Monday, November 19, 2018

5 December - Perfect Nonsense

This month we will be reading a play based on the Jeeves & Wooster stories of P.G. Wodehouse, so silliness and mayhem are ensured!

To make it slightly more confusing the play that we are reading has a plot which revolves around Bertie Wooster deciding to stage a one-man show revolving around his recent experiences at Totleigh Towers, only to discover on the evening that, in typical Wooster fashion, nothing has gone to plan and the show is not ready to be staged. In desperation, he enlists Jeeves and another valet, Seppings, to help him stage the production, with Bertie as himself and both Jeeves and Seppings playing multiple characters. Both in the story Bertie is narrating and the play as it is being performed, events quickly spiral out of control, prompting Jeeves to step in to make sure all ends well.

Still with me?

Although a cast of 3, they perform a host of other roles - which we will not replicate!

As everything is explained, sort of, in the play I will not give a breakdown of the characters here!

I hope you will enjoy it!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

14 November - The Red Shoes


In a first for our group, we're going to read a musical!

Pernette saw a modern adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Red Shoes, when she was in Ireland in the summer, and brought back the script with her: Many thanks Pernette!

It will be interesting if you know the original story:
A peasant girl named Karen is adopted by a rich old lady after her mother's death and grows up vain and spoiled. Before her adoption, Karen had a rough pair of red shoes; now she has her adoptive mother buy her a pair of red shoes fit for a princess. Karen is so enamored of her new shoes that she wears them to church, but the old lady scolds her: it's highly improper and she must only wear black shoes in church from now on. But next Sunday, Karen cannot resist the urge to put the red shoes on again. As she is about to enter the church, she meets a mysterious old soldier with a red beard. "Oh, what beautiful shoes for dancing," the soldier says. "Never come off when you dance," he tells the shoes, and he taps the sole of each with his hand. After church, Karen cannot resist taking a few dance steps, and off she goes, as though the shoes controlled her, but she finally manages to take them off.
One day, after her adoptive mother becomes ill, Karen leaves her alone and goes off to a ball in town in her red shoes. She begins to dance, but this time the shoes won't come off. They continue to dance, night and day, rain or shine, through fields and meadows, and through brambles and briers that tear at Karen's limbs. She can't even attend her adoptive mother's funeral. An angel appears to her, bearing a sword, and condemns her to dance even after she dies, as a warning to vain children everywhere. Karen begs for mercy but the red shoes take her away before she hears the angel's reply.
Karen finds an executioner and asks him to chop off her feet. He does so but the shoes continue to dance, even with Karen's amputated feet inside them. The executioner gives her a pair of wooden feet and crutches, and teaches her the criminals' psalm.  Thinking that she has suffered enough for the red shoes, Karen decides to go to church so people can see her. Yet her amputated feet, still in the red shoes, dance before her, barring the way. The following Sunday she tries again, thinking she is at least as good as the others in church, but again the dancing red shoes bar the way.
Karen gets a job as a maid in the parsonage, but when Sunday comes she dares not go to church. Instead she sits alone at home and prays to God for help. The angel reappears, now bearing a spray of roses, and gives Karen the mercy she asked for: her heart becomes so filled with sunshine, peace, and joy that it bursts. Her soul flies on sunshine to Heaven, where no one mentions the red shoes.

It's also interesting to know:
Andersen named the story's anti-heroine Karen after his own loathed half-sister, Karen Marie Andersen.  The origins of the story is based on an incident Andersen witnessed as a small child. His father, who was a shoemaker, was sent a piece of red silk by a rich lady to make a pair of dancing slippers for her daughter. Using some red leather along with the silk, he carefully created a pair of shoes only for the rich customer to tell him they were awful. She said he had done nothing but spoil her silk. To which his father replied, "In that case, I may as well spoil my leather too," and he cut up the shoes in front of her.

