Mother and the Reverse-Julia

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I think I told you how, back in December, at the dress rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, we had the benefit of a row of rows, complete with screaming match in the green room between Nina the Director and Mrs. Cratchit. It was explosive enough to scare children, upset dressers, and perplex casual viewers – but, as is the case with most of these things, it evaporated quite quickly, and with little or no visible damage. Continue reading

We’ll always have writing…

Because we all know that writers write, they write (or try to) all the time, and have this habit of finding stories in the most awkward places, and notebooks are great stress-relief anyway, so…

Are you writing while stuck at home? Writing on as usual? Resurrecting old neglected projects? Drawing inspiration from the current events? Seeking refuge from current events in faraway times and places? Casting around for ideas? Itching to write but not quite doing it? Continue reading

Giorgio

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Giorgio was our Lighting Man. Ah well, he was much more than that. He was a pillar of the Company – had been for five decades. Head Electrician, administrator, Council member, computer wizard, box-office man, prop supervisor… there was little in the day-to-day running of the Company and the Tiny Theatre where Giorgio didn’t have a hand… Continue reading

Life in the time of Covid-19

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We may all have somehow hoped, at least at the very beginning, that the skeptics would end up being right, when they said that in a couple of weeks all would peter out into awkward silence and the next Big Thing…

But they weren’t – and now the whole of Italy is tightly quarantined. To be out and about without documented necessity is a criminal offence, these days, and even to go to the grocer’s you need a written and signed statement to that effect.  I’m not complaining, mind – not in the least. It has to be done – and, if it must work, it has to be done thoroughly. Continue reading

Matthew Arnold’s Victorian Shakespeare

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ShVictorianI’ve said before, I think, how utterly fascinated I am with the way each era, since the late 17th Century, has tried to mould a Shakespeare of its own. Rewriting his works to make them merrier, or more classical, or less earthy, but also refashioning again and again what (comparatively) little we know of him into one or other ideal portrait – from John Aubrey’s merry poacher to W.H. Ireland’s perfect gentleman… Continue reading

Closed for Plague

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Late in January 1593, the Privy Council, worried about what looked like a new bout of plague, wrote a letter to London’s authorities, ordering to close all playhouses. It was one of many times this happened: City fathers, Privy Council, Puritans – a lot of people seemed ready to blame the playhouses for anything, from the corruption of minds, to general dishonesty and health troubles. Let us say that an attempt to contain contagion was one of the saner reasons for closing them down… Continue reading

Matthew Plampin’s Will and Tom

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I remember picking up Matthew Plampin’s Will and Tom in the bookshop at the Tate Britain – and then putting it back, just as I’d put back half a dozen other hardbacks in the last day. In truth, after lugging many and many and many pounds of books across Europe over the years, I’ve learned, when I’m travelling, to only buy the ones that can’t conceivably be procured through the Net – either digitally or physically. So I jotted down the title in my notebook’s dedicated page, and in time the novel found its way to my Kindle. Then, for some reason, it took me a few years to get round to actually read it. If you have a To Read List of any length, you know how these things happen… Continue reading

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.