Category Archives: drama

All Revved Up And No Church To Go…

Over the weekend I’ve been discovering some episodes of ‘Rev’, possibly my favourite sitcom of all time.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1588221/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ov_st_sm

I had to resort to Youtube, alas, since they are not available on Netflix or iplayer and I don’t have the money to buy the DVD’s.  I watched the last series, at the end of which the threatened worst came to pass: dogged on all sides by Pharisaical prejudice, Adam resigns, the church is closed and the building sold off.  It looks like the end of everything.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-bxjh5rutM

However, there’s always a way back  -and this week I’ve been imagining what that might look like.

Now, I realise that minds much more situationally comedic than mine may be pondering this even as we speak; but nevertheless here are my ideas:

As the fourth series opens, Adam and his wife Alex are returning from some time out travelling abroad.  Back in London, Alex goes back to work while Adam searches for a role.  He tries out being a hospital chaplain but that doesn’t fulfill him; then he organises a house church but that goes wrong too (I haven’t envisaged the specifics here yet).   Then the St Saviour’s building, now deconsecrated and on the point of being turned into offices, is struck by lightning for the third time in three months.  Reports that the building is cursed abound.  The Archdeacon, now promoted to Suffragan Flying Bishop (with responsibility for going round parishes reassuring them that the sky won’t fall in if the church supports gay marriage) crops up to make sarcastic comments about ‘acts of god’; meanwhile the company about to lease the building pulls out of the contract leaving it without a viable future.  Enter Adam.  Unable to face what happened he has avoided the place but at Alex’s insistence, he forces himself to visit and, as it were, exorcise the ghost.  Seeing the lightning damage for himself he realises it’s not irreparable; if part of the building is sealed off the rest could be a smaller, much more viable church.  And hey, presto, a plan is put together and by the end of the first episode he finds himself, Reggie Perrin-like, back in the vicarage and running his old church again.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073990/

Of course all the old characters are back: just as Reggie Perrin can’t escape the cast who peopled his former life, so Adam finds himself back in the company of Colin, Adoha and all his old congregation.  (There’s a short back-story involving each of the congregants: Adoha attends a black evangelical church for a while but falls out with them; she then goes to the nearest C of E church which is reassuringly traditional.  Sliding into a pew she says as much to her neighbour.  ‘Yes, says the neighbour.  ‘And you’re in luck – the new vicar is starting today.’  Adoha goes off into a swoon, imagining someone like Adam; only to be rudely awoken by a woman’s voice emanating from the front.  Yes, the new priest is a woman.  Exit Adoha.  Colin, on the other hand, while no longer homeless, has not found another church.)

Nigel does not feature in this series, however, since his actions in the last one put him beyond the pale.  His replacement is a woman who seems fine at first.  She asks what happened to Nigel and is told ‘we don’t talk about him’.

I think it could work.  Perhaps I should send this post to the BBC?

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Horror! The Horror!

What a grizzly and unpleasant occupation writing is!  How many other jobs could you have where you go to work, slave for six solid hours and come home feeling that you’ve sweated blood and achieved nothing?  True, today – my first day back after a break – I did write a few spoof headlines for ‘Newsjack’ (they’re looking for contributions) but then I discovered that I’d missed the deadline for my headlines so now I have to scan the real headlines so that I can make more spoof headlines ahead of the deadline.  It’s making lines in my forehead…

Contenders for next week include the Trump ‘wall’ story latest and the ongoing Brexit saga.  Watch this space…

I find it difficult working in the library because of the other people coming and going and because I don’t have a space that is mine.  Unreasonably I regard the table at the far end as my space and get irritated if someone else bags it first: it’s also quite limiting that you only get three hours a day up to a total of seven a week on the computers.  But when I work from home, is it any better?  I get distracted by phone calls; I go in the kitchen to make a drink and end up loading the dishwasher.  It’s hopeless.  And when people say to me, as they sometimes do, how wonderful it must be to have a creative gift etc etc, I want to jump up and down and scream and say, ‘have you any idea what hell you go through to produce even the minutest piece of perfect prose?’  As Michael Caine used to say to people, if you wanted to do it, you’d be doing it.  If you really wanted to be an actor you’d be out there doing it; working in rep, am-dram, street theatre – whatever, just so you could act.  So if you want to be a writer, write.  After all it costs next to nothing: what could prevent you?