Here are some pictures from The Gate's production:

Monday, September 10, 2018

3 October - Top Girls

Top Girls is a 1982 play by Caryl Churchill. It is about a woman named Marlene, a career-driven woman who is only interested in women's success in business. In the famous opening scene, she hosts a dinner party for a group of famous women from history. As the play unfolds we find Marlene has left her 'poor' life, and illegitimate child with her sister Joyce, in order to tread the path to 'success'. The play is contemporary and examines the role of women in society and what being a successful woman means. The plays cast involves women from age ranges 17 - 23, so we shall be feeling very young by the end of the afternoon!!


Isabella Bird is the first dinner guest to arrive at Marlene's celebration. In real life as discussed throughout the first act of the play, Isabella is a world traveler. What the play does not mention is that she wrote several books, including An English Woman In AmericaA Lady's Life In The Rocky Mountains, and Among the Tibetans. Her adventures take her to all corners of the world. She mentions Jimin Nugent at the party, a man with whom she spent quite a bit of time in America. Outside of the play, Jim was in love with Isabella but she never paid attention to his advances. In real life, she once wrote in a letter to her sister "He is a man any woman might love, but no sane woman would marry." Jim would later be found murdered. Isabella did not marry young because of her career, but later married Dr. John Bishop, who died two days before their 5th anniversary. 
Lady Nijo is a thirteenth-century Japanese concubine and the most materialistic of the women: she is influenced more by the period of time before she became a wandering nun than by the time she spends as a holy woman. She has been brought up in such a way that she cannot even recognize her own prostitution. .
Pope Joan  is somewhat aloof, making relevant, intellectual declarations throughout the conversation. When the topic turns to religion, she cannot help but point out heresies—herself included—though she does not attempt to convert the others to her religion. According to popular legend, Pope Joan was a woman who reigned as pope for a few years during the Middle Ages. Her story first appeared in chronicles in the 13th century and subsequently spread throughout Europe. The story was widely believed for centuries, but most modern scholars regard it as fictional.
Dull Gret The subject of the painting "Dulle Griet" by Pieter Breughel, in which a woman wearing an apron and armed with tools of male aggression – armor, helmet, and sword – leads a mob of peasant women into Hell, fighting the devils and filling her basket with gold cups. 
Patient Griselda is the last to show up to the party.   Historically, Griselda first came into prominence when Chaucer adapted her (from earlier texts by Boccaccio) for a story in The Canterbury Tales called "The Clerk's Tale." In Chaucer's tale, and also in Top Girls, Griselda is chosen to be the wife of the Marquis, even though she is only a poor peasant girl. 

Caryl Churchill (3/9/1938 - )

Caryl Churchill is a British playwright known for dramatising the abuses of power, for her use of non-naturalistic techniques, and for her exploration of sexual politics and feminist themes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

5 September - Ink

by James Graham

It is 1969 and in Fleet Street The Sun rises.  Ink (and these not my words) deals with the birth of the UK's "most influential" newspaper.  A young and rebellious Rupert Murdoch asked the impossible and launched, against all the odds, a red top newspaper to "give the  people what they want".  This it would seem is scandal, topless models on page 3 and to be told how to vote.

Based on modern history and real people who are still alive today, this is a very recent play, first performed in London in 2017, which next year will receive it's Broadway debut.

Now, as much as this pains me, I feel the only way to introduce those of you who are not familiar with The Sun is to direct you to its website.  I deeply regret this, but here you are:


Larry Lamb (1929-2000)
At the time of the play Lamb is in his 40s and is the new editor of The Sun.
Larry Lamb (not to be confused with the actor of the same name) introduced the Page 3 feature to The Sun (for which he was editor from 1969 to 1972, and then again from 1975 to 1981), which saw a dramatic increase in sale in the 1970s. He also applied the term 'Winter of Discontent' to the series of strikes over the winter of 1978–79. In 1985, during his time as editor of the Daily Express, Lamb declared that the unconditional release of Nelson Mandela, imprisoned ANC leader in apartheid South Africa, would be "a crass error".

