Monday, April 29, 2013

The Muses Darling

Well over a year ago, nearer two maybe or even more, I’ve lost count, I finally finished writing a play I had wanted to write for more years than I can remember. Called THE MUSES DARLING it is about the supposed death of the Elizabethan poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe and how it is possible the death was faked, that he went into exile to Italy where he continued to write and the plays were produced under the name of William Shakespeare. Now I know it isn’t a original idea. It has been alleged for years together with the other contenders for Shakespeare’s plays, Francis Bacon, The Early of Oxford, and only recently I read an interesting novel titled THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT which has been on a shelf for ages and I am surprised, seeing the title, that I didn’t read it before writing the play. In the novel the author explores the theory of Marlowe’s alleged flight and authorship but ends rather lamely I think by saying more or less, “Well, okay, maybe Shakespeare, following in Marlowe’s footsteps, did write the plays after all.”
Elizabethan dramatists cooperated in the writing of plays. We know that Marlowe and Shakespeare worked at least once together and Marlowe wrote THE SPANISH TRAGEDY in conjunction with Kyd. I would imagine it was sometimes a collaborative effort by a number of writers such as half a dozen or more being credited with a modern sit-com. This brings us to the somewhat worrying point that we know very little about the man William Shakespeare. Every biography I’ve read, and I’ve read quite a few, is riddled with ‘we can presume,’ ‘we think,’ ‘maybe,’ ‘perhaps,’ ‘it could be that,’ ‘we believe,’ etcetera. It really is a very cloudy landscape. We don’t even know he went to school in Stratford as there is no record of it though some biographers insist without evidence that he must have done. All right, setting aside the lost years as they are known, setting aside his theatrical connections, among other things what worries me more than anything is the man’s behaviour after he retired and returned to Stratford. Here is the conundrum; for someone reputed to be the greatest poet playwright in the English language who produced such sublime works of art it seems very strange that he should spend his retirement collecting real estate and suing people left, right, and centre. No more poetry even? Not a single solitary piece of writing? No sitting down in front of the fire of an autumnal evening and penning another masterpiece? Another sonnet? How did he spend the evenings of his twilight years? Reading maybe. Ah, yes. But there is no mention in his will of a single solitary book and books were a valuable commodity at that time, and his own works seem to have been completely ignored. Perhaps we can make an excuse for him and suggest his eyesight was fading and reading had become too onerous. Well there was a possible answer to that; his daughter could have read for him - except for the fact she was illiterate!
Also rather strange, there is an early engraving of the Shakespeare memorial in Stratford which depicts him with hands folded on a woolsack, the symbol of a merchant. This was later changed to his hand holding a quill.
So back to THE MUSES DARLING. Having finished writing the play the next question is what to do with it? Big problem this as being a historical play of some proportion it is naturally full of characters and there is no commercial management who would think of producing it in the current financial climate. The only professional theatre I can see even considering it would be the National and the National unfortunately does not accept unsolicited material. So I decide to try university drama departments and societies, starting with personal contacts – firstly my old stomping ground James Madison in Virginia where I was for a while a faculty member. The result was an e-mail saying something like we’ll let you know. I doubt even now it has been read by anyone there. So on to David Harwell at the University of Alabama – highest praise for the play but no production, so on to Laurence Senelick at Tufts – the answer? No.
So what next? Cambridge obviously. Marlowe was Cambridge man, there is a Marlowe Society but, despite hammering away with half a dozen e-mails and actually sending them the play, there was no come back from Cambridge. Not a thank you, no thank you or kiss my arse. How many times a year does a university get the chance of producing a world premiere of what I consider to be a major play? So what next? Oxford followed by a round robin of a score of major universities both in the UK and the states? Result? Nothing, nix, niente, nada, tipota, excerpt for a possible interest from the University College of London but even that doesn’t seem to have come to anything.
Well, no one can accuse me of not trying. I have literary agent in London but he has done nothing for me for years so I don’t think I will be sending it to him, but the question is what next, if anything?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Music in Film

