Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I have had an e-mail from a lady by the name of Helen Rappaport who has had a book published on the life of Madame Rachel, called naturally enough BEAUTIFUL FOR EVER, and the reason she got in touch is because she knew I had written a play of this name and on this subject way back in 1962. Considering the play, apart from one or two amateur productions, has hardly ever been performed I was amazed that she even knew about it so how did it come about? Well, he breathes in hushed and reverent tones, there is evidently a copy of it in the Bodleian. Golly gosh! Me in the Bodleian! Amazement on my eyebrow sits. The reason for her getting in touch is that there was evidently an even earlier play that John Gielgud wanted to get on and did I know anything about it? To which regretfully the answer is no so I can’t be any help there. I don’t know why she would be so interested as her book is finished but she says Gielgud wanted Margaret Rutherford for Madame Rachel, a very strange piece of casting. In that period I would have thought Flora Robson a better choice except she would probably have said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly play a part like that. What would my fans think” When I was in that awful play at The Haymarket some years ago I tried to interest Dulcie Grey in playing Mrs Borrowdaile but got nowhere. I have to admit they are two parts that only a truly dedicated actress, rather than a star, would consider doing. I saw the first amateur production in Wales and was most impressed with the play in that it stood up gallantly to the worst kind of amateurism, bless their hearts. Anyway, Chris has ordered the book so I look forward to reading it. “No more books!” Once more it is a cry from Douglas’s heart. There is absolutely no more shelf space.
But books can be such a treasure. One that I have just finished reading, published by The Society for Theatre Research and which is just such a treasure is called, ‘A Chronicle of Small Beer’ and it has been a fascinating, I could even say enchanting, book to read. It is by a minor Victorian actress, Winifred Dolan who spent only 11 of her 81 years in the theatre, but what a feisty young lady she must have been when women were expected to know their place and, despite the Ellen Terrys of this world, their place was definitely not in the theatre, not respectable young ladies anyway. But, apart from the enjoyment of reading about her, it was also most interesting to read about Victorian/Edwardian theatre in England as such and I was particularly interested in what she had to say about plays and playwrights. “If acting is a gamble,” she writes, “play-writing is worse.” She worked a great deal both as actress and in various other capacities for the actor/manager George Alexander and writes that in his office there was always a pile of manuscripts at least two feet high waiting for consideration which meant they were kept for three or four months. Well, in my opinion and knowing how long managements take these days to read your script, if at all, and if they bother to let you know the result, that was pretty good going and all sorts of circumstances can prevent even an accepted play from being produced. She tried her hand at play-writing and went through it all so was talking from first hand experience and once again I say (you must be getting really bored with this) nothing ever changes, not in the theatre anyway. I absolutely loved this book. I wish I could have known Miss Dolan and I only wish this biography will have a wider circulation than just membership of the society.

Monday, March 29, 2010

It must be a bit depressing to have your work derided, looked upon with scorn and considered by many to be on a par with junk, even though you may be laughing all the way to the bank, many times over. I am thinking in particular of Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer of course. Chic-lit, celebrity biographies and Mills and Boon one has to accept for what they are. I have to admit that THE DA VINCI CODE is a real page turner but the writing is not so impressive. As far as Archer is concerned he might, unknown to me, have written something truly great as I have read only one of his books. I can’t remember which one it was but I do remember at the time being terribly impressed with the research. Otherwise I thought it very poor stuff. But who knows? if he ever gets to read a Glyn Jones book he might be of exactly the same opinion. After all the positive things that have been said about DOCTOR WHO-THE SPACE MUSEUM over the years we have just come across a review on the internet that thoroughly demolishes it. So there you are. You cannot please all the people all of the time.
Is it humiliating to find that, from standing on a pedestal, your reputation as an honest man of integrity is suddenly in tatters? In this instance I am thinking of Tony Blair who, despite his running all the way to the bank, having made an estimated £20000000 since leaving his office as prime minister, if he has any sensitivity must surely look back and wonder if his life in fact has not been a failure; that he won’t go down in history as a man of honesty and integrity but simply as a money grabbing rather oily character of not much principle.