Anyway, even though I got entangled once more in the impenetrable thicket that is my novel, the day wasn’t entirely wasted.  After all, at the end of it I got to write this blog post…

Kirk out

 

 

 

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Life is Just One Damned Wednesday After Another

How did that happen?  All of a sudden it’s the first Wednesday of the month and I’m being reminded to link to the Insecure Writers’ Support Group.

I’ve been listening to the revealing diaries of Stephen Fry – or some of them, since these already seem to run to several volumes.  I wasn’t totally impressed with the later volume I read (can’t remember the title) as there seemed to be a lot of partying, hanging out with stars both here and in the US, drug-taking, flying, drug-taking… it was like The Great Gatsby and there didn’t seem to have been a lot of editing; there were few highs and lows, just a long building towards an inevitable crash – for which we have to wait until the next volume.  However, these diaries, serialised for Radio 4 and now available on 4xtra, proved much more engaging as they cover the years from the beginning of his career to the start of the drug-taking and include an encounter with Stephen Sondheim and a fax machine at midnight and a friendship with Douglas Adams (taller even than Fry) centring on the birth of the Apple Mac.

I have also been catching up with Winifred Holtby’s ‘South Riding’, a book I keep meaning to read but somehow never do: this adaptation stars Sarah Lancashire (‘Last Tango in Halifax’ and ‘Happy Valley’) and features Phillip Glenister and the woman who plays Lynda Snell.

I’ve been following a ‘course’ (though ‘course’ is a bit of a grandiose word for what turned out to be a series of daily thoughts on writing a novel) and finding them interesting.  Today’s thought was about the journey of the hero from obscurity to fulfillment and how that usually begins with an encounter.  Think Harry Potter and the owl post; Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf; the Pevensies and the wardrobe.  There do seem to be universals in these stories – and the readings gave me much food for thought.

You can sign up to the course here:

http://malcolmpryce.us7.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=4f8b34b50b7f0f76a49dc8a21&id=bc0923a6e2

In the meantime a shout-out to all other insecure writers.  Fling yourself off the precipice and fly!

Kirk out

 

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Brexit: A Farce in Two Acts

Here’s a summary of my latest creative endeavour, a fifteen-minute radio play entitled ‘Brexit: a Farce in Two Acts’.

Act 1

Scene 1: The f*** up.

Dodgy Dave wants to screw Britannia, whom he fancies.  Urged on by his mate Nigel, manager of thrash metal band ‘The Kippers’, he asks her out and decides to sleep with her.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Scene 2: the consequences

Dave has had his fun and goes whistling back to No 10 for a good night’s sleep.  He’s so sure nothing can go wrong, he refuses even to consider advising Brit to take a morning-after pill.

Scene 3

Unfortunately, 52% of Dave’s sperm were fertile and Brit has a positive result to her test.  In one year she will give birth to a child who will be called Brexit.

Dave refuses to do the decent thing and support Brit: appalled at the news, he scarpers and is never seen again.

Act 2: Brexit

Brexit is born, but it is clear that she has multiple handicaps.  Misshapen, misbegotten and malformed, her mere presence divides the country in two: those who think she should be strangled and those who think she’ll be absolutely fine in spite of everything.

Brex is an unhappy child, forced at a very early age to go to Brussels and negotiate with the EU even though she doesn’t know what she wants apart from three words written on a piece of paper: strong, stable and hard.

Seeing the state her child is in, Brit is devastated.  She is diagnosed with acute schizophrenia and sent to lie down in a darkened room.  Brexit comes back from Brussels with another piece of paper, though what is written on it is not yet clear.

I’ve written this into a fifteen-minute play and will look for a suitable slot on which to perform it.

