The Armchair Globe Director


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GlobeLogoDid you ever want to direct a Shakespeare play? Perhaps at the Globe?

Well, now you can – or, if not a complete play, at least a scene or three, with The Globe’s Staging it.

From the website:

Staging It is a brand new interactive film maker. It allows you to understand Shakespeare’s text from a director’s point of view and virtually stage a scene at the Globe theatre.

Actors are filmed performing a moment of a play on the Globe stage. Each line of their speech is shot four times, each time performed in different ways (happy, flirtatious, defensive, etc.) Watch each of the clips and add your choice to a dynamic storyboard to build up a final scene.

Besides being great fun, it can be quite a revelation to play around and see how moods and nuances can be combined together, and how changing the rendition of a single line can give an entirely different spin to a whole scene.

If nothing else, Staging It casts an interesting light on the director’s role and work with the text and actors. A well-thought, clever little game to play.

Backstage Brats


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TerryCraigThis is Dame Ellen Terry with her son Gordon Craig, who was to leave acting to become a noted lighting and stage designer – quite the innovator in both fields.

The lovely photograph was taken in 1891, when Dame Ellen and nineteen-year-old Craig (who grew up as a backstage brat) played together in Charles Reade’s  Nance Oldfield, a play about an early XVIIIth century actress.

So now I have another play to find… Treasure hunt, all over again.

Family Man, ot the Theological Werewolf


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LutherLevyI wouldn’t call myself a fan of comics or graphic novels. I’m just not fond of the medium, so I’m sure there are some great ones out there – but I don’t feel an urge to read them.

And I’m not wild about werewolf stories, either. Or vampire stories, for that matter. Again, there may be some very good ones, I’m sure – but they are not my cup of tea.

All of which is why I’m still a little surprised at how much I am enjoying Dylan Meconis’ web-graphic novel Family Man. It all began when I stumbled across an article I can’t find anymore, praising FM for its clever and unusual premise, well researched historical setting, and interesting portrayal of intellectuals. My curiosity was aroused – and if there was any mention of werewolves, I must have missed it. By the time I realised the werewolves were coming at all, I was entirely sold on the story of young theologian Luther Levy, his uncomfortable heritage, his lost faith, his many questions, and his second chance at a mysterious (and more than slightly sinister) new university.

I was going to say that Family Man is a damn good story, no matter in what medium it is told, wonderfully written, filled with ideas, suspence and atmosphere, and populated with interesting characters who talk in clever, witty dialogue. But the fact is that, besides being all of these things, it is also lovely to look at – even to my untrained eye: I’m loving the sepia-toned, atmospheric drawings, the page composition, and the way it all combines with the excellent writing to tell the story.

Goes to prove that one never can tell. I’m not saying I’ll become an avid reader of comics – but I’m very glad I gave this graphic novel a try, instead of just raising an eyebrow at the “graphic” and missing the “novel.”



Rewriting Myself


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Again and againI find myself wanting to rewrite things.

Plays, especially. Plays that were staged with good success – one even published…

But now I want to rewrite them, because seeing them staged made me aware of rough edges, mistakes, things great and small that need some more work. And because years have passed and I have learnt a few things since.

Somnium Hannibalis is a stage adaptation of my novel of the same name.* Hannibal Barca, the Second Punic War, the price of all-consuming dreams… An intense little thing – if I say so myself. It had several runs over four years, it played well, and I loved it very much, but now… I want to write it again, to change things, to shift the characters around Hannibal, to have things happen onstage more. It’s not that I have grown to dislike it, but I know how to make it so much better.

Of Men and Poets is a play on Virgil – or rather, on the fate of the Aeneid after Virgil’s death. It was a commission, and it opened rather grandly, back in the day, to the presence of Seamus and Marie Heaney, Peter Fallon, the Gotha of Europe’s Virgil scholars… Then it had a good run and was published. And it wasn’t bad – but I was so green to the craft when I wrote it, and it shows in a hundred little ways. There are many things I know now, and wish I had known back then…

And of course I couldn’t know, because a good deal of it I learnt by sitting backstage or in the audience through show after show, and getting a feeling for what works and what doesn’t, and discussing things with directors and actors… So many lessons that I can and do use in writing new plays – but those old things, they were stories I loved (even though I panicked at first when I was commissioned a play on the damn Aeneid), and it seems a pity to leave them like that. They feel unfinished, and I want to work on them some more.

After the first run of Men&Poets, I told a friend I’d have to do something with it, sooner or later. He stared at me because, he said, he had trouble imagining that a published play could be regarded as unfinished.

“It is on paper, you know…”

Well, it wasn’t unfinished when I delivered it to the company and the publisher – oh, it felt finished enough. It was only later, that it grew unfinished again. And I have a notion that, the more I learn about playwriting, the more unfinished my old plays will become.

And also that, even after I rewrite them, sooner or later they will grow unfinished again, because this is how it works. If I’ll go on rewriting again and again, or what will be worth rewriting… well, this I’ll decide – or learn – as I go. As I rewrite.


* And yes, the Latin title was one of those mistakes…

Mr K. meets the Cheshire Cat


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MrKandtheCatCouldn’t help myself. And it isn’t my fault, either: I saw the K. quote, and the conversation dawned on me – just like that.

Er… right. Enough. I think I’ll disappear for now… -ow… -ow… -ow… -ow…


                                        ♫ ‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves… ♫


Unexpected Alices


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Image courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin.

The original 1923 cover by Zalshupin for Anya in Wonderland, young Nabokov’s Russian not-quite-translation from Lewis Carroll, with changed names and Russian nursery-rhymes…

Who knew? Or that Salvador Dalì once made illustrations for Alice? All of this and much more can be seen in this fascinating exhibition at the Ransom Center of the University of Texas.


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