anything aspirational for the whole country.” When Obama was elected, there was optimism, and hope for change and progress forward. However Trump’s candidacy has depleted that hope and optimism. There is so much more I could say on the matter, but I fear it will become even more political. I love Hamilton, and I’m amazed by the support it gathers and how it parallels America’s political scene. How it’s getting people interested in theatre, politics and history.  It just makes me very happy, for it to be so popular to someone so deserving. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who loves theatre with a passion and works so hard, and has achieved so much. I just love it and I can’t wait to see it (hopefully).

Romeo & Juliet

‘Tis torture and not mercy. Heaven is here,

Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog

And little mouse, every unworthy thing,

Live here in heaven and may look on her,

But Romeo may not. More validity,

More honorable state, more courtship lives

In carrion flies than Romeo. They may seize

On the white wonder of dear Juliet’s hand

And steal immortal blessing from her lips,

Who even in pure and vestal modesty,

Still blush, as thinking their own kisses sin.

But Romeo may not. He is banishèd

Flies may do this, but I from this must fly.

They are free men, but I am banishèd.

And sayst thou yet that exile is not death?

Hadst thou no poison mixed, no sharp-ground knife,

No sudden mean of death, though ne’er so mean,

But “banishèd” to kill me?—“Banishèd”!

O Friar, the damnèd use that word in hell.

Howling attends it. How hast thou the heart,

Being a divine, a ghostly confessor,

A sin-absolver, and my friend professed,

To mangle me with that word “banishèd”?

Because of the chat about Shakespeare, I thought I’d share one of my favourite monologues from his work with you. I resisted from posting ‘To be or not to be’, because I mean, we all already know that. I’m not the biggest fan of Romeo & Juliet, but I do love this monologue from Romeo, just after he’s been banished from Verona. I saw it performed at my audition for CSSD, and the guy who did it, did it brilliantly, and got a deserving recall. Despite Romeo being basically a whiney teenager, this monologue has a lot of raw emotion and shows his deep love for Juliet. It is very emotional, and also a good monologue to perform for an audition I think. I hope to use it in the future.

 

The problem with Shakespeare…

It is extremely hard to fault Shakespeare’s writing,  – It is however easy to fault the way it is being performed and taught at schools. Now, don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore the traditional staging of the best Shakespeare – as long as it is done well. I can however understand how people hate Shakespeare, when their only experience of it, is these productions and what they have learnt at school. Learning Shakespeare in English can be dull and repetitive. Without seeing Shakespeare how it’s supposed to be presented- in the theatre tacking social issues- it is extremely hard to fully appreciate Shakespeare’s work.

On a recent trip to Warwick University for an interview, I met someone who I chatted a lot to about Shakespeare- and I thought she was completely right in what she was saying – one of her ideas on to make Shakespeare more relevant- was to stage Romeo and Juliet in modern day America; Juliet would be a middle-class white girl, and Romeo would be a black boy from a rural background. To highlight the racial issues in America right now – bringing a dated plot into the 21st century. A similar idea that I had for Hamlet was to stage it in a second world country, looking at the government officials- to explore into the corruption of government – or even staged in a first world country. Shakespeare is so surprisingly relevant and can easily be used as a revolutionary tool. Yet people seem to feel that it is dated and boring. Shakespeare is so versatile- anything can be done with it; race bends; Gender twists; country changes- anything to bring it to the modern day- which is why I don’t understand why it is so taboo? The writing is beautiful, and the plots are generally very good. I would just like to see more Shakespeare, and it brought to the modern day so it can reach a wider audience. I want to see Shakespeare taught how it was meant to be presented. Not through some back-end irrelevant production of it.

Working Class actors earning less?

A new study has shown that working class actors are earning less than their middle-class counterparts. It suggests that almost three quarters of British actors come form middle-class backgrounds, despite the fact that only 29% of Brits are middle-class. This story has seeped into mainstream media, surprisingly, not just specific news sites, like The Stage.

The study conducted by LSE and Goldsmiths University claimed that there is a ‘class ceiling’ in British Performing arts, which deters working class actors. Researchers analysed the responses from 402 actors for ‘The Great British Class survey’ and interviewed a further 47 actors themselves. The responses showed that just 27% of actors were from a working class background, and out of the 47 actors interviewed –  5 of the working class actors had attended a major London Drama school or Oxbridge, compared to 15 of the middle-class actors. Government statistics show the proportion of middle-class in the UK to be 29%, however 73% of British actors are from the middle-class. This shows that succeeding in Theatre is heavily skewed towards the privileged.  This suggest a form of discrimination towards the lower-class that was previously seen in well paid or authoritative careers in Britain – such as Doctors and Lawyers. The paper also showed an average lower salary for actors from a working class background. Responses from the actors also suggested that they were offered a more limited range of roles – this could be due to acting skills, however it is more likely to be accountable to this division in the classes – This can also be shown in auditions, where some actors have said that having a working class accent has weighted against them- one actor being asked if he had ever considered going back to being a plumber.  The paper wrote that “The ability to call upon familial wealth shaped the experience of these actors in myriad ways. It provided insulation from much of the precariousness of the labour market, particularly the need to seek alternative work to support oneself between acting roles,” This can also be accounted to the fact that even just the auditions for drama schools are expensive, let alone the fees and living in London, studying as an acting student, where attending the right social events is crucial; and the need to see productions in the west end, or even putting on your own show and taking it up to Edinburgh  – See where I am going with this?

Last year Christopher Eccleston told the Telegraph that to succeed in the harsh profession “you need to be white, you need to be male, and you need to be middle-class”. This quote brings up two other very important discussions to have ; racial inequality in theatre and film- especially regarding the recent #Oscarssowhite; and gender inequality in theatre and film; I will, however save that for a later date, as to save me from getting in a bad mood, and a four page rant. But these are issues that need to be brought up and need to be discussed, by everyone, not just those in or interested in the profession. Which is why it is good that this story has leaked into mainstream media. In 2012 Julie Walters said “the way things are now there aren’t going to be any working-class actors [left]” And all that I can hope, is that with this discussion being raised, hopefully the division will shrink over the next few decades.