Well it took hardly any time at all to get me ensconced in my temporary quarters so no hiatus as originally expected. Computer, telephone, electric kettle all set up and you have never seen such a plethora of cables. TV still to come up. Last night tried watching an Almodόvar film, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, on this screen but it was so jerky it became irritating and we gave up half way through. Will pick it up this evening on the TV proper. We’re a bit spoilt for viewing at the moment as far as DVDs are concerned as Douglas has stocked up with WORLD AT WAR, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, PORRIDGE, OPEN ALL HOURS, the Agatha Christie film collection with Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marples, CRANFORD, the Almodóvar collection. Previously watched BLOTT ON THE LANDSCAPE which I was really looking forward to as I am a great fan of Tom Sharpe, I think I’ve read and enjoyed and had a great laugh over everything he’s written, but found it disappointing despite some fine performances from a galaxy of British talent: Geraldine James, George Cole, Julia Mackenzie, Simon Cadell (beautifully underplayed, a really wonderful performance,) and a host of others. Unfortunately, and it might just have been me, I didn’t take to David Suchet as Blott. Somehow I got the impression, maybe mistakenly, that he simply hadn’t got a hold of the character or maybe it was the way he was directed or misdirected or not directed. A pity because normally I like him. Mind you… the series itself was no great shakes. Humour on paper and in your imagination is one thing; transferring it to the screen is something else entirely and the whole thing tried too desperately hard to be funny and merely became rather silly. The score by David Mackay was so jolly hockey sticks and rumpty-tump-tump it was irritating beyond words which certainly didn’t help. All right so I remember it and can still reproduce it vocally but as Noel Coward said, how potent cheap music is. Compare it to Carl Davis’ score for WORLD AT WAR. I realise this is comparing chalk to cheese being an entirely different programme but that score does everything music is meant to do in a film or television programme and I can still hum that as well so good music is just as potent. I know I have gone on before, probably at length, about the use of music in film but it seems to me in many instances it is no longer doing what it is meant to do; that is reinforce or enhance a scene, set the mood and, used judiciously, it is an integral part of the finished product. Unfortunately it is no longer background music but for some reason best known to those in charge has taken precedence even to the extent unfortunately virtually obliterating dialogue. Mind you the way modern actors speak (or don’t speak as the case might be) sometimes it really doesn’t seem to matter as one can’t translate their mumbling anyway. What is it with the world today that silence is no longer golden? I would like to find a Greek café or restaurant in which one can enjoy oneself without music blaring out in more decibels than necessary, music that apparantly no one is listening to and through which one has to raise one’s voice or have no conversation. It doesn’t worry the Greeks; they like noise and talk very loudly anyway.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


 A five and a half carat rare blue diamond has been discovered in South Africa. It must be rare as its estimated value is six million quid which you have to admit is a whole lot of boodle for an itsy-bitsy stone. The fact that a diamond is blue or pink rather than old common or garden white is I suppose what makes it rare; otherwise diamonds really are two a penny and the whole industry is totally fraudulent. But as so much money is involved is that really surprising? Just think though how much poverty could be alleviated with some of that lovely loot. The same applies to the magnificent regalia adorning his holiness, the jewelled accessories and the abundant wealth that surrounds him. The accumulated monetary value of the Roman Catholic Church is obscene. How much could be raised if a lot of it was sold to museums worldwide and the result given to charity? This new pope is full of hot air about poverty and I say hot air because I doubt very little will be done about it despite the gestures of washing feet and personally telephoning his newsagent back home all pally-wally to cancel his daily paper. Good piece of PR that, no? Gosh what a jolly chap he must be.
Then there is the head of the Russian church who wears a watch worth £30000 and when it is revealed in a photograph has it carefully airbrushed out. Ostentatious isn’t the word for either of these heads or is it?
A Russian, Alisher Usmanof, tops the 1000 rich list with a fortune of £13.3 billion. The top thousand, in the UK and Eire are together worth £450 billion meanwhile millions are starving or on the breadline. Would you say it is all relative? I don’t think so, poverty is poverty and every year thousands risk their lives in an effort to escape it and make a better life elsewhere. Undocumented economic migration (if that is the right expression for it) increases year by year. Even crossing a small sea like the Med from North Africa to Spain or Italy is fraught with danger in a small totally inadequate boat crammed with people, as some have found to their cost, let alone sailing from Asia to Australia across the vast Pacific in the hopes of a better life. And do they find their El Dorado at journey’s end? Unfortunately too often the answer is their reception is anything but. They end up in limbo or sordid refugee camps, for example in France or, as the financial situation in Greece worsens and xenophobia grips, downright hostility and violence. The advent of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn would never have taken place in  better financial circumstances and immigrants, even with papers, would not have to go in fear of being beaten up every time they stepped foot outside their front door. If you are from Africa, Pakistan, or Bangladesh you cannot hide your ethnicity and are an easy target and the police turn a blind eye. Only a few days ago thirty Bangladeshis working as strawberry pickers were peppered with shotgun pellets from three Greek overseers who now, of course have gone into hiding. This was one incident to which the police couldn’t turn a blind eye. Evidently the workers were complaining they haven’t been paid for six months but this in Greece at the moment is hardly news. A question I would like to ask though is how, if they are so impoverished, they can afford to pay out a thousand pounds or more to the people smugglers? In a country with a low cost of living a thousand pounds is still quite a lot of money.
Well, having once more taken up Blogging, after this one, only the second, there will be a short hiatus as I will not be connected to the internet for a while. I am being banished, exiled via the narrow stairway to the deep north, i.e., the guest suite upstairs while a complete transformation takes place in which unfortunately I cannot help so I’m best just keeping out of the way. This is because the Comptroller of the Household, Clerk of the Closet, Master of the Wardrobe, Master of the Privy Purse, Lord Chamberlain and High Lord Constable has in his wisdom decided with the inevitable advance of old age my bedroom with its different levels has become too much of a hazard area and so it is to become the office and what is now the office, all on the flat, is to become my new bedroom. In consequence of which the house is beginning to look as if a tornado has hit it (emptying the jam cupboard for instance entailed removal and storage elsewhere (library windowsill for example) of 160 pounds of jams, marmalades, chutneys and preserves. This is the result of living on an island blessed with an over- abundance of fruit. The season comes the season goes, what does one do with it all? Kiwi fruit, lemons, oranges, mandarins, apricots, plums, figs, avocados, it’s impossible to keep up and much is given away to friends and neighbours.
The bedroom has been stripped bare and the next job is to remove Douglas’s computer to a temporary position in the breakfast room. Fortunately Chris’s computer will still be on line.
So until I’m safely upstairs and my computer is in working order which hopefully won’t be too long, it’s a temporary farewell I’m afraid.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I'm Back

