Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Secrets of Hampton Court, Althorp and Chatsworth on PBS

Secrets of Henry VIII's Palace, (specifically Hampton Court Palace) begins the "Secrets Of" series this Sunday June 30th at 8pm on PBS. You will be well entertained by the fascinating stories of this amazing structure whether you have never heard of it before, or you have been lucky enough to see it in person.

In Tudor times, Hampton Court used to be in the country, and although it doesn't come across in the show, the front Tudor/Henry VIII part of the palace faces a busy London road while the back William & Mary/Dutch style later part of the palace backs out onto a gorgeous countryside, with nary a building in sight.

It is almost as if you have stepped through a portal in a time travel film and been transported to another era. The fact that it is only a 35 minute train ride from Waterloo station in central London makes it even more amazing. If you ever get to London, you'll want to fit this in. But in the meantime, spend an hour with PBS. They did a great job of bringing the history to life!

And remember:

Divorced, beheaded and died
Divorced, beheaded, survived
I'm Henry the Eighth, I had six sorry wives
Some might say I ruined their lives.


Now I have to be honest, I have never been a fan of Princess Diana's brother Charles, now the 9th Earl Spencer. He does, however, own a truly awesome house, Althorp.

I have never been to Althorp, possibly because the whole burying Diana on the island thing rather turned me off. But I am curious enough about the estate and it's history to watch Secrets of Althorp on Sunday July 7. I haven't had a chance to preview this episode, but if it is as good as the first one, it will be well worth watching.


Now if you get me talking about Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, this will be a very long post. Suffice it to say that this was included in my Pride and Prejudice tour of the North of England on which I dragged The Squire (my long suffering hubby).

Does this photo evoke Pride and Prejudice 2005 for you? It sure does for me. And they kept the Darcy sculpture, although they put it in a different part of the house!

If you saw the film The Duchess you will have already seen much of Chatsworth and part of it's rich history will be known to you. But as fascinating as Georgiana's story was (and by the way, she was a Spencer and started her life at Althorp), that is only a small part of the saga of Chatsworth.

So you'll have to watch the final episode, Secrets of Chatsworth on Sunday July 14th to find out the rest of the story. I'll be glued to the tube that night too. I love Chatsworth. I mean, just look at that view of Derbyshire!!!


Update: Check local listings as apparently PBS is not showing it on all of it's affiliate stations. I hate it when they do that, but the Hampton Court episode is available online and the others will be available after the air date for US viewers:

I have been able to watch all of them now. If you are a Diana fan you will like the Althorp episode, but her brother really does creep me out. (And he thought the show was all about him, not the house!) However, the Chatsworth one was wonderful and I learned a few things I didn't know which made me want to go back to Chatsworth again. Derbyshire really is a wonderful county, if you know what I mean! ;)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Stratford Festival, Ontario, Canada

I live in Ontario, Canada and the Stratford Festival is an amazing gift for we theatre lovers. It has also carved out a wonderful artistic community in Stratford (on the Avon river, no less) which used to be just a small farming and manufacturing centre.

We now have fabulous restaurants, adorable Victorian B&Bs, and some of the best shopping you will find anywhere. And of course, from late spring to the fall, we have world class actors in some of the best plays both Shakespearean and more modern.

This season seems to be a particularly wonderful one, so if you have the chance to come and check it out, I don't think you will be disappointed. This weekend was the Michigan Member's Weekend and there are also  events through the season for Members from Chicago, NY and Ohio.

Of course, this is on my mind right now as I just saw Shakespeare's Measure for Measure yesterday. It was fabulous by the way. It is put on in one of the smallest of the venues, the Tom Patterson Theatre which is actually the winter home of the Stratford Badminton Club and only holds about 500 seats around the thrust stage.

It sounds strange but it is a wonderfully intimate experience and we were in the first row, so we almost felt like we were inside the play! The other two theatres, the Festival Theatre and the Avon Theatre are of course much bigger and house the more popular of the plays and musicals.

I like to study up a bit on the plays I see at Stratford, as I find as an adult who studied science and not literature in University, I need a bit of background for some of the lesser known plays. My husband was doing the same (dueling laptops on the deck) and he was laughing his head off at the analysis of Measure for Measure on shmoop, which I had never heard of. I wish shmoop existed when I was a high school student. Heck, I wish the internet existed when I was a high school student. Anyway, it's a fun and informative place to bone up on a play beforehand.

And as good as Measure for Measure was, the next one I am going to see with my girlfriends in July is supposed to be even better. Mary Stuart, an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller's play from 1800 has been getting fabulous reviews. I don't have to study as hard for this one, but a bit of Wikipedia cramming so I know my Dudleys from my Darnleys is probably in order. And I get to have a lovely lunch with my friends beforehand.

So although no film review this week, at least you know what I am up to this summer!


P.S. On my last trip to NYC, our waitress one night was a struggling actress who travels from NYC to Stratford every summer to take in as many plays as she can cram in over a few days. We gave her an extra good tip that night!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

IMDb - Fun, informative and kinda addictive!

The Internet Movie Database
IMDb. I can't believe there are people out there who don't know about it. Whether you are a movie lover looking for a review or information on a film or just a middle aged person wracking your brains for the name of some movie star ("You know...the actress with the big mouth...she was in that film from the 80s...the one about the high class prostitute...Julia Roberts!") this website is the go to spot for movies and TV.

