Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blog 21

I can’t believe I read five handed and fifty pages of Mister Kellerman’s book to arrive at a denouement at which I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Mad scientist, well psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever, tortures lesbian wife with electricity as aversion therapy while her erstwhile kidnapped lover is caged and also wired up close by. Hero of course saves them both. Mad doctor meanwhile guilty of two murders. Do me a favour pu-lease! Somehow I doubt very much that I will be reading any more Mister Kellerman . I suppose tosh would be quite a good word to sum it up.
But what about all the other books I’ve read in the interim? Mary Renault’s “Funeral Games” historical fiction on the death of Alexander the Great and very much up to Renauilt’s standard. I had read virtually all she wrote (I think) with the exception of this one that Douglas spotted in that wonderful underground secondhand bookshop in Monasteraki flea market. Her research is meticulous, her writing quite gripping. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the end to that monster, Olympias, Alexander’s mother. Of course murder and mayhem was the order of the day but one had to remember the times and the ambitions of those involved.
“Acting – A Book for Amateurs” by Seymour Hicks, badly foxed, the book not Sir Seymour. Published 1931 and, although written for amateurs, says an awful lot about theatre including some of the things that may be obvious and in which I firmly believe. For example, ‘You must first of all be certain that the art of acting cannot be taught. A man can either act or he can’t – and that’s an end to it.’ But more of the wicked, delightful Seymour another time.
“Old Wild’s! - Being the reminiscences of its chief and last proprietor, Sam Wild”. Every year the Society for Theatre research publish a book for members. I don’t know how long this one had been sitting on the shelf or what made me suddenly take it down (together with Sir Seymour’s) but I’m so glad I did. Apart from being a fascinating read it said so much about Victorian life and theatre, particularly that of strolling players; originally published in 1888 and this edition just over a hundred years later in 1989. It is amazing to think that a travelling company could if necessary put up a large wooden theatre seating hundreds in next to no time complete with stage, pit and gallery or that with prices of a penny, threepence and sixpence old Sam could afford to employ enormous casts including performing animals, acrobats and child entertainers and still make a living. Today heavily subsidised theatre is constantly in debt. Mind you, Sam quite often didn’t have much in the way of opposition so invariably the company played to full houses but even so it is remarkable. I think I mention before that I found the perfect epitaph for me in this book – “Tired, he sleeps – the play is over.” Couldn’t be bettered, could it?

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