Posts Tagged With: wolf hall

The War Master in the Night Garden

In 2007, Doctor Who fans were gifted with the finest Master to grace the screen since Roger Delgado. He was suave, he was eloquent, he was angry and malicious, he was…well, he was British, which probably helped. Unfortunately he lasted only a minute and a half before getting shot by an insect and regenerating into John Simm.

It was such a pity. Derek Jacobi was born to play the Master, and for just a moment or two, he did it brilliantly. His replacement was a gurning, dancing clown, manic and ridiculous and – it must be acknowledged – perfectly matched opposite Tennant, but not always an easy watch. Things didn’t improve when he returned with a hoodie, an inexplicable penchant for cannibalism and a secret plan for cloning himself, leading to what is affectionately known as the show’s Being John Malkovich moment. It would be years before we saw the version of the Simm Master that I’d always wanted to see – sneering, reserved and (for a change) respectably dressed, and even if that turns out to be his last appearance, his turn in ‘The Doctor Falls’ was a cracking way to go out.

But enough of this, because we were here to discuss Jacobi – who, having turned in a memorable performance in ‘Utopia’, promptly toddled away back into the land of romantic comedy-dramas, bad sitcoms and the occasional CBeebies bedtime story. He tangoed in Halifax, helped build the Titanic and endured a love-hate relationship with Magneto. Recently we saw him lock horns with the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society in A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong. But of his Master, there was nothing – until last December, when he teamed up for a Big Finish audio series entitled Only The Good, in which we got to see the reincarnated renegade in action during the Time War, before he fled to the end of the universe.

What to say about the War Master set? Well, it’s broadly good, although it opens with a largely inconsequential opening story with people I didn’t care about on a forgettable planet that’s being besieged by Daleks. Stories two and four are better, although in one of them the Master is at his most un-Masterlike (the title of this particular story is ‘The Good Master’, so it’s not exactly a spoiler) and it’s initially rather disconcerting to witness him behaving like the disguised human he would eventually become. Of the four, ‘Sky Man’ is far and away the best, despite – or perhaps because – it is a story in which the Master barely features, instead allowing his erstwhile companion Cole to take centre stage. Cole himself is worthy, if rather dull, but if the story’s conclusion is more or less mapped out in its opening conversation it’s still devastatingly effective when it happens.

It also definitively answers one of the questions that the fans have been arguing about for years: namely, was it really Jacobi’s Master in the Time War? The naysayers point out that he states he was ‘a naked child found on the coast of the silver devastation’; similarly John Smith remembers growing up in Ireland with his parents Sydney and Verity, but that’s fabricated, fourth wall-breaking codswallop. This is a slightly younger, sprightlier version of the man we saw in ‘Utopia’ – a man saddled with the weight of twenty years of fruitless labour and a lifetime of false memories, plus the aforementioned insect. Bringing him back was a no-brainer. If you want a resurrected Time War Master, and Jacobi is a narrative fit, why the hell wouldn’t you sign him up if he was available and willing?

It’s a pity we won’t get to see this incarnation meet up with John Hurt: that would have been a heck of a show (and yes, I know it kind of undermines the series 3 arc; don’t tell me they couldn’t have found a workaround for that). But three decent stories out of four seems to be par for the course for BF sets these days, and it’s fun to hear Jacobi casually toss aside supporting characters like sacrificial pawns, outwit the Daleks and occasionally struggle with his conscience – or at least appear to struggle. Unfortunately the story’s conclusion makes a second series rather difficult, for reasons I won’t give away (although you’ve likely figured them out already), and it seems a shame to essentially ditch this new incarnation of the Master just as we’re getting to know him.

But here’s how you terrify your kids: you get them to sit through ‘Utopia’ just before bed, and then you put the In The Night Garden soundtrack on the bedroom CD player.