My son loses hours on YouTube. I lose hours on IMDb. I blame my sister for this, as she introduced me to the site! Launched in 1990 and bought by the evil Amazon (who suck money out of my pockets monthly!) in 1998, it is supposedly accessed by 44 million registered users, and many more unregistered ones.

So let me demonstrate how I lose these hours! Take a recently viewed film, the adaptation of EM Forster's Where Angels Fear to Tread, which of course I had purchased a while ago from said evil Amazon corporation (probably one of those "suggestions" which always seem to be spot on. I am not hard to read).

I go to IMDb to find out when it was made (1991), how well it was rated (6.6- not so bad for an obscure period drama) and the names of all the actors.

Rupert Graves. Ooooh, I love him. What else has he been in? Click on his name. Hmmmm. Lots of stuff there for him to be my next Actor of the Week!

A Room With a View- Freddy Honeychurch
The Madness of King George- Robert Fulke Greville
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall- Huntingdon
Sweet Revenge (The Revenger's Comedies)- Oliver Knightly
The Forsyte Saga- Jolyon Forsyte Jr.
Death at a Funeral- Robert
Made in Dagenham- Peter Hopkins
Garrow's Law- Sir Arthur Hill
Sherlock- DI Lestrade

The White Queen as Lord Thomas Stanley...this is new...just filming?...what is this about? CLICK!

Tagline "Women caught up in the conflict for the throne of England". Well, that grabs my interest. A BBC television series? Who else does it star? Rebecca Ferguson as Queen Elizabeth? Never heard of her but she is very pretty. Swedish. Hmm. Her mother Rosemary is related to Sarah Ferguson? Mildly interesting.

Who else? Amanda Hale...she sounds familiar. Oh yes, Mary Musgrove from the latest Persuasion adaptation with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones.

Who else? Backclick, backclick...Janet McTeer! I love her too! She was so awesome as Mrs. Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility 2008, but I have seen her somewhere else recently.

Oh yes, she was Mrs. Satterthwaite in Parade's End, and Mrs. Daily in The Woman in Black and Hubert Page in Albert Nobbs. She has been busy lately! Oh, she also played Vita Sackville-West in Portrait of a Marriage. May have to check that one out. And she was in Into the Storm, playing the wife of Winston Churchill played by Brendan Gleeson.

So you see, a whole day can be spent in this manner. I hesitate to say wasted, as I always enjoy myself and usually find another topic for my blog. Look out for my next two Actors of the Week!

So that's my tribute to IMDb. I had better turn the computer off now before I fall down the rabbit hole again and disappear for hours.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Remains of the Day, Where Angels Fear to Tread, and other stuff

Remains of the Day is one of those films I thought I had seen, but I think I had only seen snippets of it on television. It's much better when you see the beginning and the end of it!

Based on the 1989 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro who is a Japanese born but English raised author, this Merchant Ivory film ends up being a fascinating look at English sensibility through the eyes of an outsider. Nuanced and yet intense it is a very riveting film, but I can't say it is one of my faves.

Fabulous performances from Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson along with some pretty gorgeous period locations certainly make this one stand out. Great supporting performances from Hugh Grant, Christopher Reeve, Tim Piggott-Smith and James Fox are absolutely worth mentioning.

The only question remains, why did it take me so long to see this film?

Where Angels Fear to Tread was one I had never heard of. I am afraid my science background didn't give me a good grounding in E.M. Forster. I certainly knew about A Room with a View, Howard's End and A Passage to India, but this, his first novel, was not on my radar.

Again, with a cast that includes Helen Mirren, Helena Bonham-Carter, Judy Davis and Rupert Graves it is certainly worth watching. And again, the setting of Italy a century ago (and the gorgeous Italian actor Giovanni Guidelli) makes it a pleasure to watch.

And yet again, this one is down in my book as well worth seeing, but not one of my faves. I think my faves all have happy endings, so perhaps this reflects more on me, than on these films.

Sweet Revenge is a silly little farce, adapted from an Alan Ayckbourn play called The Revengers' Comedies. If you like dark comedies and tongue in cheek farce then this is for you. If you don't like the idea of the two main characters plotting revenge on each others' nemeses, not stopping far short of murder (played for laughs the whole way) then give this one a pass.

Personally, this one gave me more than a few belly laughs. I was in the mood for something silly and this hit the spot. By the way, keep IMDb handy for this film as every single one of the actors save one was well known to me from other British gems. Helena Bonham Carter, Kristin Scott Thomas and Sam Neill are only the beginning of the star studded cast.

Speaking of silly comedies, Family Tree is one of the oddest and most hilarious things I have seen on TV in a while. A Christopher Guest mockumentary, it follows in the footsteps of This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show but this time he takes on genealogy, an unlikely target for comedy. Apparently the idea came from Guest himself tracing his ancestors and thinking there may be some fodder for laughs. And it works.

It is a bit twisted and bear in mind that it airs on HBO, so not appropriate for children or sensitive types. But again, if you are in the mood for some quirky British comedy starring adorable Irish actor Chris O'Dowd this is your show. I am looking forward to a new episode tonight. The sister's ventriloquist dummy monkey really cracks me up. Try to see the first show if you can, as it really explains the crazy story line. You might be lost otherwise.

Cheers and happy viewing!



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