I’m back. That is I have decided to resume my blogs, not with as much frequency as before, maybe two a week, Thursdays and Mondays. Only because this is the first and it happens to be Thursday. It’s a pity the week isn’t one of eight days then they would be an equal distance apart but, never mind, four and three it forever will be.
I won’t rant and rave and have smoke coming out of my ears, not to begin with anyway, siga siga as the Greeks say, gently gently, even though there is still plenty to rant and rave about. I read someone’s Blog on Facebook in which he makes the point that we should remember that good people do outnumber the bad people and we tend to forget that. Goodness knows there are plenty of baddies about but he is right; look on the bright side of life as the song goes.
And yet, and yet, how can one contemplate with equanimity the horrific bombing of the Boston marathon? What kind of deranged diseased minds can even dream up such an atrocity in the first place? And what can one make of the Westbro Baptist church members threatening to picket the funerals with their “God Hates Fags” banners who before latest obscenity, the shooting of twenty schoolchildren, the violent destructive storms that have hit America recently are all down to Gay marriage. Maybe it’s time somebody put up banners that read “God hates fag haters.”
And what does one make of the stubborn belief of so many republicans and members of The National Rifle Association that in order to defend themselves by bearing arms as is written in the constitution, means that machine guns need to be part of the arsenal?
But why don’t we speak of more gentle everyday matters closer to home like the well-bred non fuming optimistic people we are? Let’s not talk about creationists and their extraordinary belief that the world was created by God in six days and is only 6000 years old and God buried the dinosaur fossils as a sort of joke something like that anyway or something equally ridiculous, and a certain Mister Comfort from Downunder asserting that as a banana fits comfortably in your hand that is proof of God’s existence, or the lady who saw the face of Jesus in her toast, because that will only raise blood pressure to boiling point? Why not start of with that never-ending topic the weather, then we can move on from that to health by which time you will have had enough.
Well, after a lengthy spell of blue skies and warm days (the evenings still a little chilly but not too much) suddenly the sky is black, the rain belts down and the temperature drops alarmingly, so much so the fire has to be lit once more. Now this change in the weather can be out down to one of two things – either global warming or global poovery, take yer choice? Of course after a pretty mild winter the insects are starting to appear in their multitudes and so are spring flowers which although they look beautiful can be the cause of spring allergies (it’s either the flowers or the poofs) which is exactly what has happened in this house. I told you we would get on to matters of health. It always does seem to happen this time of year and every member of the household has been affected but I will describe only my symptoms of which, of course, I am unhappily only too familiar. To start off, red weeping itchy eyes and nose running like a tap turned on. Well it wouldn’t be running if it was turned off now would it? There’s tautology for you. This was followed by loss of voice and that lasted a coupe of days to join the eye and nose symptoms. But then came the humdinger, on top of the allergies a virus infection – cough cough cough, non stop coughing and phlegm the colour and consistency of putty. Had enough? Fortunately the good Doctor Vulgarides prescribed a swift dose of cortisone and a not quite so swift does of another antibiotic, ten days course in fact and that seems to be doing the trick. I am a walking talking pharmacy.
The real piece of bad news though is that Chris, after a biopsy which revealed a minute trace of growth in one of twenty one samples has been advised to have the prostrate removed so we have that to worry over.
There, was that a nice gentle non fuming Blog? I don’t guarantee it will last.