My views on In The Night Garden are well-documented, if by well-documented you mean eight hundred and fifty words defending the BBC and a couple of doctored photos. I love it because it works and because I do not understand why it works. If that sounds a little odd, it’s because these days it’s mostly anomalous – fan theory is endemic in just about everything, and it is a strange phenomenon, in this enlightened age, to enjoy something because you don’t get it. Twenty-first century media is all about the How and Why, and it’s killing the industry: the rare glimpses behind the scenes that we got in the 70s and 80s are now a regular fixture; outtakes and bloopers have spread like a rash on YouTube; we know everything about a story before we see even the first trailer. One can only hope that Chibnall’s reign – taking place, as it does, behind a security net to rival a Presidential visit, or even a Blade Runner location shoot – goes some way towards reinvigorating the show and bringing back the sense of wonder it once had, and he’s only going to manage that if he slows down on the goddamn press releases.

But no, In The Night Garden is wonderful television: calm, serene and just the right side of weird. Of course grown-ups find it odd. Grown-ups aren’t the target audience. This is TV for the very young, meticulously researched and painstakingly constructed, something that seems to escape the notice of the many parents I talk to who still seem to labour under the ridiculous misapprehension that when the BBC are making TV programmes they simply turn up in a TV studio and wing it. That’s not how it’s done, and the end results look weird because to babies and toddlers the whole world looks weird. (If people really think this is a new thing, they’d be wise to hop onto YouTube and find the little surviving footage that still exists of the oft-forgotten Wizbit. If you’re going to tell me that they’re screwing up our children, it is vital to acknowledge that the process began at least thirty years ago, and probably long before that.)

A while ago, I did a mashup that fused footage from Bing Bunny with some of Mark Rylance’s Wolf Hall dialogue. It was reasonably coherent, and exploring the darker side of Flop’s affable, endless patient personality was the most fun I’d had in a good long while. It also got me into hot water with Aardman, who didn’t like the juxtaposition of ‘adult material’ with programmes meant for kids. The bottom line is that however many disclaimers you include in the description – and however many warnings you tag on the front end – parents are going to let their children watch it, and Aardman were understandably twitchy about compromising the sickeningly wholesome reputation of one of their flagship programmes. (There was the small matter of copyright infringement as well, which I’ve always thought was a little petty given that it was an unmonetised video, but that’s their prerogative.)

But there I was, listening to the War Master set and thinking…wouldn’t it be wonderful to fuse some of the dialogue from this and dump it into a few of the Night Garden episodes? What if the lurid, excessively safe world of Igglepiggle and his friends were bombarded by a quite different and overtly sinister narrator who sounded exactly like the one whose unreconstructed tenor warbles through each of the show’s 100-odd episodes? What if we piled on the filters, added a bit of slow motion and ran the theme song through the editing suite? What could possibly go wrong?

The results, I hope, speak for themselves – and if they’re a little freakish, that’s a good thing. This owes a lot to the black and white Teletubbies video that’s doing the rounds (you know, the one with Joy Division), although it’s less of a mood piece and more of a meditation; it even attempts to tell some sort of story. There are two bits of dialogue, by the way, lifted directly from ‘Utopia’ rather than the War Master set; bonus points to anyone who can work out what they are. And yes, the ending is a bit Blackadder. No apologies.

Oh, and it’s in black and white because it looks cool. Isn’t that a pip?

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The wolves are dawdling

I am too full of cake / cheese / salami to write anything substantial at the moment. You know how it is at Christmas. But I’ve been keeping these three puns in reserve for a day when I really ought to post anything, while lacking the momentum to actually do it.

First: one of those Lord of the Rings moments that would have arguably improved the scene if they’d actually done it.

Second: I’m not even going to explain this one, as you need to have read Wolf Hall to appreciate it, and if you haven’t, it won’t be funny even if I explain why.

 

 

And lastly: I know I’m not the first person to have thought of this, but it strikes me as very odd that more people haven’t done it.

 

Happy New Year. May all your camels be fertile.

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That Wolf Hall / Bing Transcript

One of the most popular searches on this blog is for Bing Bunny – the Ted Dewan creation who currently has his own CBeebies programme, in which he stumbles through life with the help of Flop, his saintly guardian. It’s a popular show in our house, although my interest in Bing basically peaked when I produced a mashup that replaced Flop’s calm, reassuring dialogue with something altogether darker. If you’ve not read about that, I suggest you nip over to this post and do so. The resulting video was not one I showed my kids, but it was good, and I was proud of it.

