28 January 2009

There´s a student production of The May Queen tonight and tomorrow, at Bridgwater College in Somerset. Delighted they´re doing it and looking forward to the promised photos. Meanwhile nothing continues apace... I am beguiling the time with rereading Robinson Crusoe, and watching season 3 of Lost. Surely deliverance must be at hand.
Last night at pub quiz we won a disposable camera, so there may be some overexposed mugshots of the team on here, in time, permissions permitting...
Now I´m off to see Dominic Leggett´s play at the Tristan Bates Theatre, thence home for Match of the Day.

In a word, as my life was a life of sorrow one way, so it was a life of mercy, another; and I wanted nothing to make it a life of comfort, but to be able to make my sence of God´s goodness to me, and care over me in this condition, be my daily consolation; and after I did make a just improvement of these things, I went away and was no more sad.

22 January 2009

Gretel and Hansel

The old old story of the children lost in the woods in some pre-industrially forbidding forest, prey to dangers natural and not so, a tale about consuming appetite, survival drive, the perversion and denial of the maternal instinct... well it´s hard to know where to start in telling you about the play I wrote for Northern Stage, if you didn´t see it. I suppose you could read the reviews, but though they are pretty positive on the whole, they never really quite bottle it, do they? In the sense of capture, not the colloquialism for a failure of nerve. Of course it´s not ever exactly their job to do so. But more than usually with something I´ve been involved with, there was a particular and peculiar atmosphere about the piece, something uncanny, that evades description. Not all the time in every performance, this is theatre after all, but I mean to say that when all the elements came together, that happy collision of performances, writing, lighting, music and so on, the play was quite beguiling and fantastical, and I´m very pleased about that, looking back, but it´s hard to convey after the event, perhaps as should be. In a programme note I played with the idea that H and G is the Christmas story par excellence, in that it is so completely about the two things that dominate the festival, for most - food, and family. But there is also in the play a strong interest in dreaming and sleep, a nice confusion of realities, a dream logic. I so enjoyed writing it - I enjoyed even more the experience of watching Erica and the company show it. Because they ran with it, trusted the characterisations and the text in general, and took the bits in italics, my tentative, speculative ´stage directions´, and made a proper big show with the kaboodle. This is most easily demonstrable at the end of the first act, the bit where I depart from the usual telling of Hansel and Gretel´s encounter with the Witch and have her eat the boy. The script is pretty perfunctory:


I shall dress for dinner. Get everything ready.

The WITCH leaves and her minions ready the scene for supper. A ritualistic sequence. The sense of a nightmare, where a terrible travesty is taking place and everyone but the dreamer thinks it is perfectly normal, routine even.

GRETEL watches on as the WITCH eats HANSEL, whole, in one go.

BLACKIE can be seen covering her eyes with her paws.

As Erica would tell you, there was an astonishing amount of work required to dramatise those few suggestive lines. Eating Hansel became this enormous set piece, during which the poor boy was carried aloft in procession by chorus members acting as kind of pallbearers, the Witch took her seat in a high-backed chair, and to the inappropriately dainty strains of Tim Dalling´s music for strings, Hansel is consumed whole, tipped into the Witch´s waiting jaws by the impassive chorus (her attendants, sort of nasty wood fairies), she crunches and swallows his twitching body, until at last he is inside her bulging belly, and she gives the most disgusting belch, as the light fades, for the interval. Blackie, I should tell you, is the Witch´s cat, in fact a lost girl called Susan, shapeshifted against her will, and Susan Blackie helps save the day in Act Two... also covering her eyes at the sight of Hansel´s demise is The Moon, characterised as a slightly loopy girl of indeterminate age, who comments on the action throughout, and finally intervenes in the story to show the children the way home. The director had a lot of fun with The Moon, I think, who was entrancingly played by Vicky Elliott, and pointed out to me that I seem to have written an awful lot of gods and monsters in my time.

handg guardian pic

14 January 2009

How´s things? I am just popping my head round the door to say hello and assure you that this blog may seemingly be down but it is emphatically not out. And where I may have been seized by a kind of midwinter paralysis, compounded by B´s shockingly heavily involving encounter with a cloying virus (five weeks and counting), thereby keeping me busier than usual on the domestic engineering side, I have still managed to have a big show on, the aforementioned H and G, and I will share with you some thoughts on that, not to mention some pictures.

Workwise, the first few weeks of Twenty O Nine are all about plots and plans and proposals, and unhappily it´s in the way of these things that I can´t tell you much at all about them. But the main one this week, I will say, involves peer review of a proposal I´ve made to a university, and this week I have a window in which to respond to the review, and so it will go on, until the decision is reached and communicated to me, in late March. How long can one keep fingers crossed before they lock like that?

I´m off to the second sitting of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour in a short while. My second visit to the NT already this year. I saw Oedipus on the third, which I found very moving. I only wished we could have all reconvened the next day for Oedipus At Colonus.

Back soon, anyway. Honest.