The South African playwright, Athol Fugard has said that he believes the world has gone mad and I am afraid I agree with him. I am too old now to be unduly worried about what the future might hold, not for myself anyway, though I do worry on behalf of the young generation who have to try and make good while the world lasts. If the Jihadists have their way of course it’s going to hell in a very bloody hand basket but even without that threat it would seem lessons are never learnt and history simply repeats itself. So we get back to the world of commerce and banking. The world spun dizzily towards disaster partly because of the greed of bankers paying themselves enormous salaries, bonuses and pensions and the banks fast going down the tubes had to be rescued with government money, that is tax payers’ money, that is the money from ordinary every day people. With a couple of exceptions having more or less climbed out of the cesspit thanks to this government intervention the bankers, and high profile executives who were doing the same on top of their huge salaries, are doing exactly the same thing again as if the recent past never even happened and, what is more, they’re being allowed to get away with it. ITV’s new boss has a contract worth £18m, a PR man is reputed to be worth £146m, was Jonathon Ross really worth his contract of £18000000? Guess he was one of the reasons for the TV licence being increased, Ross and BBC executives who are all on massive salaries and expenses. As for those bankers and business men, well the less said the better I suppose. The UK like Greece is in Carey Street to the tune of trillions and taxes it is rumoured are due to rise! Who would have thought it?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

If there are any number of Peter Pans, there are just as many Glyn Joneses. It must surely be the most common name in Wales, equalling no doubt John Smith in England. We decided in order to differentiate this Glyn Jones from the myriad other Glyn Joneses, I use my second name, Idris. That’s all very well but up to recently; published works were just credited to Glyn Jones. From now on it’s Glyn Idris, if not on the cover then at least on the title page, as I am the only one with those two Christian names in that order. Oops! Mustn’t say Christian. Will have the PC brigade up in arms. Sorry, forenames. Interesting thing about the name Idris, apart from the fact there used to be a soft drink by that name whose motto was “Idris when I’s dry”, except the name is not pronounced I but E. There is a theory that Wales was once invaded by Arabs as Idris is also an Arab name and, even though I don’t speak the language, I have been informed that Welsh grammar is very similar to Arabic. I can’t vouch for the truth of his statement. Jones is also a bit weird as there is (again I am informed of this) no J in the Welsh alphabet.
What a washout and a strange day it was Tuesday but very Greek. First of all we went to the local police station to try and renew our resident’s permits. In fact we’ve been trying to do it for a year but it’s like batting your head against that proverbial brick wall. There is no reason why any person in the station can’t do it but no, it has to be the secretary, and the secretary is the most elusive man on Crete. We did catch up with once but he wouldn’t do it on that occasion as he wanted his coffee. Having failed there we motored up to the Health Centre to get the results of my blood test (for sintrom) only to find they’re all on strike. That is the doctors will attend an emergency but nothing else. We did get the results but took them to Doctor Elizabeth for new instructions as to dosages. It was quite wonderful. When she saw Douglas her face lit up like a beacon. What a smile of welcome! Naturally she had to hear all about his treatment in England so I’m afraid patients waiting to be seen just had to be a little more patient.
On to the town hall to try and register to vote in local elections but once more came up against Greek bureaucracy and failed to do that. So we sat outside Mikey’s on the platea for the first time this year in beautiful sunshine. Greece does have its advantages.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I always suspected there were any number of publications of PETER PAN but never realised just how many. What an industry Mister Barrie’s play has turned out to be. My musical version having just been made available on Amazon, Douglas looked up PETER PAN and gave up after twenty five pages! I’m there, I’m definitely there, but having only just been published, I’m an awful long way down the list.
But bit by bit things seem to be happening, (thanks to the internet?) or is that wishful thinking after all these years? Three different queries on THE 88 from Ireland and from Ulster a lady writes to say she has seen the DVD of DOUBLE DECKERS and if she sends me a letter would I autograph it for her? This is very interesting because, although, when questioned, she says she bought the DVD from the official DOUBLE DECKERS website, we know nothing about it and this is the second time someone is making money out of my work, and the others involved, and we get nothing for it. The previous pirated copy was being sold on E-Bay and we managed to get it withdrawn. Also a company called Cherry Records have produced a CD of the music from the show and four of the songs (lyric wise) are mine but yet again I am seeing nothing for my work. The company insists they bought the rights outright from whoever had it previously who bought it from someone else who bought it from someone else and so forth down the line. When 20th Century Music, the original copyright (note spelling John) holders were approached we were informed that they don’t keep records going that far back to which my answer is crap! Would the small amount of money that could legitimately come my way really be such a big deal as far these companies are concerned?
The latest enquiry comes from Adelaide in Australia and concerns DOCTOR WHO. I must admit I do get chuffed when this sort of thing happens, especially if I can be helpful.
