28 August 2007

In The Club


Went to Richard Bean's Brussels farce for the Saturday matinee at Hampstead, and again found myself having a thoroughly marvellous time in the company of RB's writing, with its characteristic swings between acerbity, sagacity and tenderness. This time of course it was accompanied by a barrage of door-slams, switched suitcases, growling Turks and Yorkshiremen, and various plastic appendages. The whole shebang was incredibly likeable, funny and daft. Baffling and irritating therefore to recall the wilfully po-faced reviews. The one piece I read that came anywhere near describing the play I saw was Andrew Haydon's on the Culture Wars site. (Oh and I just looked up the one in the FT , that was pretty good too.)

Meanwhile I'm headed back to 17th century Germany today after a restful holiday weekend, starting on the next draft of the radio play. After that it's draft two of A Christmas Carol, in which I get to write a Christmas carol.

20 August 2007

Morning everyone. I'm currently wading my way toward a draft of a radio play, it's technically overdue as of today but my lovely producer Liz has given me a few days' grace, so yet again I'm writing this when I should be writing that (hello Dave). But I thought I owed you people a post, I know there are a (countable on fingers) number of you who look in regularly, and it's only right and fair that I give you something to read.
B went to Edinburgh for four days last week, so I was full-time Dad for the duration, and lovely that was too, if a trifle exhausting, as I was a bit nervy about my deadline and got insomniac. But all in all it went gratifyingly well. Spike missed his Mum a fair bit and there were a few tears but we had a Grand Day Out at the Science Museum on the Wednesday, the anticipation of which helped keep his pecker up, and baby Bernard, while initially a little perplexed at his mother's sudden not-being-there-ness, soldiered on manfully and was a delightful bean, albeit one that emitted masses of noxious slurry from his rear end, must have been something he ate.
At the Science Museum, we saw this


which bowled me over. Not literally, it doesn't work anymore. But I remembered it did bowl over poor old Huskisson, the first ever railway fatality.

Other things: reading Harriet Devine's interviews with many brilliant writers in Looking Back: Playwrights at the Royal Court, 1956-2006. Essential and riveting. And I caught the last night of Philistines at the NT. Even from the back of the circle I managed to become besotted with Ruth Wilson's Tanya, and also Rory Kinnear as her brother Pyotr (but in a different way). And yes I suppose they really could the pair of them (the characters, I mean) do with a kick up the backside, as their father intimates in no uncertain fashion - but then couldn't we all?


05 August 2007

Friday I finished a draft of Xmas Carol, with a feeling of something like exhilaration as I did my best not to make a mess of the already-quite-dramatic-on-the-page resurrection of Ebenezer. It's marvellous stuff, and I'd gently urge anyone who hasn't read the story to give it a look. It's more Gothic and fantastic than you might suppose from the Muppet version - which has many fine qualities - or even the Alistair Sim. When he wrote the thing Dickens was still only 31 and more in thrall to Smollett, Defoe and Arabian Nights than anything we might call 'Victorian'. And while yes he is forever tainted by association with the paternalistic moralising of the exploitative, rapacious Empire, an embodiment of that Age almost, there is a helpless drive in his work toward redemption, fraternity, empathy between people. So in his life he was a tireless advocate of provision for the poor, for sanitation, housing, and education, for the consolidation and enlightenment of the growing middle class, the advancement of the working class, and the relief of an underclass who suffered privations and rates of mortality we can scarcely imagine among a western European population. He was a man of his time, but among the greatest and most generous of that time, a prodigy from his youth, world-famous by his thirties and a driven, singular, prodigious artist till the end. I know he has been in the limelight recently for his secret - not any more - relationship with Ellen Ternan, and the abrupt and callous way in which he ended his marriage to Catherine Hogarth. All that is interesting - Peter Ackroyd in his mammoth biography (finished it yesterday, incredibly moved at the end when he died) is convinced, by the way, that Dickens's intense, obsessive relationship with Ellen Ternan was never physical, and I'm looking forward to reading Claire Tomalin's book and Simon Gray's play - but a writer's personal life is seldom blameless.

The final something daft, then. Here's Mark E Smith reading the football scores live on the BBC. You've got to wonder about people turning on the telly when Smith was in full flow - how many Fall fans must have thought they were losing their sanity.

01 August 2007

Stave Four done, to my relief. Only the resurrection scene to go, the iconic ending with the turkey and the 'intelligent boy'. Looking forward to finishing with a flourish tomorrow, but not till later in the day as I'm parenting. B is going to a funeral, sadly. A friend's father.
The something daft comes from one of those Jeeves and Wooster episodes set in Manhattan. But which central London building plays the part of Bertie's midtown apartment block?