And unfortunately, it’s not on YouTube. Aardman cited copyright infringement and a desire to avoid mixing children’s shows with adult material, which in a way is fair enough. Despite my warnings in the item description as well as at the very beginning of the video, I’m sure there are still children watching – and while I don’t advocate unfiltered YouTube access I have to accept the fact that there are many people in the world who are stupid. It’s a sad state of affairs, but there it is. Nor dare I risk it on Vimeo, in case Aardman are monitoring.

So I had to take it offline, but – as I said on the other post – there’s always a transcript, right? And now that series nine has wrapped I actually have time to get this done, and here it is. I won’t pretend that something isn’t lost in the telling, but if you can get someone to perform this with you, as well as someone else to play a lute in the background, you will at least get the general idea. Amateur dramatics: it’s a Bing thing.

For clarification –

  • All Flop’s dialogue is from Wolf Hall
  • For that matter, so is Pando’s (and he has Bernard Hill’s voice)
  • All Gilly’s dialogue is from Father Ted
  • Everything else is from Bing

Oh, and episodes used (in order of first appearance)

  • Goodbye
  • Storytime
  • Mine
  • Giving
  • Hide and Seek
  • Woof
  • Dark

Fade in…

TITLE:
It’s 15:38. Round the corner, not far away…

 

INT. LOUNGE. DAY

[Debbie Wiseman’s mournful score plays. Bing and Flop walk down the stairs; a dejected Sula sits nursing her sodden shoe.]

FLOP: Go on.

BING: I didn’t want to say goodbye.

SULA: But it isn’t a goodbye now. It’s a badbye.

FLOP: She hates you. She despises you. She wants you gone.

BING: Oh! [He runs off, excited]

Bing_Wolf (1)

 

INT. BATHROOM. NIGHT

[A naked Bing, in the bath. Flop is trying desperately to keep a book out of trouble.]

BING: Please, Flop. I really want a story.

FLOP [wrenching the book out of the path of dripping water]: Is that simple enough for your simple tastes?

Bing_Wolf (2)

 

INT. LOUNGE. NIGHT

[Bing, Flop, Pando and Padget, examining shells after a day on the beach. Bing holds one to his ear.]

BING: I can hear the sea!

PANDO: Bollocks.

PADGET [taking the shell and following suit]: Yes! [off Pando’s yawn] Oh, Pando, are you tired?

PANDO: Still bollocks.

Bing_Wolf (3)

 

INT. SHOP. DAY

[Bing plays with a toy truck, while trying to pick out a gift for Sula.]

BING: She likes her fairy wings. They’re sparkly. And she likes dancing. And her magic wand!

FLOP: She does, doesn’t she? I hear she can tell you where your dead relatives are.

Bing_Wolf (4)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Bing, Sula, Coco and Pando are playing hide and seek.]

COCO: One…two…three…four…

[Bing and Pando each hide in opposite ends of a fabric tunnel; there is not enough room for both of them.]

BING: I was here first, Pando!

PANDO: Oh, Jesus Christ! By the thrice-beshitten shroud of Lazarus. If I had a crossbow, I’d SHOOT YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF!

EVERYONE ELSE: Oh, Pando!

Bing_Wolf (5)

 

EXT. PARK. DAY

[Bing and Flop are examining an apparently friendly dog.]

FLOP: She’s a fighter.

BING: Oh. But he’s got my ball!

FLOP [to the dog]: I could put my thumbs in your eyes, and you would sing ‘Green Grows The Holly’, if I asked you to.

BING: He’s licking me, Flop!

FLOP: I don’t like the way he looks at me.

Bing_Wolf (6)

 

EXT. GARDEN. NIGHT

[Bing and Flop explore the garden, Bing in his pyjamas, coat and wellies, carrying a torch. It’s like a really crap X-File.]

BING [calling over the fence to someone out of shot]: We’re having a venture! Hoppity’s all on his own, in the dark.

[Cut to window: we can see that the person Bing’s addressing is Pando, bouncing on his bed.]

FLOP: Tell him to let us in before I show his arse my boot.

BING: Night night Pando.

Bing_Wolf (7)

 

INT. BATHROOM. NIGHT

[Bing’s out of the bath, doing comically exaggerated story actions. The book perches precariously on the edge of the tub. Bing is blowing hard; all of a sudden the book plops into the water.]