Many years ago when I was in MEASURE FOR MEASURE at the Open Space, Charles Marowitz asked me if I would like to play the ghost in his following production of Hamlet and the ghost being a rather small part I turned it down. It was definitely the wrong decision. Instead of being so hasty I should have asked to see his version of the play. Evidently the ghost was a major figure and the part was definitely worth playing. What an idiot I was. What brought this to mind was reading about Gordon Craig in the Ellen Terry/Henry Irving book and coming across the fact that a Polish director, Stanislaw Wyspianski round about 1910 had made the ghost the chief character in his production of the play, so Mister Marowitz wasn’t being exactly original. Am I right in believing that Tom Stoppard’s play ROSENCRANZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD was actually the second working of that theme? That there was an earlier version? I was told this by someone but have never bothered to check it out so it may not be true. Then, on the other hand, it might be. There really is nothing new under sun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A small pleasure or sense of satisfaction derived from writing an autobiography is the opportunity it gives of taking a little revenge on those who you feel deserve it. I think particularly of one Mary McCarthy*, of Ben (Know it all) Hawthorne, now Raymond of course and evidently a big cheese in New Zealand theatre, and Charles Osborne. Of course if they don’t get the book and read it they will never know what has been said of them but I have at least had the satisfaction of saying it. I don’t think I’ve been too vicious, certainly not as vicious as Ms McCarthy in reviewing my play “Early One Morning” when it went on at the Arts Theatre all those years ago. Admittedly the production was pretty awful but I don’t think it was the fault of the play so much as the direction, staging, and a totally inadequate actress. I haven’t got her down on my list because, poor dear, it wasn’t really her fault. She was simply a bad actress who wasn’t up to it. It happens. I suppose one of the problems with critics who have little if any knowledge of the mechanics of theatre, and that probably include a goodly percentage of them, see a play purely from an audience point of view, a personal point of view, Ms McCarthy’s expertise at the time was on the woman’s page of The Guardian and, because my play opened on the same night as two others, obviously thought to be more important, that is where the mainstream critics went and I got whoever the various papers had available to send along. Ninety percent of an audience don’t have any knowledge of the theatre either and why should they? They enjoy a play or they don’t but would probably be hard put to know exactly why it fails for them. Every night the audience is a different animal and actors to an extent have to temper their performances to each audience. I remember when I was at the Vaudeville many years ago understudying Peter Cellier and Alistair Sim of all people (Who could possibly understudy Alistair Sim and get away with it? Fortunately I didn’t have to, he never missed a performance), and I was sitting in the stalls during a performance in order to watch them at work. Derek Fowlds, who had been doing Jackanory on the BBC, was in the cast and when he appeared a woman behind me said in a loud voice, “I wonder if he’s brought his squirrel!” The animal in question was actually a most famous fox, Basil Brush – boom boom! Stupid woman. It was at this point that I suddenly wondered for a moment why I ever went into the theatre in any shape or form in the first place. Fortunately the feeling passed.

*Not the American author.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strange how some names just lend themselves to punning. In the book on Meggie Albanesi I read she was in a Somerset Maugham play, “East Of Suez” evidently a great old hotchpotch of a play, directed by Basil Dean who had a reputation of being really hard on his actors. Surprising really considering he had been an actor himself, and in the cast was a young actor by the name of Kendell who was having a pretty torrid time until Maugham told Dean he was “burning the Kendell at both ends.” This reminded me of a theatrical story about Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall who were having an affaire and were both in a play called “Bell Book And Candle” which of course became known as “Bell Book And Kendall”.
There is a theatrical story about Dame Edith Evans which I’m sure is apocryphal though could be true I suppose. When she was at the Vic she was visited by an actress by the name of Mary Kerridge. There was a knock on her dressing room door and the timid voice of an assistant stage manager said, “Excuse me, Dame Edith, there is a Miss Kerridge on the stairs”, to which the grand Dame in that marvellous fruity voice replied, “Don’t both me with it, child, clean it up.”
Of all the cast of characters in the Albanesi book I suppose I knew the name of Basil Dean most of all because his production of “Hassan” touring South Africa when I was still a schoolboy was the first professional theatre I ever saw and I was hugely impressed by it; an enormous colourful production with special music by Delius, I can still picture it after all these years.
