I was looking for my little stash of those tiny bulbs you have on old fashioned strings of Christmas lights, you know what I mean – and instead I found, of all things, the ticket of my first Don Carlo. Continue reading
Had things been different – had things been normal – I’d be going through the backstage routine for the umpteenth time with the newest recruit of the Quick Change Team (whoever she or he might be), getting ready for tonight’s dress rehearsals of a Christmas Carol, discussing our Scrooge’s foibles – and perhaps trying on my own costume for Ruth Grimshaw in the prologue… All the while, also getting ready for our new big play – my own Verne adaptation, to open on New Year’s Eve. Also, Gemma and the good old Squirrels would be doing my Christmas Triptych on the 17th – so, even without being directly and officially involved in the production, more preparations… Continue reading
There is this thing in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus – Act 3, Scene 2 – where the eponymous hero is dragged home by his friends after wrecking his campaign for Consulship.
Caius Martius’s unwilling bid for popular vote in the Forum began badly, and ended worse when the two People’s Tribunes goaded him into a shouting match. All patience lost, he gave them all a very abrasive piece of his mind on the rabble and its representatives – the sort that the Tribunes can easily construe as treasonous speech. So now he is at home, with family and friends trying to talk him into what he perceives as a humiliating apology, unless he wants to face charges of treason for himself and/or civil strife in the City. Continue reading
Every day I seem to realise a little more how much of our lives has moved to the realm of distance connections – even when the distance isn’t much at all. I told you about how our drama school moved all classes and meetings to Zoom, and then there is my mother doing her yoga practice via GoogleMeet, and the Company’s similarly organized cycle of Sepulveda readings… Continue reading
Teaching in the Covid era – even teaching playwriting in a drama school – means that we are back to distance learning, these days. My corner of Italy is shut down again, and last night’s class happened on Zoom.
It was all about dialogue, you see, and using it to either forward action, or enhance characterization. Well – both, ideally, and all the more when writing for the stage, where dialogue is one of only two tools the playwright has to tell a story, the other being action.
But as we discussed ways to use dialogue to build character, I was reminded of a bit in Charles Nicholl’s The Lodger. Now, The Lodger is wonderful nonfiction, focusing on Shakespeare’s time as a lodger with the Mountjoys, a family of successful tyrers (or wig-makers) of French origins.
Shakespeare managed to get himself embroiled with a lawsuit between Christopher Mountjoy and his son-in-law, and let us say that the Bard doesn’t cut his finest figure – but that’s hardly the point. The point is the Bard’s landlady, Marie Mountjoy, who went from Huguenot refugee to tyre-maker to Anne of Denmark, no less. Well, at one point Marie, a wealthy businesswoman and perhaps an adulteress, goes to see astrologer and physician Dr. Simon Forman, in the hope of recovering a couple of lost ring and some equally lost money. It was a common practice, at the time, and Forman was a man of huge renown in the field. The good doctor used to take copious and detailed notes of his cases, and his notebooks have largely survived, to provide us with a treasure trove of details. Details like the very short list of Marie’s suspect thieves – one being Margery, a servant in the Mountjoy household. A tall and freckled wench, in Marie’s words.
These few words, jotted down by Foreman as he listened to Marie, have always given me the shivers – in the best possible way. It’s a bit of a voice from four hundred years ago, unphiltered by the conventions of literature, law or ritual. It’s a small window thrown open across the centuries to show us, to make us hear this long dead woman… Nicholl loves it just as much as I do, and goes a step further: Whenever I try to conjure up a sense of Marie, he writes, I imagine her while she pronounces “freckled” with a French accent.
Try Nicholl’s little game – and here is Marie at thirty, leaning forward in her seat in the flickering light from a pair of candles, with a disapproving frown, and pursed lips, with her hands folded in her lap, and her French ‘r… So vividly alive, after four hundred something years, and all because of five words told to an astrologer. Five words that keep a trace of her origins, her mindset, her beliefs, her voice, her personality. Five words.
It goes to show how a few well-chosen words of dialogue can go very far in creating a voice and a character – whether history kindly provides them, or we make them up ourselves.
Will it sound awfully cliché if I wonder, is it just me, or do years grow shorter and shorter as I grow older? Because… well, once upon a time, I used to draw my yearly sums, so to speak, at the end of December. A most sensible notion, you’d think, and a fairly common one. Continue reading
Back in May, when we were still locked down, and RAI, the Italian television, was making an effort, I happened to see a long interview with playwright/director Alessandro Serra about his Macbettu – a translation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in Sardinian dialect. Continue reading
So last night we had “my” Sonnets… and all went wonderfully well.
But I mean really and truly well, in every conceivable way, so much so that even my usually hyper-critical mother found no fault to pick – and believe me: it’s no everyday occurrence. Continue reading
Tax-rolls for the names, the Agas Map of London, rope (or not rope) ferries, lute music, woodcuts and their elements, leagues and miles, Estienne’s Guide des Chemins de France, post horses, ruffs and collars, the (not very long) way from the Quai des Bernardins to the Rue des Anglais in Paris, the right way to take a bow, original frontispieces, light hours in November, and Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, Cadiz 1596, wives inheriting, Channel crossings, Thomas Platter… Continue reading