FLOP: What’s that?

[The two of them lean over.]

BING: There’s my book!

FLOP: A fucking accident?

Bing_Wolf (8)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Back with hide and seek. Bing has just hidden inside a hamper; Pando is on his way over and clambering in.]

COCO: Five…six…

BING: Oh, get off! I’m here first!

FLOP: You didn’t find the apostles feeling each other’s bollocks, did you?

Bing_Wolf (9)

 

EXT. PARK. DAY

[Bing sits dejectedly next to Flop, while the dog runs over to its approaching owner.]

FLOP: What’s this? Oh, body of Christ. You just have to say some words, that’s all.

BING [crushed]: Oh…but I wanted to keep him.

GILLY: You big bastard.

FLOP: Hello!

GILLY: I’ll stick this effin’ pitchfork up your hole.

BING: I did. And Sunshine loves me!

GILLY: You can’t move for the bastards…

Bing_Wolf (10)

 

INT. NURSERY. DAY

[Coco is creeping around, trying to find her hidden friends. Bing is in the hamper.]

FLOP: For Christ’s sake man, do you think you can crawl out of your hole?

BING: No! I can’t! Coco will see me, and I’ll be finded!

FLOP: Except you won’t. You don’t have the brain of a flea.

[Roll credits.]

Bing_Wolf (11)

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The Dark Side of Flop: Bing meets Wolf Hall

IMPORTANT UPDATE: THIS VIDEO IS NO LONGER EMBEDDED.

TO SEE WHY, SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM.

TO SEE IT ON DROPBOX, CLICK HERE.

FOR THE TRANSCRIPT, CLICK HERE.

You know, when I think about it, I’m pretty sure this whole thing started with Mrs Doyle.

I knew about Wolf Hall already, of course, although I’d not seen it. “It’s weird,” they said on the social media pages. “That sinister bloke from that costume drama playing Flop!” Well, yes, but I had no frame of reference. And then there was the day that Bing found the dog in the park, and when her owner arrives to find out where she’s got to, it turns out to be Pauline McLynn.

Father Ted is twenty years old this year, which has led to an abundance of lists – popular quotes, memorable episodes, and a few of those animated GIFs that are so popular on Tumblr. There will be the “small, far away” clip and you can guarantee that at least one person will use the words “Down with this sort of thing” (and that the next comment, in turn, will read “Careful now”). But I know the scene I always think of when I see Pauline McLynn, and it is the one where she swears.

Distressingly, this clip omits Mrs Doyle’s departing remark – but the point is, the moment I heard Pauline voicing Gilly I wanted her to shout “RIDE ME SIDEWAYS, THAT WAS ANOTHER ONE!” at Bing and Flop. And it sort of went from there, really. It went from there primarily because I’m getting a little tired at the constant ‘Find your inner Flop’ mantras that seem to have become a thing. Flop’s a role model in the same way that Jesus was a role model. His approach is totally impractical because he has a limitless supply of patience, of the sort that human beings do not possess. Let’s also not forget that Bing himself, though young, is also an alarmingly obedient child, digesting and dealing with Flop’s advice and reproaches without question, each and every time. Not for Bing the strop in the supermarket or the insistence on having his bed all to himself, even if Pando’s fallen asleep inside it. When Flop tells him ‘no’, he listens, and he listens first time.

And look, here’s the thing – Flop doesn’t have a smartphone.* Perhaps Bing is set in a world thirty years behind ours, or even longer (have there been any stories in which the characters watch, or even want to watch TV? I genuinely don’t remember any). Flop appears to devote twenty-four hours a day to the servitude and care of his charge. Perhaps he’s like Davy Jones in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, cursed to ferry the Flying Dutchman back and forth to and from the land of the dead, or risk being turned into an octopus. (I am now entertaining the notion of a collectible Flop with detachable Cthulhu-like tentacles. It is an amusing, if disturbing thought.)

But I wonder, sometimes. I wonder what he’s really thinking. Someone, somewhere really needs to produce a blog in which Flop recounts the events of an episode of Bing from his own perspective, in which he whines about the rabbit’s stupidity, perhaps referring to him as ‘The little shit’. I would very much like to do this, had I the time, not to mention the inclination to stop-start view all seventy-six episodes of season one – again – so that I can make dialogue notes.