Big headlines in The Mail – “BBC man jailed for filming himself in bed with TV girls”. I wonder if it would have made such large headlines without those magic symbols BBC and TV. Now I know what he did was most unpleasant to say the least, one of his victims saying it left her feeling violated sick and dirty, another that it had destroyed her trust in men (?) and caused problems in her current relationship. It was a kind of rape in a way I suppose but with British jails bursting at the seams and the constant moaning about over crowding did it really warrant a prison sentence? After all, criminals who get up to much worse things are tagged (evidently for the most part ignored) let off with warnings, suspended sentences and community service and surely community service should have been the punishment in this case. All right, it was a case of voyeurism and carrying things to extremes but the British are still very leery when it comes to sex. Littlejohn puts it very nicely in his rewritten nursery rhymes for our times, “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry, now he’s on the sexual offenders’ register”. At least in England they haven’t gone as far as throwing up their hands in horror and having conniptions at a three year old boy kissing a little girl as has evidently been the case in America. There was a time, (when I was a kid) when little boys were encouraged to kiss little girls. How the world changes.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Some time ago I thought of trying to write a chamber opera on the life of the artist Modigliani but have never found a way to do it. Maybe I just wasn’t really that enthusiastic. Other people have been though because in a newspaper article I read there have been nine novels, a play, a documentary, three films and, of course, biographies so I doubt this late in the day I will ever get around to it. It’s truly amazing when one thinks that in his lifetime he could not sell his art and gave away paintings to pay for meals and the moment he was dead they couldn’t go quickly enough at ever increasing prices. Admittedly his art is not everybody’s cup of tea but nowadays in the heyday of what is called conceptual art we have so called artists making fortunes in the most ridiculous fashion; fashion probably being the word for it. Do the emperor’s clothes come to mind?
The two journalists I miss who write for The Sunday Times are India Knight and A.A.Gill but I am compensated somewhat by another journalist whose column I read every Friday in The Daily Mail, the one English paper I take for reviews since boycotting The Times. This is Jan Moir who not only talks a lot of sense but who does it with panache and is always worth a chuckle somewhere down the line. The manager of a shop complained about a woman breast feeding her baby which has resulted in a positive furore; but if I may quote Miss Moir without breaching copyright, “This small incident has been the starting gun for a blast of instant maternal affront and Curse of the Mummy style fury. Emphasising once more that it takes a brave man – or woman – to get between the modern young mother and her perceived statutory rights. These include, as if we all didn’t know, the right to mow you down with a buggy if you don’t get out of the way quickly enough; the right to behave as if they have just given birth to the second coming of Christ instead of a farty little squirt called Sam.” I love it. She could have called it any one of a hundred boys’ names but Sam just fits the bill, like Coward’s “brittle”, and the description of “farty little squirt” is just perfect. I look forward to her column every week, that is when we can get The Mail. In the winter it’s not always available as the distributors in Xania seem sooner or later to fall out with every shop in Kalyves prepared to sell foreign newspapers. Silly really considering the hundreds of ex-pats how now live on Crete especially, or so it would seem, in this area called the Apokoronos.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I was e-mailed a video titled “Islam” by a Dutchman who has surely put his life on the line for it. It is a quite terrifying document, quotes from the Koran pounced upon by mad mullahs to excuse suicide bombing and to encourage all the other atrocities now associated, firmly established in everyone’s minds, with this religion. Evidently mad mullahs are of the belief that Islam will take over the world but then they are not the first to suffer that delusion, especially as they can’t make accord amongst themselves but Shia and Sunni are constantly at each others throats. Among the horrifying images of murder and mayhem in this documentary there is the picture of a woman holding up a large banner which reads “To hell with freedom.” I have seen this one before as it was taken during a Muslim march for peace in London a short while ago. Other banners in this peaceful demonstration threatened hateful forecasts of many dire happenings to unbelievers but, on seeing this banner “To hell with freedom” a second time I was struck by the irony the woman obviously cannot see that it is that very freedom which allows her to stand in a public place in London and display her hatred. Surely Armageddon can’t be too far off.
