Monday, February 25, 2013

Looking Forward To...

February can be a cold and dreary month, but there are so many things to look forward to.
Here are a few that should make staying in much more fun.

Television to watch:

Anglophiles can rejoice.  If you are like me and can't get enough of British costume dramas or British actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch, you will be happy to know that just as we say good-bye to "Downton Abbey," another costume drama from Britain arrives this week.  

Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch

Parade's End is a sumptuous five-part mini-series co-produced by HBO and BBC that is based on a quartet of novels written by the British writer Ford Maddox Ford.  The series of books, which are back in print from Vintage, is about Britons during the First World War.  They have been adapted for television by the playwright Tom Stoppard.  The story follows the character Christopher Tietjens (played by Cumberbatch), heir to the estate of Groby.  He goes from a government worker to an officer in France during the war.  The show has already been seen in Britain and reviewers have called it witty, literary and classy.  It takes us back to Edwardian England and features period fashions, grand homes and the beautiful English countryside.  There is a love triangle, incredible performances by the three leading actors, and great dialogue written by Stoppard.  I read that this production brilliantly captures the London of the 1920's. It airs on HBO and begins Tuesday night.  The cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch ( I can't get enough of him -- he was so good in Sherlock), Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens (the three leads), Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, Jack Huston and Janet McTeer.  People are calling it "the thinking man's Downton."  Can't wait to see this one!

Jeremy Irons discussing "Henry IV" and "Henry V" on the stage of the Globe Theatre in London

And speaking of literary inspiration from England, the new series Shakespeare Uncovered sounds fascinating.  It has been airing on PBS throughout the month of February.  (I have recorded it and am looking forward to watching all the episodes.)  The series features actors and directors, such as Jeremy Irons, Derek Jacobi, and Trevor Nunn, talking about how some of the great works by Shakespeare have been interpreted over the years.  They also talk about the challenges of performing and directing the central roles.  I read that the episode with David Tennant on "Hamlet" (he played the title role with the Royal Shakespeare Company) is especially good.  I did watch a clip from that episode with Tennant discussing how the character Hamlet (and the audience) knows from the moment in the play that Hamlet agrees to avenge his father's death he is a dead man.  That kind of action can result only in the character's death.  I had the chills listening to him...

As a passionate Shakespeare fan, I love a program that celebrates Shakespeare's plays and continues a discussion that has been going on for more than four hundred years old.  The fascination with Shakespeare is endless and his plays continue to captivate us.  This series about some of the most important plays should be enlightening and offer fresh insight into how actors and directors approach them.  By the way, have you been to the Globe Theatre in London to see a Shakespeare production?  If you are in London, a visit to the Globe Theatre is very special.  I saw a production of "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Globe and it was thrilling.

Art to see:

Vermeer's "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" is currently in an exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco.  This is your chance to see this exquisite painting up close and is definitely worth a trip to San Francisco.  When it leaves the U.S., it will return to its home at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

Books to read:

Because this year is the 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice," there will be new books on Jane Austen.  This one by Paula Byrne has gotten great reviews and sounds excellent.

P.G. Wodehouse:  A Life In Letters
Edited by Sophie Ratcliffe

The letters of the beloved British writer P.G. Wodehouse have been collected in a new book.  Letters can give us a vivid portrait of the writer and I am looking forward to learning more about P.G. Wodehouse, the comic genius who gave us Jeeves and Wooster.

Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor by Adrian Fort

I can't wait to read this new biography of Nancy Astor, the American divorcee who moved to London in 1904, married the very wealthy American Waldorf Astor, and became the first woman member of the British parliament in 1919.  She remained in parliament for the next 26 years.  What a woman!

 The end of February, beginning of March is the last part of winter.  It is a perfect time to sink into some good books, watch some compelling British television, and maybe see a Dutch masterpiece.  After San Francisco, "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" travels to Atlanta, and then to the Frick Museum in New York before returning to Europe.

Photo one via here, photo two via here, photo three via here, photo four via here, photo five via here, photo six via here   


  1. I'm dying to see that Shakespeare series. Fascinating.

  2. I am thrilled that Parade's End is coming!
    Your February has many highlights to keep you content...and Spring is just around the corner.

  3. A wealth of opportunities for we anglophiles, and how very correct you are, Sunday, this is the perfect time of year for a few good reads and productions while saying goodbye to winter.

  4. I watched Parade's End and loved it, while at the same time finding it puzzling. I didn't quite understand some of the characters motivations. I'll be interested to know what you make of it. I've got the Nancy Astor book on order at the library - really looking forward to it. Joanne

  5. I've been enjoying Shakespeare Uncovered as well, especially the episode about female characters in his comedies. I'll have to check out Parade's End when it comes to Netflix.

  6. Thank you Sunday for the reminder to set up my recordings. I can't wait for Parade's End and Benedict Cumberbatch. I love him in Sherlock and the final three episodes of that are still a year away. It will be entertaining to see him in something else while I wait.

  7. Cumberbatch looks awfully weak-chinned in that photo at the top. Thanks for the reference to the Shakespeare Uncovered series, which i have so belatedly discovered. I watched "Hamlet" last night. David Tennant sure is intense.

  8. The Nancy Astor biography sounds really interesting, though I already have far too many books stacked up to read!

  9. I have recorded Parade's End and look forward to gorging myself on them all this weekend. Same with Shakespeare Uncovered. I won't be able to make it to San Francisco to see the Vermeer - I envy all of those who will be able to see it - but I will place Nancy on hold at the library. She sounds like a fascinating woman! Happy March!

  10. Thanks for the tip on "Nancy" - I just put down a few books without finishing which rarely happens - so I feel I need to get back on track. Looks good.