parlour tricks

Published by: mike on 9th Sep 2017 | View all blogs by mike

This is for Jackie and is about ghosts and the theatre.  It is about a  play I saw last month. The chances of anybody seeing this play are slim, so I’ve tried a sort of  precis but teachers might be a bit more accurate.  I am reading all the way though the Father Brown  stories and many of these involve spiritualism and ghosts of a kind.  Chesterton seems to use the same ambiguity as Walter De La Mare.  The plots are  similar to a TV series called Jonathan Creek which is about someone who exposes events of a supernatural nature as parlour tricks.  But the theatre often uses the ambiguity of Walter De La Mare or Chesterton rather than tricks of a theatrical nature.  

   Last night I attended a production of ‘Follies’  This is a musical by Stephen Sondheim and it  is being staged at the ‘National Theatre.’  I can assure you I am not rich.  I had passed the theatre in the morning and there was one free seat at the back of the dress circle which was one of their day seats. If you wish to see this  production,  it will be a live screening at a cinema near you.  But ghosts often appear in theatrical productions - even in modern plays.  I remember a recent production of an early Arthur Miller play in which the author appears; inspecting his own youth.  Who is  - are - the ghosts?

    In ‘Follies’ , a  group  of aging theatrical troupers attend a party at a Broadway theatre that is to be demolished.  Their younger selves also attend the party.  I was at the top  of a very large theatrical space, and my view would not be the same as someone in the stalls, for whom the production might be more brightly coloured;  but their younger selves were portrayed in a way that is similar to  ghosts.  The ghosts view their older selves silently with what seems to be sadness.  The men wear the clothes of the thirties compared with the black dress suits of the modern party.  The women appear as the troupers - the singers and dancers of the ‘Follies- the farces of the Broadway of the thirties.   The two groups interact.  If there is a message in the play it would be to avoid theatrical  folk.

   But this blog is about a production at the Globe I saw about a month ago.  There seems to be no photographs of the production and there were only three performances, but that does not mean it will not be staged again.  ( ‘Mrs Orwell’ has moved from a pub theatre to another fringe theatre in South London and might well move around  England, and even abroad,

   The play at the Globe was ‘The Woman in the Moon’ by  John Lily who, according to the notes provided by the company, was the Oscar Wilde of the  Elizabethan age, though having seen the production and, taking into account the relationship between the theatre and the court, Noel Coward might be a more suitable comparison. John Lily ‘allegedly’ was a big influence on Shakespeare and, in particular, A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

    The play was staged in a small Jacobean theatre - The Sam Wanamaker theatre  - and there are plenty of images of this theatre on google.  The only prop is a round bed on which lay a body,  This prop is on the  stage when you entered the theatre.   I splashed out and got a pit seat which meant I was some dozen feet from the actors,  The term ‘shared space’ is used to describe these productions and the only light is provided by candles.  This is one of the smallest theaters in London.  All the seats are uncomfortable and church pews are a joy in comparison.  But there are compensations - brilliant accoustics to begin with.

   Mortals appear  and wish for a woman. They supplicate the  moon - nature.  Nature grants their wishes and appears in a costume which might have suggested Elizabeth !!  The body on the bed is the  Eve figure,  The company decided on a restrained birth and their is no suggestion of Frankenstein’s monster or biblical miracles with waving candles etc.  Nature merely breathes into the corpse.

   The mortals   wear Wellington boots, pullovers and shorts - to suggest yokels, I suppose. They are delighted with Eve, but who is to  have her?  The, planets are not amused.  Their authority has been usurped and a farce ensues in which Eve is given the temperaments of each of the planets - Mars etc.  Mayhem ensues. The mortals are dismayed and the planets amused.  But the play is consummately plotted and the cast spoke the lines clearly and slowly.

   The planets are portrayed in modern dress, with attributes according to their temperaments,  with a nod, I think, towards celebs.  They wear sunglasses and when they put these on, Eve takes on their respective temperaments.   Eve finally chooses folly as her temperament and a preference to be a mortal with mortal failings.

    I enjoyed the play but I can see it might be of minority interest.  I’ve written this from memory, but think I got the play roughly right.  From Jackie’s point of view, the play would be a party at which Gods attend,

   There are two film versions of ‘The Clash of the Titans’ and the early one portrays the Gods in a way that Ancient Greeks might understand whereas a later version is just special affects.







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