Douglas caught the red-eye from Chania this morning to fly to Athens and from there to London, to Exeter, to Torquay, quite a journey for the first of his cancer check-ups. It’s a long way to go and expensive for a more or less day trip and a quick finger up the bum but keep our own fingers crossed that he is given the all clear. This will happen again in another two months and another two months and another two months and then six months. Until this happened to him, and as long as I still have to live I don’t think I will ever forget that moment when the oncologist said straight out with no beating about the bush that dreaded word, we have heard of so many people who have had it and come through so our thoughts will definitely be with him tomorrow as we wait for the good news.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No great surprise as the rain, a nice gentle rain, hasn’t stopped all day. I wanted it for the garden but what I didn’t want was the cold that has come with it. It really is a wintry day and the central heating has been turned on again after days without, and I guess the fires will have to be lit as well. It’s been threatening to rain for well nigh a fortnight but at the end of each day what clouds there have been have cleared, that is until today. Yesterday I asked if anyone thought it was going to rain and the answer was no, so I decided the pots had to be watered: ‘but’, I said, ‘if I do, I bet you it will rain’, and so it came to pass. There’s coincidence for you. Maybe I should be called the rainmaker. Which beings me somehow, don’t ask me how or why? to that horny old question of fate – is it in our stars or is it not? I have been thinking of it quite a bit lately. After all, unless you believe in reincarnation, you don’t have any choice of to whom, where, or when you are going to be born. Maybe in the seventh age of man one tends to these kind of thoughts, but what really caused the recent bout was reading of the death of Henry Irving’s younger son, Laurence. He had been touring the United States with his theatre company and was due to sail back to England on a ship that went by the name of “Teutonic”! (Doesn’t sound too good, does it?) but he was in a hurry to get home where he was working on and wanted to finish a play so exchanged his and his wife’s tickets for a ship called “The Empress of Ireland” sailing three days earlier. In thick fog it was rammed amidships by a loaded Norwegian coal ship and sank with the loss of a great many lives including Laurence and his wife. The rest of the company sailed home on the Teutonic. His older brother, Harry, died a few years later of leukaemia. I know what made me put coincidence and fate together, it was reading about Laurence Irving in “A Strange Eventful History”, the dramatic lives of Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, by Michael Holroyd. It has been my bedside reading for quite a while now, a few pages at a time before sleep, and it is quite a hefty tome, I still have some way to go but it is fascinating, quite a cast of characters, as I suppose only theatricals can be. And back to coincidence. Isn’t it weird how you can say play a piece of music you haven’t listened to for years and immediately you start hearing it again all over the place? I am reading all about the Irving/Terry ménage when two publications by the Society for Theatre Research land on the doorstep, the one about an actress I knew not off by the name of Meggie Albinoni and when was her period and who was she sometimes mixed up? Ellie Irving and Christopher St.John who was by the way actually Cristobel, a very plain lady who evidently hated men and who was in love with Ellie, though whether that love was consummated who knows? I have no doubt the Irvings will pop up again soon in another publication. Oh, it already has – I have a biography of the two Irving brothers ready and waiting for when I finish “A Strange And Eventful History.”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Twenty odd years ago in Virginia I was having a conversation with a student friend when he informed me seriously that a kiss on the lips was sexual. No doubt about it, it was always sexual. Strange people these Americans. I don’t remember how this popped up in the conversation but he wasn’t going to have it otherwise. In that case, I said to him, I must have wanted to have sex with both my mother and my sister as I kiss both on the mouth. Here in Crete, if the conversation were to be continued and needed more examples, I must lust after ladies in their eighties and nineties as they purse their lips the minute they see you coming. I do remember in London when I shared a flat for a while with our friend Tom, his amazement when he saw me kiss my sister goodnight. “You KISS your SISTER???” He had never kissed his in his life. Strange people these English, but it has not always been this way. I read in a Dickens Christmas Story of a young girl pursing her lips in readiness for her father’s kiss and in “Anna Karenina” the adjutant pursing his lips in readiness for his general’s kiss. And think of Hamlet brooding over the skull of poor Yorick and the lips he had kissed a thousand times. Did this make Hamlet a horny little bugger and Yorick a paedophile? It is so nice to live in a country where people are still not afraid to be tactile. The way adults behave with children here and the natural way children respond would raise suspicious eyebrows in England with its terror of paedophilia where teachers are not allowed under any circumstances to touch a pupil for example. Even a friendly pat on the shoulder can be open to misinterpretation. Sad really that it should come to this. More and more regulations and laws are passed to try and stop child abuse, some totally absurd, like a mother who drives her children to school, if she should take anyone else’s kids, she has to be vetted. I know child pornography and child abuse is horrible and certain measures have to be taken to try and stop it, there have recently been two cases of women in positions of trust over children who have been found to be totally perverted, but Canute didn’t have much success trying to hold back the sea and punishment and the threat of punishment has never stopped human beings from all the other nasty activities they get up to. It would in fact seem an intractable problem. Even when I was a kid all those years ago, “Never take sweets from a stranger” was a maxim in the mouths of anxious parents but the pendulum has swung far too far. Children now must grow up afraid of their own shadows. Childhood hardly exists anymore though I suppose. By the age of three you are already being groomed for talent shows.