Rupert Muroch (1931-present)
At the time of the play in his 30s and owner of The Sun.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Murdoch acquired a number of newspapers in Australia and New Zealand before expanding into the United Kingdom in 1969, taking over the News of the World, followed closely by The Sun. In 1974, Murdoch moved to New York City, to expand into the U.S. market; however, he retained interests in Australia and Britain. In 1981, Murdoch bought The Times, his first British broadsheet (large sized newspaper as opposed to the now much more regular sized tabloid) and, in 1985, became a naturalized U.S. citizen, giving up his Australian citizenship, to satisfy the legal requirement for U.S. television ownership.
In 1986, keen to adopt newer electronic publishing technologies, Murdoch consolidated his UK printing operations in Wapping, causing bitter industrial disputes. His holding company News Corporation acquired Twentieth Century Fox (1985), HarperCollins (1989), and The Wall Street Journal (2007). Murdoch formed the British broadcaster BSkyB in 1990 and, during the 1990s, expanded into Asian networks and South American television. By 2000, Murdoch's News Corporation owned over 800 companies in more than 50 countries, with a net worth of over $5 billion.
In July 2011, Murdoch faced allegations that his companies, including the News of the World, owned by News Corporation, had been regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty, and public citizens. Murdoch faced police and government investigations into bribery and corruption by the British government and FBI investigations in the U.S. On 21 July 2012, Murdoch resigned as a director of News International. On 1 July 2015, Murdoch left his post as CEO of 21st Century Fox.However, Murdoch and his family continue to own both 21st Century Fox and News Corp through the Murdoch Family Trust.

The American-Australian media billionaire is currently married to Jerry Hall.  
One can't help but wonder what she sees in him.

Hugh Cudlipp (1913-1988)
At the time of the play in his 50s and editor of The Mirror
Cudlipp was Chairman of the Mirror Group of newspapers from 1963 to 1967, where he oversaw the 1964 launch, as a broadsheet, of The Sun. Intended to replace the failing Daily Herald, the choice of format was to prevent it encroaching on Daily Mirror sales. The paper was not successful and, in 1969, was sold to Rupert Murdoch, who turned it into a tabloid imitator of and competitor to the Daily Mirror; by 1978, it was outselling the Mirror.

Stephanie Rahn (1948-present)
At the time of the play in her 20s, a London Model

There are far too many other characters in this play to list!  But I am hoping that all will become clear, but those unfamiliar with the term 'Father of the Chapel' (now 'Mother' too) need to know that it is the title given to a Shop Steward representing a Trade Union.

James Graham (1982-present)
James Graham is a contemporary playwright whose plays often focus on modern Britain.  He currently has Loves Labours playing to critical acclaim in London.

Friday, July 13, 2018

1st August - Long Day's Journey into Night

Firstly, I am really sorry that some of  you missed our little 'Celebration' of thanks for your wonderful Christmas gift!  I felt that as Tim & I had had such a fabulous evening, you deserved a little pampering and it was our pleasure to offer you some fizz and a mini-afternoon tea!  

For those of you who enjoyed the incredibly easy lemonade. You do need a food processor:

100g sugar per 2 unwaxed lemons. (I had 8 lemons if that helps with your quantities and made it up in 2 batches)
  • Whizz up the sugar in your mixer until it's fine.
  • Add the lemons, topped, tailed & quartered.
  • Add some water.
  • Whizz on fastest speed 3x
  • Strain. Add some more water to the lemon, stir & strain again.
  • Then pour over ice and add water to taste. I also added some fresh mint.
And now for our August and September Meetings ... this is going to be a long entry on the blog!


Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill (1888-1953)

Long Day's Journey into Night  was written by American playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1941–42 but first published in 1956: the following year O’Neill posthumously received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play is widely considered to be his magnum opus and one of the finest American plays of the 20th century.

The play has an interesting history.   Because it contained so much of his own life in it, O'Neill did not want it ever produced as a play, and did not even want it published during his lifetime, writing to a friend: "There are good reasons in the play itself... why I'm keeping this one very much to myself, as you will appreciate when you read it.

O'Neill did not copyright the play. In 1945 he had a sealed copy of the manuscript placed in the document vault of publisher Random House, instructing that it not be published until 25 years after his death. He sent a second sealed copy to the O'Neill collection at Yale University.

