In Remembrance

Once upon a time, years ago, I was stuck on a scene for a play. It was supposed to be a snappy exchange between two characters, one fearing for his life, and quite mad at the other for not getting the full import of the situation… As we are constantly told that good theatre (or narrative) dialogue must do, it was supposed to advance the plot and add to each character…

Except, it didn’t. No matter how I rewrote, and rewrote again, as soon as I tried to read it aloud it sounded stiff, off-key, downright wrong. I was fit to tear my hair out when my friend Flavia called to ask about something entirely unrelated. But Flavia knew me well enough that, by that small conversation about, say, rubber ducks, she could tell I wasn’t at my happiest. She asked what was wrong, and I said nothing – oh, nothing much. She pressed, and I spilled it all out. Continue reading

Re-Discovering The Soane

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One particular discovery of this last trip to London was Sir John Soane’s museum house at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. I think I’d been there before, perhaps some twenty years ago, on my very first time in London – but, for some reason, the place had failed to strike me the way it has this time.

Now I’m rather in love.

In love with the unbelievable Crypt: you access the rear basement via the kitchen – and find yourself entirely surrounded by Sir John’s antiquities, filling every available space, piling up the walls, up to the eaves – in the most literal sense. Wherever you turn there is another statue, another fragment, another vase, another model, another, and another, and another… You pick your way from cabinet to small room, up narrow stairs, you look up and down this sort of antique-lined well, with its fanlight above… and then there is the room entirely lined with paintings – and not any paintings, either: a few Canalettos, a handful of Hogarts, a collection of Piranesi… Continue reading

On the Way to London

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That’s where I am as you read. On my way to London with a bunch of theatre friends for three days (and a half) of… oh, the usual, I guess.

Mary Poppins and the Phantom of the opera, the Sky Garden, Greenwich, the exhibition on stage costumes at the National Theatre… did I say we are a bunch of theatre folk?

I’m sure it will be great fun, and I’m curious about how I function in this kind of group. I am used to travel alone or – not so frequently – with one or two close friends… I don’t think I’ve travelled with a group in… twenty years? Likely longer than that. Then again, with most of these particular people I’m used to work on an almost daily basis, so…

I can’t wait. It’s been too long since I’ve been in London. It will be fun. I’ll let you know.

 

To have aspiring minds…

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Robert Stewart Sherrif

Robert Stewart Sherrif

I love Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great – and by that I mean the first of the two parts. It may be rougher around the edges than his later work, but it’s breathlessly fiery. With his blank iambic pentameter, with the historical subject-matter, and his unpunished bloodthirsty hero, the boy (all of twenty-three at the time) was breaking ground in many ways – and knew it well. Continue reading

Lost Empires – a collection (part 2)

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More empires, then…

Vienna is, on many levels, a lovely city – but after reading Joseph Roth I was never able to see it in the same way again. Roth’s Empire, the one of the Hapsburgs, of the many ethnic groups, of my Dreiländer grandmother who gave her son an Emperor’s name, that elephantine, multilingual Empire, orderly in it chaos, austere, slow and immutable – that Empire died with Franz Josef, and decomposed with World War One. Most surely it is not to be found in the quaint patisseries in the form of the Sachertorten fed to endless tourists, nor in the ubiquitous Mozartkügeln, the girls dressed up as Sisi, the maudlin songs played in garden restaurants… Vienna has chosen a sugary image of the Empire, flattering for the national character and good for tourism – betraying the ancient, supranational and hallowed idea. Because while kingdoms are places, empires are ideas… Now a shadow of that idea only remains, perhaps, in the Kapuzinergruft in the Neue Markt. Continue reading

Lost Empires – a collection (Part One)

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Now this was sparked by an exchange of mails with an archeologist friend. We came to discuss empires – falling and fallen, lost and surviving in shadows… which brought me to muse on my personal collection of Lost Empires – or, at least, of shadows I found, sometimes in strange places or in the pages of a book.

Lisbon, for instance, I found to be a strange place: melancholy, grand, and neglected, still dotted with ruins from the 1746 earthquake, with its tower overlooking the Tago, the cramped, untidy Alfama clinging around the crumbling castle, and caravels everywhere. Caravels are exhibited in museums, double as ex-votos in churches or children’s swings in parks, recur in trademarks and symbols everywhere… There is a sense of proud decay – as though the whole city whispered “let it all go to ruin, what matters now that the Empire is lost? Continue reading

A Christmas Carol – News from the front

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And so the second run of our CC is nearing its end: four more nights now, and we’ll be done for the season.

And you know what? I’m going to miss it terribly. It’s been an intense and very successful affair, sold out from the beginning, with the box office besieged with calls well after all the seats were gone (why, one particular lady called last Saturday, during the show – begging for eight seats, no less…), ticket-less people turning up every night, queuing in hope of a last-minute seat, and a number of very good reviews… Continue reading

Gratuitous Whining on the First Day of Winter

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I have the flu – the damn flu… again!

For the second time in less than a month. And I rather suspect it can’t have been the flu both times – at least not the same kind of flu – but that’s definitely cold comfort, when you are nursing a wildly see-sawing temperature, enjoying a sore throat, and feeling in general as if your head were stuffed with corned beef, glass marbles and cotton-wool. Continue reading