In the absence of that, this will do. Because it’s time we brought the zen-like sock puppet down off his pedestal. He’s been allowed to embarrass decent, flawed parents for too long. He and the other carers in the show are annoyingly, irritatingly perfect. It’s why it’s a shock when this happens in the iPlayer listings:

Bing

It was a mistake, of course, and I pointed it out, only to have the official Bing Bunny page say something random that completely missed the point. “You’re far too young for a Facebook account, Bing,” I remarked. “Does Flop know?”

Anyway, a few technical notes on that video. The longest component of assembling this one was actually watching Wolf Hall, which I did in the space of three or four days, thoroughly enjoying every minute (except when the rented DVD turned out to be scratched). I’ve written about the majesty of the BBC’s Hilary Mantel adaptation elsewhere, so we won’t dwell on Cromwell and his machinations for today. What struck me going through was how little there actually was, in the grand scheme of things – I’d expected Thomas Cromwell to be darker, somehow, forgetting that the whole point to his characterisation is a sense of enigmatic aloofness, with far more revealed in what he doesn’t say – the space between the notes, as Miles Davis used to riff when he was defining music.

Bernard Hill, on the other hand, was a gift from a multi-denominational God. He swears like a trooper. He had to be Pando; there was nothing else for it. The Duke of Norfolk spends much of his time harrumphing and shouting like a child; he has thus rather fittingly become one. There’s no set narrative to this collection, which is instead loosely grouped according to mood – although you’ll see certain scenes are split to keep the pace up. I purposely didn’t use every sound clip I obtained, realising (as I have of late) that less is more. It’s a lesson I could have done with learning on the Red Dwarf / Doctor Who crossover I did last year – one that’s earned its fair share of negative comments, comments which I fear with increasing certainty may be absolutely right.

But if nothing else, this hopefully throws up a subtext to some of Flop’s oh-so-perfect parenting techniques, as well as demonstrating the versatility of the frankly sensational Mark Rylance. Sadly, Pauline McLynn still doesn’t get to say “Ride me sideways”, but you can’t have everything. Maybe I’ll do a sequel next year when they adapt The Light and the Mirror. Patience. It’s a Bing thing. As for the rest of us, we’re all drumming our fingers.

* Edit: it turns out, as I discovered just this week, that Flop does have a smartphone, although it’s left marginally less intelligent when Bing breaks it. I’m still basically right, anyway.

BLOGGER’S ADDENDUM, 14 JULY

I received an email this morning informing me that the video has been taken offline by YouTube, in response to a legal claim from Aardman. This wasn’t one of those indiscriminate web-crawling automated takedowns that I can contest under fair use; this was a manual request. When I queried, the (truncated) response from Aardman was:

“With kids brands, the general rule of thumb is not to mix pre-school with adult comedy, this is the main reason in this case for removing the video, which we have done on behalf of the Bing team.

The secondary reason is your video is also an infringement of copyright associated with the Bing brand.

FYI – Some production companies are stricter than others with regards to copyright breach, some see it as promotion, others see it as property theft, different strokes for different folks basically.”

Under the circumstances, I won’t be contesting. He has a point, and all the parental advisories in the world (and there are at least two) probably won’t stop kids from clicking through. Ted Dewan’s Twitter approval counts for zip; Aardman hold the copyright, they call the shots.

The three most annoying things about this –

1. My copyright standing has been relegated, at least until January, and I have a strike on my account

2. I had to sit through a tedious and patronising ‘Copyright school’ video; the sort of thing I imagine speeding drivers have to go through

3. I dare not even put this on Vimeo, because they’ll probably do it again.

I have, however, made the video available at Dropbox, if you want to see or download it there. Alternatively, you could have a look at this transcript.

