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Funny woman, Rose Byrne. There she is, imperious and cold-blooded as Bulgarian billionaire arms dealer Rayna Boyanov on her private jet, opposite a CIA spy played by Melissa McCarthy in Paul Feig’s 2015 spy spoof titled, well, Spy. Byrne has long tresses, her hair scroll fastened with jewels.

Having dissolved a man’s throat with poison, Byrne holds a flute of champagne aloft in the jet’s blood-red interior and toasts McCarthy, who recalls being upgraded once on a commercial airline. “Premium economy?” says Byrne with clipped distaste. “Sounds like a pen for dirty animals.”

In 2016, we mourned en masse the deaths of Bowie and Prince on social media, but 400 years ago, the death of another pop culture icon, Shakespeare, on April 23 1616, went largely unnoticed. His First Folio of works would not be published for another seven years.

Here in Australia, that publication’s British soft cultural power has reverberated since European arrival, and will again this summer. But why? As I sat in a theatre at the Bard’s birth and death place of Stratford-upon-Avon, watching a hi-tech The Tempest, I was struck how modern in its quest for hopefulness was the story of magician Prospero (Simon Russell Beale) and the sprite Ariel (Mark Quarterly).

Fifty essays and dispatches on
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