Kirk out

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Charles III and Another Windsor

Camilla (Margot Leicester), King Charles III (Tim Pigott-Smith), Kate Middleton (Charlotte Riley), Prince William (Oliver Chris), Prince Harry (Richard Goulding) in King Charles III

Image result for open source images barbara windsor

(no copyright infringement intended: images will be removed on request)

Notwithstanding Ken Loach’s recent comments about historical drama on the BBC, with which I substantially associate myself:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-37679158

the Beeb does produce some stonking drama; and two gems I’ve seen lately tend towards the biographical; one retrospectively and one futuristically.  They are also royally linked; the subject of the first, ‘Babs’ being about a self-styled Windsor and the second, ‘Charles III’, featuring an actual member of that family.

I have never been a fan of Barbara Windsor.  You could argue that the construction of the dumb bombshell with the humungous bazoongas was a creation of male writers and directors, but it was one in which she was complicit.  Her ‘Carry-On’ persona so completely eclipsed her earlier acting talent that I was completely gobsmacked to find that she’d worked with Joan Littlewood.  You would think that Littlewood, a Communist in early years, would be anathema to the conventional and staunchly royalist Windsor; but work together they did.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02t02pl

Littlewood warns Windsor in this production that if she’s not careful she’ll play the dumb blonde for the rest of her life, a prophecy which came true – at least until Babs moved to EastEnders.

I liked this programme, in spite of it’s following the ‘Lady in the Van’ convention of having two narrators: it showed a side of Windsor I would never have imagined.  But it was as nothing to the stupendousness of last night’s ‘Charles III,’ an imagining of the first months of Charles’ reign following the death of the Queen.

Tim Piggott-Smith plays Charles (Smith was shortly afterwards to die) in a tour de force.  But though the acting is superb, the success of this begins with the script.  With the great soliloquys written in iambic pentameter, it brings to mind every Shakespeare play that ever featured a monarch, and takes us back to the power-plays of Richard II and Henrys IV and V.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen this yet I strongly advise you to watch before reading on.

Charles is known nowadays to be proactive behind the scenes; this play sees him make some disastrous decisions in his first days by refusing to sign a bill which comes before him, thus precipitating an answer to the age-old question of where royal power resides.  The paradox has been sustained for generations; the Queen signing bills with which she almost certainly disagrees, being fully aware that not to do so would precipitate a constitutional crisis.  You have to pick your battles, and Charles’ tragic flaw in this is that instead of waiting and discussing, he charges straight in like a bull at a gate, prompting the Prime Minister to call his bluff and enact the bill into law with or without royal assent.  The Machiavellian Leader of the Opposition advises the King to follow the example of William IV and dissolve Parliament: this he does, and the ensuing crisis is Charles’ downfall.

What was most interesting was the role of Kate in this.  Bored by her portrayal as a smiling and supportive wife, she urges the indecisive William to take control and intervene.  Kate is the typical Shakespearian female malcontent, albeit with more possibilities open to her than a Tudor princess: and from the moment she persuades her husband to act, the writing is on the wall for Charles.  He becomes Lear; pathetic, outcast, bemoaning the treachery of his children and only giving way when they threaten to leave the palace and take his grandchildren with them.

Also interesting was a sub-plot centring on Harry’s desire to be a commoner: he returns to the fold just in time for the coronation.

And this is how the play ends: with William being crowned in his father’s stead, and stability being returned.  At the last minute Charles snatches the crown from the Archbishop, seeming to be about to put it on his own head.  Instead, in a touching gesture, he places it on William, murmuring ‘my son.’

And there’s even a Shakespearian ghost: Diana returns to speak to both widower and son, telling them both that they will be the greatest king ever: in a nice twist, it seems Charles will achieve this by abdicating.

I can’t sing the praises of this enough: I’m going to watch it again in a few days.  I’ve only scratched the surface here.  I urge you to see it while you can:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p04z0n7s/king-charles-iii

Kirk out

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Best. Shakespeare. Ever.

I was initially a tad dubious about these beamed-in theatre productions where theatres film their output and transmit it simultaneously to cinemas all over the world.  Whilst I could see that it enabled thousands more people to see a play which they might not otherwise get to attend, it seemed a rather dislocated experience.  It must also be hard for the actors, knowing that they are performing for a dual audience and that as well as having to project to the gods at the National (or wherever) they will have cameras on them doing a close-up.

But I am now a total convert, having seen not only Hedda Gabler from the National but also, on Saturday, the completely amazing NT production of Twelfth Night, starring in a gender-bent role, Tamsin Greig as Malvolia.