 

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Five things that happened in every episode of Wolf Hall

mark-rylance-wolf-hall

Look, there he is. He’s doing his ‘haunted’ face. This chap has a mysterious past, apparently. We still don’t know all the details. But there is trouble in sixteenth-century England, in particular with its relations with Rome, and it seems that Thomas Cromwell is the man to sort it out. But firstly he’d like the king to stop off for a couple of weeks at Wolf Hall, home of a youthful Jane Seymour…

Last time I talked about Bing Bunny. Today Mark Rylance crops up again in Wolf Hall, one of the BBC’s flagship programmes for 2015 and itself an adaptation of two novels by Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies). Both deal with the life of Thomas Cromwell and his rise to power (the eventual fall from grace, presumably, being the subject of the upcoming The Mirror and the Light). If Rylance played a saintly guardian in Bing, his character in Wolf Hall could not be more different, with Cromwell’s Machiavellian ruses forming the bulk of the narrative, his true intents usually hidden behind that chiselled, enigmatic face.

Ostensibly, this has nothing to do with Doctor Who – although this being a BBC costume drama there are the inevitable familiar faces. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jessica Raine, Mark Gatiss, Harry Lloyd and Jonathan Pryce all feature – although the show also finds parts for Richard Dillane, Tim Plester and Hannah Steele, all of whom have appeared in Who, along with numerous others that I’d tell you about if I had the inclination to go through every single IMDB listing. Harry Lloyd, in particular, is marvellous, playing as he does a slightly older and only slightly less warped version of the demonic Baines / Son of Mine in the ‘Human Nature’ / ‘Family of Blood’ two-parter. As for Jonathan Pryce, I kept expecting him to grow a beard and cackle, or start singing Lloyd Webber songs.

It’s wonderful television. Those who complain about the pacing have clearly never seen a Ken Loach movie. There is a place for frantic cuts and heavily condensed exposition, but it’s not in the court of Henry VIII. The sets are moody and well-lit, and the score is mournful and sets the mood perfectly. The script is by turns witty and as quotable as Shakespeare. There is not a single duff performance – even Mark Gatiss turns in something that might passably be considered acting – and the air of menace and intrigue is beautifully, subtly realised. This is not a nice England (even if you’re rich), nor is it safe. But it is bawdy. The BBC got into hot water over its use of the word ‘cunt’ – which seems unfair, somehow, given that that’s how people spoke. There are books on the etymology of bad language and its history, and this isn’t the place for such a debate, but sometimes I look at the stuff in The Canterbury Tales and I wonder when we got quite so prudish. The Victorian era, perhaps. That’s probably when. If nothing else, blame the Victorians.

Historical liberties may be up for grabs, of course. Cromwell, in particular, is given a greater degree of humanity than he is perhaps normally granted (this is presumably down to his depiction in Hilary Mantel’s original text, which I’m about to read, as much as it is due to Rylance’s carefully precise performance). Thomas More, meanwhile, is seen torturing a would-be protestant, something that Cromwell is notably not seen doing, even though he makes good on his promise for revenge in the closing episode with some particularly calculated nastiness (I’d tell you more, but we’re in spoiler territory). Cromwell is not a nice man, you sense, but early scenes with his family show him in a more positive light than More is granted – a moment, in particular, when he opens a contraband English copy of the Bible, noting “How can it be sacrilege?”, makes it hard to disagree with his intentions, even if the end doesn’t always justify the means.

So it’s great, and if you haven’t seen it, you really should. But if you go through all six episodes of a dramatic serial more or less back to back, the recurring motifs become a little more visible. So here are the things I spotted. I was going to turn this into a drinking game, but from what I can see that ship has sailed. Nonetheless, if you watch Wolf Hall you’ll notice –

1. Damian Lewis (Henry VIII) spreads his legs and puts his hands on his hips in an uncanny impersonation of a sugar bowl. (He’ll tell you he’s a little teapot, of course, but he’s in denial.)

Wolf_Hall1

2. Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn) says something acidic.

Wolf_Hall2

3. Bernard Hill (the Duke of Norfolk) shouts, usually using at least one of the words ‘fuck’, ‘arse’ or ‘bollocks’. Or any combination thereof.

Wolf_Hall3

 

(Memo to the Doctor Who production team – can we please get Bernard Hill in series ten, preferably as a grumpy luddite who teams up with the Doctor at a nineteenth century cotton mill invaded by evil meerkats?)

4. Two words: needlework.

Wolf_Hall4

5. Finally, Mark Rylance stands at a group gathering looking like he’s just smelled a fart.

Wolf_Hall5

Next time: east meets west. But you’ll have to wait ’til Friday…

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