Thursday, August 8, 2019

4 September - Gas Light

Firstly, I'm glad you all enjoyed the Alan Ayckbourn in August, even if the ending was a bit unclear.  I've done some Googling and maybe reading the Wikipedia summary will help:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_in_the_Grass#Synopsis  My feeling is that Miriam dies ... it would be justice!  But it is rather open-ended maybe.  I do hope you enjoyed it, I liked that it was a slightly different Ayckbourn!


Also, for those of you who appreciated the fig cake, here's a link!  https://www.mattersofthebelly.com/ottolenghis-fig-almond-cake/


And so to September ...  Gas Light

This classic 1938 thriller (and its film adaptations) gave rise to the term “gaslighting”, meaning a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception.  It's a theme that is very pertinent today, as we become more aware of psychologically abusive relationships.

The play is set in fog-bound London in 1880, at the upper middle class home of Jack Manningham and his wife Bella. It is late afternoon, a time that Hamilton notes as the time “before the feeble dawn of gaslight and tea.”   Bella is clearly on edge, and the stern reproaches of her overbearing husband make matters worse. What most perturbs Bella is Jack’s unexplained disappearances from the house: he will not tell her where he is going, and this increases her anxiety. 


Characters

Mr. Manningham: Husband

Mrs. Manningham:  Wife

Elizabeth:  Housekeeper

Nancy:  Younger maid

Rough:  Ex-Detective

Because this is a thriller I do not want to give too much away!!  So I'll just put up some pictures!  These are all from the 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman.











Saturday, July 13, 2019

7 August - Snake in the Grass


Incredibly it's nearly two years since we last did an Alan Ayckbourn!  And the good news is that in selecting this play I also found another play that we can do at Christmas!

Written in 2002, Snake in the Grass is a ghost story about a middle-aged older sister who returns to the family home where her younger sister still lives, shortly after their abusive father's death. All is not as it seems!!

Characters

  • Annabel Chester, fifty, was a successful married business woman, now divorced and her business collapsed
  • Miriam Chester, forty-four, Annabel's younger sister, eternally house-bound to her late father's house
  • Alice Moody, nurse for Annabel and Miriam's father shortly before his death 




Saturday, June 15, 2019

3 July: A Bunch of Amateurs


I thought we should have a bit of fun, so I do hope that this proves to be funny - it should be for anyone vaguely connected with 'Am Dram'!



A Bunch of Amateurs is a 2008 play written by Ian Hislop, of Private Eye and Have I Got News for You fame, and Nick Newman who has written for several satirical magazines and television and radio programmes.



Unfortunately, and despite an all star cast, according to Wikipedia, the film was universally panned by both critics and audiences alike.  However I have managed to find a couple of good reviews!  And the critics are not always right - are they!



"Terrific comedy packed with killer comic dialogue... plenty of twists and turns."
WhatsOnStage

"Deliciously stuffed with Shakespeare... a laugh-a-minute."
Mail on Sunday


A Bunch of Amateurs

Keen to boost his flagging career, fading Hollywood action hero Jefferson Steele arrives in England to play King Lear in Stratford – only to find that this is not the birthplace of the Bard, but a sleepy Suffolk village. And instead of Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench, the cast are a bunch of amateurs trying to save their theatre from developers. Jefferson’s monstrous ego, vanity and insecurity are tested to the limit by the enthusiastic am-dram thespians. As acting worlds collide and Jefferson’s career implodes, he discovers some truths about himself – along with his inner Lear!



Characters


  • JEFFERSON STEELE - A fading Hollywood star who is arrogant, insecure, brash, gauche, demanding, vulnerable and ultimately aware of his own absurdity.  (Burt Reynolds)


  • DOROTHY NETTLE - Director of the Stratford Players and the moving force behind keeping the theatre alive. Her sweet and accommodating manner conceals her inner steel. (Samantha Bond)


  • JESSICA STEELE - Jefferson's teenage daughter, who has been neglected by her Hollywood star father and now wants to make him pay for it.


  • NIGEL DEWBURY - Solicitor and leading light of the Stratford Players. Pompous, stuck-up and self-regarding, he believes he is the star of the show, and should play all the leading roles. He also fancies his romantic chances with Dorothy. (Derek Jacobi)


  • MARY PLUNKETT - Owner of the Rectory bed and breakfast. Jolly, generous and an unashamedly adoring Jefferson Steele fan -- although somewhat confused about which roles he played in his films, and how keen he is on her. (Imelda Staunton)


  • DENIS DOBBINS - Handyman and village Mr. Fixit. Avuncular though slightly dull, Denis is star-struck by Jefferson and fancies heading up his entourage of one.


  • LAUREN BELL - Thirty-something marketing executive former physiotherapist and the sponsor's wife. Passionate about the arts and smarter than her husband allows her to be, she's treated as a bimbo because of her looks.



