24 April 2008

Taking the link down, I thought I'd record it: I miss David E's "One Writer and His Dog", the passion and erudition, the cooking, the Rascal news and all the rest of it.

20 April 2008

While rummaging for Tony Harrison's Oresteia I dusted down another (academic, annotated) translation of the middle play of the trilogy:

dame oresteia

featuring Dame Diana in what I'm sure you'll agree is the mother of all Clytemnestra costumes. The photo isn't credited in the volume, for shame, but I asked Dr.Google about it and she directed me to this page, recording the existence of a Frederic Raphael/Ken MacLeish adaptation for the telly. She even made the cover of Radio Times, look.

oresteia rigg

18 April 2008

It's Friday night, I've put the boys to bed, cooked and eaten my mushroom omelette and now I'm listening to Jessye Norman's voice, married to The Four Last Songs, Richard Strauss. I used to listen to a lot more classical music and opera and so on than I do these days. The Fall and Pink Floyd are the two names currently most heavily represented on my iTunes '25 most played'. Funny how things mutate.

It's been an interesting week workwise. I wrote virtually nothing but had one of those real lightbulb moments on Monday, which has illuminated the rest of the week's reading and thinking. In and around Daniel Defoe and his work, but you could have guessed that.

Also on Monday I saw Fram, Tony Harrison's new work for the National Theatre, directed by himself and its designer Bob Crowley. I found it enthralling, bewildering, beautiful, touching, funny, strange, baffling, frustrating, majestic, prolix, self-mocking, and quite unashamedly challenging in its piling up of a tottering tower of weighty themes. And there were fart jokes, and vomit. Video, dance and what at one stage I thought was a Mighty Boosh tribute sequence. Quite wonderful. Of course it goes without saying, the man's a legend in his own dinnertime. And yes I have seen him in the canteen. But no even if I had the courage, I wouldn't still. Never meet your heroes, don't they say (though I did hear he came to Northern Stage to see A Christmas Carol, and if I'd been there at the time, who knows..). As an actually not very spotty teenager in Liverpool, I watched the video of the NT's production of TH's Oresteia with the rest of the A Level Greek class, and was awestruck. No translation had ever before come close to generating the heat and power of classical Greek, but as soon as the watchman opened his mouth, we knew Aeschylus had finally found a mouthpiece for the age of English. Sorry, Gilbert Murray! At least you have lovely Jeff Rawle bringing you to life on stage.

08 April 2008

(Half) A Night At The Opera

What with all the scribbling, childcaring, penury and other constraints too nebulous to mention, it's not easy for yours truly and his crew to be proper spontaneous, like this guy. Hell, I didn't even notice when the passport expired two years ago. Little things like last night help, though. Seated here at the desk in The Cut at 7.05pm, I decided to see something. But what... Bliss at the Royal Court? Sold Out. Ibsen at the Arcola? Yes, but not tonight... At 7.25 I was climbing the stairs at the Royal Opera House, to take my perch in the Lower Slips, misnomered for sure, as I had to fight creeping vertigo to concentrate on the half a stage I could actually see from my standing berth, priced at a reasonably reasonable £7. It was Eugene Onegin (in a production by the late Steven Pimlott), a work I only knew (past tense operative, as I couldn't remember anything about it) from reading the Pushkin, decades ago. But I warmed to the score, the performers were endearingly committed to the barmy enterprise of recreating romance among the pre-revolutionary Russian bourgeoisie, and there was even a comedy accident in a scene change that would have had the Whingers jumping for joy. The first act of three was enough, I'd had eighty minutes of lush orchestral loveliness poured into my ears, I'd assured myself this whole world of the operatic repertoire still existed, I'd witnessed the rich at their extraordinarily innocent play, and so ambled off into the Covent Garden night well satisfied with the improbability of it all.

01 April 2008

I have a new place to work. Temporarily anyways. I'm on an 'artist's attachment' at the National Theatre Studio, which simply means I have a room in the building for a few weeks, and the use of a decent coffee machine, and a little roof garden (it's brand new so not yet very lush), and interesting neighbours. Also - and this is the really good bit - I get to use the NT canteen. I love institutional food. It's cheap too - today I had salmon and two veg for less than a fiver.

At lunchtime today I beetled over to the canteen early as I wanted to be in place to see this:



the Red Arrows streaking over the city as a not too modest tribute to the RAF on its 90th anniversary. Still, they did largely on their own save Britain from Nazi rule, so fair play. The RAF that is, not the Red Arrows. I was quite emotional at the sight, in fact. I have a distant memory of seeing them when I was little and being somewhat overwhelmed. But then thinking about it later I wondered if my memory was haywire (again) and my young self had in reality thrilled to the exploits of these chaps instead.

It's getting on for two weeks since I saw it but Robert Holman's play Jonah and Otto is lingering long in the mind. I saw it on a freezing day in Manchester, horizontal rain, the city itself felt like it was in despair. But entering the Royal Exchange your mood lifts, your eyes can look to the heights, you can breathe in the space. RH's play is a piece of magic, a yarn spun, a sleight of hand, and like the best such things it makes you laugh and not care to know how it's done, you just enjoy. You believe. But read what David Eldridge has written about the play and the man here, and also Simon Stephens here.

Meanwhile I'm off back to the early eighteenth century, reading the definitive biography of Daniel Defoe.