Archive for March, 2019

Working on ‘A Soldier’s Song’ in the London Library

March 21, 2019

With ‘A Soldier’s Song’ due to première in a week’s time it’s time to pay my respects to the London Library – without the benefits that membership brings I doubt that I would have got the project off the ground.

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The EU flag flies over St James’s Square from the Cypriot High Commission’s balcony

One of those benefits is that it is by far my favourite place to work. Without the woof-ish distractions of my desk at home there are communal spaces or solitary nooks to suit my changing mood. Few nooks have as good a view as the one in the photograph above. Mental pauses can be spent watching the circling taxis, strolling pigeons, and scattered characters in St. James’s Square.

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Mucho Marivaux at the London Library

It just so happens that this desk is where Marivaux likes to hang out. Occupying three shelves of French Lit. you’ll find his novels, essays and plays – as well as critical studies of his work. This allows the translator/adaptor to access a comprehensive range of resources, all in one place.

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Yes, they are real. And they are spectacular.

And not just to access them – since the LL is a borrowing library you can take them away to study on the hoof. Much of the work on Les Fausses Confidences/A Soldier’s Song was done on trains to various cities and towns of the Midlands where I’ve been teaching over the last couple of years. Of course I wouldn’t take a 1732 edition of Marivaux’s work on the London Northwest Train to Marylebone, that’d be reckless! But it’s a nice object to contemplate as one struggles to wrestle marivaudage into the twentieth century.

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The Pléiade edition records the first performance of Les Fausses Confidences in March 1737.

Of course adapting is a more impure task than translation. For translation you require an original text, a thinking mind, perhaps a dictionary. For adaptation you have to imagine the original into another world – whether it’s a switch of genre or a switch of setting or gender. And by setting the action for our play in a house in 1919 London with a military man as the protagonist all kinds of resources that the Library has to offer were useful in capturing the language and feel of the period.

The resources deployed can be obvious – for example using histories of fashion to inflect the wardrobe or military histories to give a backstory to the young soldier, Hector.

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The Bing Boys – Ted Jeavons was a fan

Inspiration can come more obliquely too – Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time was a rich resource, especially the sections where Ted Jeavons reminisced about spending his leave from the front during WW1 in the music halls of London. In the end we didn’t use any songs from The Bing Boys Are Here but part of the joy of rattling round the stacks in the library is knowing that I could go from Uncle Ted’s fictional reminiscences in Fiction to specialist works on the music hall in S. Music Halls &c in two ticks.

And soon the show will come alive – as I said to the cast at our last rehearsal in a local church hall yesterday evening, the play is theirs now and not mine. The final process of adaptation is enaction. The text was once fixed by Marivaux in 1737. Then it was unfixed by the Comédie Italiennes for the King. And once more what was fixed by myself has been unfixed by the Crouch End Players and will become a living creation of their own.

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Actors – you gotta love ’em!

Go to the London Library’s website for a fuller flavour of the benefits that membership brings. Or pop in, they’re a very friendly bunch.

A Soldier’s Song runs from 27th – 30th March 2019 in the Moravian Hall, Priory Road, N8 7HR. Tickets are available now from crouchendplayers.co.uk

 

Resto 7 Lao Café, Covent Garden

March 6, 2019

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The first birthday dinner of 2019 was a leftfield choice. Lao Café is the only Laotian resto in London, possibly the UK. One of us had been to Laos (not me) so knew what to expect – leaning more towards Thai food than Vietnamese but quite distinctive. I was happy to try it out.

Lao Café’s interior is refreshingly modern and zappy with a great big mural on one wall. We had a table in the window. In fact we’d commandeered two tables to cope with the amount of food that we’d ordered, so I felt a bit guilty since there was a queue at the door by the time we left but the owner didn’t seem to mind.

I sucked on a glass of wine while perusing the menu – my interest was immediately piqued by ant eggs. This was a new thing to me. I’d have them as part of a Lao mushroom curry. Alongside that we took a Lao papaya salad and a fish dish for two with some grilled sticky rice.

“You want that spicy?’ enquired the owner. ‘Yes please.’ She looked sceptical. ‘One, two or three chillis?’ I looked at Karen for guidance but she stared back inscrutably. ‘Three, why not?’ ‘You’re sure?’ I sensed a challenge being laid down. I nodded resolutely but ordered a beer just in case.

I definitely needed that beer! The heat was slow to arrive but ferocious when it did. In a good way. At least that’s what I said in between glugging down cold booze by the brace. The fish was excellently cooked – meaty and bony so requiring delicate knife skills. Ant eggs were less of a delight, although the curry they rode in on had an excellent depth of flavour with a high mushroom content that would make it a good lunchtime option. The Lao element to the papaya salad appeared to be hard-shelled baby mud crabs, which I was happy to deposit alongside the fishbones uneaten. I was also less than enamoured of the grilled sticky rice, though that may be due to the fact that I’d had a tooth extracted at the weekend and the hole in my face rapidly turned into a sticky rice mine.

Despite ordering less than the recommended amount of two salads and two mains we still couldn’t finish everything that was brought to us. The service was outstanding – really friendly and quick. I especially liked the feller with the low slung jeans who brought us the wrong bill (lower than we expected) and quite happily admitted his own doofishness about it. Even at the higher rate the bill was reasonable for this part of town for the amount of grub/drink we’d got.

I’ll be back to Lao for curry but without the ants or crabs – this is a place where it’s good to know your way around the menu.

8/10

To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap …

‘A Soldier’s Song’ visits the Inns of Court

March 5, 2019
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The Devil’s Own recruit from the quality.

‘He’s a devil this boy!’ I didn’t know when I wrote that line for A Soldier’s Song how apposite it would turn out. As part of the research for the production of the show we had a cast visit to the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry Museum in a crepuscular corner of Lincoln’s Inn where the Regiment still has its HQ.

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Appropriatley Dickensian digs for the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry

As you can see from the poster above the Inns of Court are nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Own’ so it seemed entirely correct that our Hector, the dashing World War 1 hero, should be described by his old batman Hobbs as a devil.

Major O’Beirne gave us an excellent tour of the bijou collection of memorabilia and photographs which tell the story of the regiment from its origins in England’s deep past right through wars local and global to the present day.

One sinister highlight was a Nazi flag rummaged from a box in a cupboard rumoured to have been swiped from Luneberg Heath on the day of the Germans’ surrender in 1945. The Devil’s Own themselves had had a tough introduction to Europe, landing in Normandy with instructions to blow bridges across the Orne only to find themselves under fire from some trigger happy American Typhoons.

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The Berkhamstead Boys pose in 1915

Of course we lapped up the tales of derring do but nudged our host in the direction of World War One – what had the IoY been up to between 1914 and 1918? By coincidence it turned out that they’d been based in our leading man’s backyard of Berkhamstead! Looking through the photographs he could pick out the golf course – once used for trench warfare – Kitchener’s Field parade ground, and local landmarks like this church porch.

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Looking through the sepia images of young men being trained for War it really was a most inspiring visit, especially with the wealth of visual detail that we were able to pick up. I only hope James’s moustache can live up to WW1 standards!

#theatre #London #ASoldiersSongPlay


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