But on to Tolstoy and “Anna Karenina”, two thirds of the way through and I’m afraid I have grown distinctly bored with it. It’s no wonder I’ve never taken to the Russian classics. The greatest novel ever written is the heavy burden it might carry but Tolstoy is no stylist. Dickens beats him hands down when it comes to that. Of course it may be the translation that’s bland but I don’t see how this could be. It has been interesting to read after the Sofia diaries and to note how autobiographical some of it is, particularly in the character of Levin who I have no doubt is the man himself. But more of Tolstoy another time though, talking of style, think of Coward’s aforementioned “Brittle people, these Oliviers”. He could have chosen to use any of half a dozen synonyms; fragile, breakable, weak, frail, delicate, but he chose brittle which is just perfect.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

“Toot Toot Pom Pom! Jim bring the medals.” So my sainted mother used to say. “Stop blowing your own trumpet.” I think one of the problems I have faced all my life is that I have never really been able to blow my own trumpet, certainly not as an actor, not with any conviction anyway and for an actor that is definitely a no-no. Yesterday I received a quite charming (and somewhat flattering) fan letter from a couple in Lancashire for DOCTOR WHO – THE SONTARON EXPERMENT and goodness knows how long it is since I was in that. It isn’t the first fan letter received for that particular show but this is what it says, ‘…we would like to tell you how much we enjoyed your work both as a writer and as an actor. Your work both on and off screen throughout the classic scenes was outstanding, the role of Krans in the Tom Baker story THE SONTARON EXPERIMENT was very well portrayed and brought added strength to the storyline.’ With the letter were two photographs for signing and it feels strange to look at myself as I was then, quite handsome really (trumpets!) with a week or mores growth of red beard and a full head of hair.
But now I am going to blow my trumpet, quite loudly in fact, though I doubt Jim will bring the medals. If I were to die tomorrow I would do so knowing with satisfaction that I had written two quite remarkable pieces; one a play, the other a novel. The play is THE 88 which, despite its severe mauling by the London critics is, I do believe, still my best work for the theatre. Having been brought to my attention yet again by an enquiry I have just reread it. There are other plays of mine of which I am particularly fond but none as powerful as this. The other work is the novel ANGEL which again I have just reread, this time for proofing, but again I was struck at how remarkable the writing is and sometimes found it hard to believe it was actually I who wrote it, particularly as I originally penned it many many years ago when very young and, as a writer, still figuratively wet behind the ears. I hope both the play and the book will be published this year. Despite my pride in achievement I doubt they will be runaway bestsellers and, being published in Greece, they certainly won’t be eligible to win any prizes, but I know of all my work I will get the deepest satisfaction out of seeing them out there. The Thornton King books are maybe fun and clever and there are other plays of which I am fond but ANGEL and THE 88 are in a class of their own. Now I will put away the trumpet and get on with what looks like what is going to be a lovely day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The advanced ideas inherent in Ingrid Jonker’s poems have made her a recognized literary figure internationally, with her poems being studied, translated and published in many languages including English, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hindi and Zulu. The collected works of Jonker, including several short stories and a play, were published in 1975 and re-issued in 1983 and 1994.
Former President Nelson Mandela, in commenting on Jonker’s poem Die Kind (The Child), which he read out in full in his inaugural State of the Nation address to Parliament in May 1994, said, “… in this glorious vision, she instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child”. Of Jonker herself, Mandela said that: “She was both a poet and a South African. She was both an Afrikaner and an African. She was both an artist and a human being. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life.”
Ingrid Jonker’s sensitive, humane and forward-looking perspectives have made her a literary icon of a whole new generation of Afrikaners and South Africans, who have re-discovered her relevance in a free and democratic South Africa.
Why, suddenly, to I talk about Ingrid Jonkers? Quite simply because up to now I had never heard of her and probably would go on that way were it not for the fact that my sister, Ceri, who has been an extra in a film about her life, told me about her and made me realise how ignorant I am of my home country’s artistic heritage. The playwright Athol Fugard I know because his plays have been produced extensively in the UK and I played in two productions of “A Lesson From Aloes”; firstly in Edinburgh and then in Liverpool. Was in fact asked to do it a third time, in Sheffield, but decided then that I wouldn’t do it. It was a wonderful experience but an emotionally draining play, particularly in Liverpool where I had the good fortune to work with a director I would have worked for any time any place (a rare phenomenon) and a wonderful actress. At one point during rehearsals, as I think I mention in my autobiography, Bill said, ‘For God’s sake, will you two stop being so generous with each other! But honestly we couldn’t help it. It is that kind of play and there was that rapport. Also in Leeds I took part in “Statements Under An Arrest Under The Immorality Act”, in which I took the small part of the policeman, but the sop to Cerberus was the first half of the evening when I read from Fugard’s diaries. I also directed “People Are Living There” at RADA. I know Mark Behr because I have read both his novels (maybe he’s written something since that I know not of) “Embrace” and “A Scent of Apples” but it is not surprising that I am so ignorant about South Africa having left in 1953 and only been back twice both for a short time and, meanwhile, there has been a lot of living to do elsewhere.