  • The Film



  • Nick Newman & Ian Hislop




  • Tuesday, April 30, 2019

    5 June - The Return of A J Raffles


    Firstly, huge thanks to Kyung-Sook and Rina for holding the fort during my absence.  But I am so pleased that you have realised that you really don't need me!  THANK YOU BOTH very very much!

    In June we will be reading  The Return of A J Raffles by Graham Greene.

    I have to confess that I was rather surprised when a friend introduced me to this play - Graham Greene?  THE Graham Greene?  Well, yes it is.  And I have to confess that on reading the play it is a little more, ahem, explicit, than the Radio 4 versions of Raffles' adventures that I have recently enjoyed!

    The Return of A. J. Raffles
    , first published in 1975, is an Edwardian comedy play in three acts, written by Graham Greene and based somewhat loosely on E. W. Hornung’s characters in The Amateur Cracksman. It is surprisingly funny!

    Set in the late summer of the year 1900, the story revolves around the infamous burglar and cricketer, A. J. Raffles—presumed dead in the Boer War—who returns to Albany where, with his friends Bunny and Lord Alfred Douglas - known to his friends as Bosie - he plots to rob the Marquess of Queensberry, partly for the money and partly for revenge against the Marquess for his treatment of their friend (Lord Alfred Douglas's lover),  Oscar Wilde. The robbery takes place at The Marquess’ house in Hertfordshire, where Raffles and Bunny are interrupted by the Prince of Wales and a Scotland Yard detective, who discover the Prince’s personal letters have also been stolen.  
    The fictional Arthur J. Raffles  – a cricketer and gentleman thief – was created by E. W. Hornung, who, between 1898 and 1909, wrote a series of 26 short stories, two plays, and a novel about him and his fictional chronicler, Harry "Bunny" Manders.

    Hornung dedicated the first collection of stories, The Amateur Cracksman, to his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle, intending Raffles as a "form of flattery." In contrast to Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson, Raffles and Bunny are "something dark, morally uncertain, yet convincingly, reassuringly English."

    I think I may claim that his famous character Raffles was a kind of inversion of Sherlock Holmes, Bunny playing Watson. He admits as much in his kindly dedication. I think there are few finer examples of short-story writing in our language than these, though I confess I think they are rather dangerous in their suggestion. I told him so before he put pen to paper, and the result has, I fear, borne me out. You must not make the criminal a hero.
    — Arthur Conan Doyle

    Raffles is an antihero. Although a thief, he "never steals from his hosts, he helps old friends in trouble, and the recognition of the problems of the distribution of wealth is recurrent subtext throughout the stories.

    According to the Strand Magazine, these stories made Raffles "the second most popular fictional character of the time," behind Sherlock Holmes. They have been adapted to film, television, stage, and radio, with the first appearing in 1903.


    Characters


    • A. J. Raffles
    • Bunny
    • Lord Alfred Douglas
    • Mr Portland (Prince of Wales)
    • Inspector Mackenzie
    • The Marquess of Queensberry
    • A Lady Called Alice
    • A Lady's Maid Called Mary
    • Mr Smith, Head Porter of Albany
    • Captain Von Blixen


    Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

    Graham Greene

    E W Hornung




    Thursday, March 7, 2019

    3 April: Watch this space!


    Firstly, many thanks to Kyung-Sook for hosting us in March - I was sorry not to be with you, but I am sure you had a WONDERFUL time!

    Advance Warning:  Due to the Bank Holiday, in May we will be meeting on 8 May




    Wednesday, February 6, 2019

    6 March: Playhouse Creatures

    Firstly, a reminder and a big THANK YOU.

    The reminder is that in March we will be meeting Chez Kyung-Sook.

    The Thank You is to Kyung-Sook for once again agreeing to host in my absence!


    Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis


    It is 1669: a bawdy and troublesome time.  Theatres have just reopened after 17 years of Puritan suppression.  There is a surge in dramatic writing and the first English actresses appear on stage.

    Playhouse Creatures focuses on five of the most famous Restoration actresses, in a moving, and often comic, account of their precarious lives.

    Nell Gwyn 
    Nell Gwyn (2 February 1650 – 14 November 1687was a prolific celebrity figure of the Restoration period. Praised by Samuel Pepys for her comic performances as one of the first actresses on the English stage, she became best known for being a long-time mistress of King Charles II. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. Gwyn had two sons by King Charles: Charles Beauclerk(1670–1726); and James Beauclerk (1671–1680). Charles was created Earl of Burford and later Duke of St. Albans.




