Stratford to see David Edgar

I was foul of temper, kicked at the idea of another two days of my life taken up with a Michael project, feeling freedom increasingly curbed by needs of others, land still not started, tetchy, short fused. ‘Well, have you decided how to get there? i said to Michael. I acquiesced without grace. I humphed and worked through night to clear so called important work of two days. I watched myself be like this but seemed incapable of avoiding these narrow streets as Rumi calls them. 

The puppy and I found our way to the River Avon, a grown up river, (unlike our Blyth) with weirs and riparian owners like Royal Shakespear Company and a gaggle or bank of swans. Suddenly, seeing the swans, I recalled the last time I was here, i must have been in my teens, bought by Aunt Claire, who loved to come to Stratford each year for a season of Shakespeare. Pat, her companion, must have been with her, and my mother must have been with me. We saw the histories, the Henry’s. A relatively young Alan Howard playing lead roles, and we watched him blossom (later I gather in Peter Brooks Midsummer nights dream) as I gather now he died in 2015. Was it Terry Hands version? I can remember feeling electrified by his performance, the words so dead on the page in my school, enlivened here. Somewhere is a photograph of me dressed in browns, a maxi brown corduroy skirt, so constrained by wanting to fit in. I think it was this time of year we came.

But we are back in Michael’s past, again, so shortly after New York and meeting Michael Weller. David Edgar was also one of Michael’s clients, his play Destiny being one of his most profound, about a right wing rising. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1980) being his most well known, and later in the Opposition restaurant where we ate, he said he called his London flat Nickleby as it was funded from this success. (He also wrote Albert Speer – based on Gitta Sereny’s book – I read later, and wished I’d spent that bad tempered time finding out more about him – he’s written over 100 plays in his life.) On any questions David dreaded being uncovered as being a Marxist with three homes. London, Birmingham and Cornwall.

Exchanging with him Wellers current dilemma, the N word and re balancing prejudice, David outlined the two systems in operation in his plays: The first is complete colour blindness, anyone can play anything no barrier, women Hamlet, black Hamiltons, etc. The other was the minority must be played by the authentic minority, a black Othello. Finally you can only play what you are.

Michael recalling how he met Tamsyn, introduced to her as a person of similar beliefs, anti christ, so when they met they found this in common, but soon a lot more, and the next thing was she fell pregnant, which was unfortunate. Unfortunate? ‘Yes, because otherwise I don’t think she would have married me.’

We were here to see David Edgar’s adaptation of Christmas Carol, had perfect seats in the stalls, for both of us the first time seeing the stage as an apron. Fabulous theatre, based on Shakespearn model, intimate, cossy, three tiers, the top with high rake.

The production was full of sheer energy and joy, actors running in from the sides through the audience. Dickens the narrator, doors wheeled on to form rooms. The turn of parsimonious Scrouge, (you will relate to this character, Michael observed of me earlier as I said I wanted nothing to do with Christmas or family during this up coming time), by the visitations of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Christmas Present, Sunetra Sarker, speaking with a Liverpudlian accent, with modern interjections, was my favorite. Having Dickens as narrator was ingenious explaining how this was a more effective way of hammering home the hard-to-swallow bitter pill of time-honoured inequality and suffering. Jest towards Boris Johnson. Adrian Edmondson as Scrouge was brilliant, a perfect curmudgeon, capitalist, utilitarian.

The play incubating with David Edgar is a play loosly based on events in Ukraine, when two characters arrive to become ‘Advisors’ to an up coming election. David reminds me to see again the Ukrainian film based on the 2005-2014 revolution, Winter on Fire:

Review here describes well here. Film centers around filmmaker, Afineevsky, and crew observing he revolt against Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych centered on Kiev’s Maidan Square for 93 wintry days in late 2013 and early 2014. Yanokovych, a Russian backed leader, who promised economic agreement with the European Union that would help further integrate Ukraine. When at the last moment that agreement wasn’t forthcoming, Euro-inclined Ukrainians took to Maidan Square to protest. Seeing people putting their lives on the line for “freedom” can’t help but be powerful and inspiring, and the film emphasizes how much of this commitment came from the generation of the ’90s, who came of age after the yoke of Soviet domination had been removed. Once people have tasted freedom, Afineevsky suggests, it’s hard to get them to return to tyranny.

As we walked back through Stratford Sheep Street, Michael reminded me that the actors would all be releasing their adrenaline at the Lamb and Whistel, the traditional watering hole. We found a cocktail at our comfortable hotel, with Brow, allowed in the bar, suddenly reacting to a woman dressed in black and white, barking, so had to be dismissed.

Journey back, long and with double charge, to find Elders comfortable in the Pear Tree.

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