And, so annoying this Blog won’t go out right now because, for some reason, we’re off line! Hey-ho, how reliant we are on modern technology

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Now I know I swore I would not return to “That” subject but, like an Edgar Allan Poe story it keeps battering its wings against my window pane. It would appear, if this weren’t so serious it would be funny, that while old Popey is fulminating against a proposed English law that will make life a little more equitable for gays, a homosexual vice ring has been discovered in the Vatican! Heavens to Betsy! Whatever next? Not exactly in old Popey boy’s bedchamber but pretty darn close. Isn’t life just full of surprises? No sooner has he had to cope with Irish and German priests misbehaving very badly indeed when this lands on his mat. Well, let’s not get all philosophical about it. People will just never learn, in particular infallible Popes, but that really goes without saying.
Reading “The Baron of Piccadilly” the life of Albert Smith 1816-1860 by Raymund Fitzsimons I read this, if I may quote (the book is in copywrite for a few years yet) – “In Brussels the English tourists were everywhere: loudmouthed and ignorant in the museums and galleries; noisy and irreverent in the churches. They spoke no language but their own and expected immediately to be understood. They were arrogant and rude to those who served them, and they were tolerated only for the money they spent.”
There’s nothing new under the sun and nothing ever changes. There are a number of expats here and holiday makers every season to whom that description is applicable. You would think Britain still ruled the waves. Mind you, German holiday makers have a pretty gruesome reputation, especially on the beach, and especially large pushy ladies with sharp elbows as I remember to my cost at Taormina. So let’s be fair, it’s not just the Brits.
Noel coward is reputed to have said, “How potent cheap music is!” He could just as well have said it about good music. Since watching “Sweeney Todd” again the music goes around and around in my head and not just two or three numbers but virtually the entire score: solo, chorus, instrumental. This week we also watched “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” so it has been a Sondheim week. That brought back happy memories of the summer season at The Wayside in Virginia. I see “Private Lives” is revived once again in London and getting good notices. That too was a wonderful play to be in, especially opposite a remarkably talented actress who it was a perfect delight to work with: a small town, a small, theatre, a small company and a big experience never to be forgotten.
Coward was rightly famous for his off the cuff quips. At a rehearsal for a Royal Variety performance at the London Palladium one year he was seated in the stalls and Laurence Olivier and his then wife, Vivien Leigh appeared on stage both having recently suffered an accident and were either bandaged up or on a crutch, I don’t remember which, and Coward was heard to say, “Brittle people, these Oliviers.” Can you not just hear that fruity voice in those four little words?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The heater is on in my study this morning. An icy wind (gale really) blowing down from Europe where the weather it seems has been absolutely terrible, though it seems to have abated somewhat at the moment. At least the cyprus trees I see from my window which give me an indication of the wind force are not exactly bending in half. I hope it hasn’t knocked all the blossom off the yellow plum. The tree looked absolutely magnificent a few days ago and I reckoned we’d have a great crop so I’ll take a look later and see what damage might have been done though why look? Ti na kanoume. What can one do? I guess another hundred oranges are on the floor as well though we are now coming to an end with them for the moment. In no time at all the trees will be flowering again.
“The 88” raises it head again. Had an e-mail from one Oliver Hawes, grandson of the mutineer Joseph Hawes. Oliver never saw the play though evidently relations of his did, but he is now more than ever interested in the happenings in Jullundur in 1920 when a section of The Connaught Rangers mutinied and for which one, James Daly, was shot. In my autobiography a whole chapter is devoted to The 88. It was produced at The Old Vic in 1979 and came off very fast after the London critics, with one exemption, had a field day tearing it to pieces; we believe not because of the play itself but because of its content, being put on shortly after the assassination of Louis Mountbatten. Judging from
Some of the reviews one would think a play is written on Monday, rehearsed on Tuesday and up on the stage Wednesday. In actual fact it took fourteen years for it to be produced and rereading it, after my correspondence with Oliver, I still think it is one of the best things I have ever written. He evidently would like to see it produced in Ireland although that is naturally where I first tried with no success; The Abbey of course and the great Tyrone Guthrie who, if I remember correctly, was quite snooty about it. What a furore the play created when it was put on, the television sponsors wanting their name taken off the posters for a start. Quite idiotic really. They had the script a goodly while before the play went into production. If they had any doubts about it they had plenty of time to make their objections. The basic fact I suppose is it is quite probable nobody at the TV company bothered to read it.