    Mary Betterton
    Mary Betterton is a descendant (Granddaughter) of Richard Burbage, one of William Shakespeares men, one of the first and most famous shakespearian actors. Her most notable accomplishments are her being the first female actress to portray several of Shakespeare's woman characters on the professional stage. Sir William Davenant hired her to perform for the Duke's company in 1661. She lived with others in the company under his wife's care until she and the leading man of the company, Thomas Betterton, obtained a marriage license on Christmas Eve in 1662. Their marriage lasted for some 48 years under "the strictest amity" until her husband's death in 1710. Mrs. Betterton was different than many other English actresses, in that she attracted no public chatter or gossip about her personal life; she was simply not interested in enticing any foolish blather about her life off stage.







    Elizabeth Farley
    Samuel Pepys hinted on 11th January 1668 that Elizabeth Farley was for a brief period after the Restoration a mistress of Charles II but by the end of the 1660-1661 theatrical season she was known as Mrs. Weaver. In 1662 she announced she was leaving the stage after it was discovered she was pregnant.

    Rebecca Marshall
    Rebecca Marshall (1663 – 1677) was  was the younger sister of Anne Marshall, another prominent actress of the period.
    Samuel Pepys repeatedly refers to both Marshall sisters in his Diary; he calls the younger "Beck Marshall." Rebecca had a reputation as a beauty, which apparently caused her difficulties: she twice petitioned King Charles II for protection from obstreperous men in her audience and she had a habit of feuding with Nell Gwyn.

    Doll Common
    Katherine Corey (1660 – 1692)  had one of the longest careers of any actress in her generation. In "The humble petition of Katherine Corey", she stated that she "was the first and is the last of all the actresses that were constituted by King Charles the Second at His Restauration."
    Correy started her career under her maiden name, Mitchell, but was Mrs. Corey by 1663. "Mrs Corey was a big woman with a gift for comedy. She was popular in a variety of roles, but especially in old women parts: scolding wives, mothers, governesses, waiting women, and bawds." In his Diary, Samuel Pepys, who admired Corey's talents, calls her "Doll Common" after her part in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist.

    Mary Betterton
    Mary Betterton is a descendant (Granddaughter) of Richard Burbage, one of William Shakespeares men, one of the first and most famous shakespearian actors. Her most notable accomplishments are her being the first female actress to portray several of Shakespeare's woman characters on the professional stage. Sir William Davenant hired her to perform for the Duke's company in 1661. She lived with others in the company under his wife's care until she and the leading man of the company, Thomas Betterton, obtained a marriage license on Christmas Eve in 1662. Their marriage lasted for some 48 years under "the strictest amity" until her husband's death in 1710. Mrs. Betterton was different than many other English actresses, in that she attracted no public chatter or gossip about her personal life; she was simply not interested in enticing any foolish blather about her life off stage.

    April de Angelis
    This is not the first time we have read a play by de Angelis: in 2013 we read Jumpy, a modern play about the interactions between a single mother and her teenage daughter - unfortunately it was before this blog was started and I have no record to re-use!

    Born circa 1960, de Angelis is of part-Sicilian descent.  In the 1980s she started out as an actress, but since then has become known as a writer of many successful plays and a librettist.  Her plays tend to be an examination of history, feminist and comic!




    Thursday, January 10, 2019

    6 February - The Ladykillers

    I think we all enjoyed the truthful black comedy, The Memory of Water, in January.  You may wish to know that it is hoped that the ECC will produce it this year or next, and if they do perhaps we can all go to see it together.

    Also, for those of you who liked January's cake, here it is:  
    https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/collections/life-in-the-freezer/italian-chocolate-nut-christmas-cake
    It is embarrassingly easy.  I used a wider cake tin and cooked it for an hour.  I also omitted the breadcrumbs from the tin!

    Advance Warning:  It is highly likely that I won't be here for the March reading, and so, subject to bathroom work, you may be meeting at Kyung-Sook's or Louise's.  Thank you both for offering to host.


    And so to February:  The Ladykillers

    This month we will be reading a play that started out as a film!  The famous 1955 film was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay and won the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay. American writer William Rose claimed to have dreamt the entire film and merely had to remember the details when he awoke.
    The film holds a rare 100% rating on review website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 23 reviews. The British Film Institute ranked The Ladykillers the 13th greatest British film of all time. In 2017 a poll for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the 29th best British film ever. 
    The film was remade in 2004, but we are not going to concern ourselves with that!!  For further information see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ladykillers_(2004_film)
    The Ladykillers is a classic black comedy; I and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce.  The villains  plot to involve her, unwittingly, in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job.  The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet.  With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs Wilberforce is alone with five desperate men.  But who will face the music?
    1955 Film Cast (Because I know you’re going to ask!)
    Alec Guinness as Professor Marcus
    Cecil Parker as Major Claude Courtney
    Herbert Lom as Louis Harvey
    Peter Sellers as Harry Robinson
    Danny Green as ‘One-Round’ Lawson
    Jack Warner as the superintendent
    Katie Johnson as Mrs Louisa Wilberforce
    Philip Stainton as the sergeant
    Frankie Howerd as the barrow boy
    Kenneth Connor as a taxi driver.