I always respected Tamsin Greig as an actor.  Her ultra-distinctive voice is rarely heard on The Archers nowadays, as Debbie is permanently in Hungary, but I loved her in Black Books and various other things on the good box.  But I basically thought of her as a soap/sitcom actress and had No Idea of what heights of comic invention she could ascend on the stage.  Her Malvolia was the funniest, most striking, most pathetic, most hilarious and outrageous I have ever seen.  And though she was the best thing in it, the cast as a whole was far from dusty.  Setefane claimed that Phoebe Fox was the finest member of the cast, playing another gender-bent role, Olivia (a woman pretending to be her own brother).  And ’tis true, she was indeed brilliant, but I couldn’t take my eyes off Tamsin Greig.  Best.  Twelfth Night.  Ever.  In fact, possibly the best Shakespeare ever – in my experience at least.

Gender-bending is common in Shakespeare when not only did boys play women, but characters often pretended to be of the other sex.  But recently in more feminist style, roles have been swapped; so recently Helen Mirren has played Prospera in The Tempest and Maxine Peake, Hamlet:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2014/sep/26/female-hamlets-sarah-bernhardt-maxine-peake-in-pictures

If you get a chance to see this production, go.  Sell your house and all its contents, but go.  It’s terrific.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/twelfth-night

Kirk out

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But is it Lit-richa?

Like most people I was astonished at the announcement that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  I mean, WTF?  He’s a song-writer!  What were they thinking?

Let’s consider this more judiciously.  Firstly, can song lyrics can be literature?  Well, in one sense, why not?  Then again, in a song the words and music are designed to go together, so that to look at the lyrics in isolation is like viewing a painting through sunglasses.  You’ve only got half the experience that the author intended.  Then again, maybe the lyrics can work as stand-alone poems, in the same way that Shakespeare’s plays can be read as well as seen.

But the crucial question is, are they literature?  Well, what is literature?  What is the difference between literature and fiction (if there is one) or between literature and poetry?Well, I guess it’s the difference between the good and the best.  Literature represents the best of the written output of a culture; that which stands out from the rest and which may in time turn out to be great literature, ie that which transcends time and place and shows itself to be universal.  Fiction speaks to a time and place; literature speaks more widely and great literature resounds through space and time.  Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Austen, Dante, etc are read in every literate culture; and Shakespeare’s stories are told in many illiterate societies too.

The Nobel Prize for Literature reflects this.  And it is is international: by its very nature it picks that which speaks not just to one culture but to many; that which transcends borders and may well stand the test of time.  Can we really say that about Bob Dylan?  Does Dylan speak to Russians and Africans and Chinese as he does to Westerners?

I think we’ve got confused about this.  We’ve got mixed up in the boundaries between cultural elites and literary merit.  Yes, we need to keep expanding the boundaries to include writers from second-and third-world countries as well as considering LGBT writing (considering women goes without saying, I should hope) and putting these on a par with white Western males.  This has been reflected in recent Nobel Laureates: J M Coetzee, V S Naipaul, Alice Monro, Orhan Pamuk and Mario Vargas Llosa have all won the prize in the last ten years and stand alongside the more familiar figures of Harold Pinter and Doris Lessing.  But expanding the boundaries to consider these groups is not the same as awarding prizes, and more often than not nowadays I think we tick the boxes rather than seriously considering merit.  People are so scared of being called elitist that they sometimes choose people who don’t deserve to win rather than genuinely weighing the options.  (I am always slightly uneasy when people complain at the lack of women on particular shortlists as though this were prima facie evidence of discrimination.  It may be: then again unless we can find independent evidence – novels by women which were overlooked in favour of worse novels by men – the argument won’t stand up.)

Mind you, to judge fairly requires an opening of the mind not only to other styles and forms but to different types of merit.  As far as I can see the Nobel committee has done a fairly good job of this recently.  Until this year, when they lost their minds.  Let’s hope they get back on track soon.

Bob Dylan is a great singer/songwriter.  But a Nobel Laureate?  Do me a favour!

If you disagree I’d really like to hear why.  Please post your favourite Dylan lyrics with reasons why you think they count as literature.

Kirk out

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