Oliver is the fourth person in the last year to contact me about the play. He now wants to write a book about his grandfather. A few years back Irish TV made a documentary about the mutiny, concentrating on Joseph Hawes which is why this has all come up, and Oliver sent me the DVD which was very interesting and moving. He asked if the buildings, which are still there to this day, are as I imagined them when writing the play to which the answer of course is not really. Unless you were to see photographs or visit the actual location you get a picture in your head nothing like the real thing, just an approximation, but close enough for stage presentation. Of course a designer could always go a step further and do his own research but naturalism wasn’t part of the brief anyway.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To dinner yesterday evening at our famous local pizzeria: famous around here that is and known to all and sundry but not exactly local, situated about four kilometres away in the village of Litsarda; the village where every year we attend the panagyrie that seems to attract more and more people each year. There used to be a pizzeria in Vamos but it gave up the unequal competition. Everyone would drive passed on their way to Litsarda. There isn’t a great variety of pizzas there. In fact I’m not too sure they would know how to produce any varieties but the ones they do consisting of a straightforward and a vegetarian; that is tomato topping instead of meat. However they are delicious and Elleni makes the best chips in the whole world. That, together with a Greek salad and wine makes up our meal every time. No, Douglas doesn’t drink wine so usually has something like a gozaza, a fizzy drink rather like cream soda used to be. Good grief, Charlie Brown! When last did I taste cream soda? When last did I have ginger beer? Unheard of things these days more’s the pity.
The restaurant itself is nothing to look at, more of a large open space with tables and chairs and in summer there are tables outside. You can arrange the tables according your party. Last night we were no sooner tucking in when who should appear but Brian Smithakis and Marie so we attached the next table to ours to make room for four and were in for a delightful evening as Brian is a fund of Irish stories which he tells with relish and like poor Yoric is wont to set the table on a roar. The lovely thing also is that no matter how many times he tells his stories he obviously relishes them and laughs ass much as any of his listeners. Marie says she’s been hearing them for twenty-seven years and still finds them funny and I can quite believe it. Mind you she can be a bit Irish herself or more. She tells of when she had a phone call from someone who said, “I have this phone number but no name, who am I talking to?” And she said, “Hold on a minute, I’ll go check.” And if that’s not Irish I would like to know what is.
Soon the pizzeria will be moving. Unlike some of our favourite eating places that alas with the passing of time are no more, it is just moving across the way to where they are building a new one. Evidently the lease is up on the current premises and anyway they feel they are now paying too much rent. They’re not the first business on Crete to pull out because of greedy excessive demands. It will feel strange no doubt not going to the one we’re used to. Well, can’t be helped, sometimes it’s called progress and what a lot of progress we’ve seen since we moved here all those years ago.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Blog day comes around again with unfailing regularity – fatuous observation - and I sometimes wonder if I won’t run out of ideas or topics of conversation. This is number 78 of the current series (doesn’t that sound grand?) Goodness knows how many there were before the computer crashed and virtually everything on the hard drive was lost. Fortunately Spiros, our marvellous computer man in Xania, no, he was in Xania, he has now moved to Souda, managed to save most of the Thornton King book “The Cinelli Vases”, number 4 in that series. Because of the writing that was lost for a while I really didn’t feel like picking it up again but in some ways the loss was beneficial as the new writing exceeded the old and ideas were formed that previously didn’t exist. I wish I could say the same for “The Museum Mysteries”. I seem to have come to a full stop on that one. Writer’s block? And I am only a quarter of the way into it. Oh, well, there are plenty of other things waiting in line so I may go back to it before the year is out. Who knows?
Here we are two weeks into the seven weeks of lent, not that that means anything to me, all starting off with Carnival preceding Kathari Theftera, Shrove or Clean Monday, one of the most important dates in the Orthodox calendar being the start of that fasting period leading up to the most important festival of all – Easter.
Carnival is very big in Greece, major cities having a parade of floats that goes on for ever and even smaller towns, like our neighbour Kalyves, having a parade of sorts. The silly wigs come out and the costumes, shops do a roaring trade with costume hire for carnival, the men have an excuse to get into drag; French maid or nurse’s uniform seem to be the favourites and some are truly grotesque. It seems the uglier the man the more he is into the transvestite bit. It’s like women with the ugliest breasts are the first ones to go topless on the beach. The children are all in fancy dress, with the boys Zorro is the particular favourite. The little girls seem to have much more imagination.
Clean Monday itself, following hard on carnival, is considered the first day of Spring and is celebrated in various ways. A special bread is baked called lagana. In our neck of the woods it is kite flying time and the beaches make ideal launch pads. If it’s not kite flying then possibly it’s excursions into the mountains and picnics. In Galaxidi the good citizens indulge in a battle in the streets with coloured flour which leaves the streets anything but clean, and inTymanos they evidently celebrate Dirty Monday drinking wine from phallic shaped cups and telling sexy jokes. This surely must go way way back to Dionysian revels. At least no one gets torn apart by bloodthirsty religious crazed Bacchae. Not that I’ve heard of anyway.