Soon after O'Neill's death, his widow Carlotta Monterey demanded that Random House contravene O'Neill's explicit wishes and publish the play at once. "We refused, of course," wrote publisher Bennett Cerf in his memoirs, "but then were horrified to learn that legally all the cards were in her hand. … I do not regret that we took the stand we did, because I still think we were right.  Monterey had the play published by the Yale University Press in 1956, with the bulk of the proceeds deeded to Yale's Eugene O'Neill Collection and for scholarships at its drama school.

The Play

The play takes place on a single day in August 1912, from around 8:30 a.m. to midnight. The setting is the seaside Connecticut home of the Tyrones' Monte Cristo Cottage. The four main characters are the semi-autobiographical representations of O'Neill himself, his older brother, and their parents.

This play portrays a family in a ferociously negative light as the parents and two sons express accusations, blame, and resentments – qualities which are often paired with pathetic and self-defeating attempts at affection, encouragement, tenderness, and yearnings for things to be otherwise. The pain of this family is made worse by their depth of self-understanding and self-analysis, combined with a brutal honesty, as they see it, and an ability to boldly express themselves. The story deals with the mother's addiction to morphine, the family's addiction to whiskey, the father's miserliness, the older brother's licentiousness, and younger brother's illness.

Here are a couple of pictures of the set which I hope will give you an idea of the setting and the atmosphere. 

O'Neill gives very specific instructions about set and costume, and so the following information may well help your enjoyment of the play.


James Tyrone, Sr. – 65 years old. He looks ten years younger and is about five feet eight inches tall but appears taller due to his military-like posture and bearing. He is broad-shouldered and deep-chested and remarkably good-looking for his age with light brown eyes. His speech and movement are those of a classical actor with a studied technique, but he is unpretentious and not temperamental at all with "inclinations still close to his humble beginnings and Irish farmer forebears". His attire is somewhat threadbare and shabby. He wears his clothing to the limit of usefulness. He has been a healthy man his entire life and is free of hang ups and anxieties except for fear of "dying in the poorhouse" and obsession with having money. He has "streaks of sentimental melancholy and rare flashes of intuitive sensibility". He smokes cigars and dislikes being referred to as the "Old Man" by his sons.

Mary Cavan Tyrone – 54 years old, the wife and mother of the family who lapses between self-delusion and the haze of her morphine addiction. She is medium height with a young graceful figure, a trifle plump with distinctly Irish facial features. She was once extremely pretty and is still striking. She wears no make-up and her hair is thick, white and perfectly coiffed. She has large, dark, almost black, eyes. She has a soft and attractive voice with a "touch of Irish lilt when she is merry". Mary has been addicted to morphine since the difficult birth of her youngest son Edmund. The doctor who treated her simply gave her painkillers, which led to a longtime morphine addiction that continues to plague her.

James "Jamie", Jr. – 33 years old, the older son. He has thinning hair, an aquiline nose and shows signs of premature disintegration. He has a habitual expression of cynicism. He resembles his father. "On the rare occasions when he smiles without sneering, his personality possesses the remnant of a humorous, romantic, irresponsible Irish charm – the beguiling ne'er-do-well, with a strain of the sentimentally poetic". He is attractive to women and popular with men. He is an actor like his father but has difficulty finding work due to a reputation for being an irresponsible, womanizing alcoholic. He and his father argue a great deal about this. Jamie often refers to his father as "Old Gaspard", a character from the opera Les cloches de Corneville, who is also a miser.

Edmund – 23 years old, the younger and more intellectually and poetically inclined son. He is thin and wiry. He looks like both his parents but more like his mother. He has her big dark eyes and hypersensitive mouth in a long narrow Irish face with dark brown hair and red highlights from the sun. Like his mother, he is extremely nervous. He is in bad health and his cheeks are sunken. Later he is diagnosed with tuberculosis. He is politically inclined to have socialist leanings. He traveled the world by working in the merchant navy and caught tuberculosis while abroad.

Cathleen – "The second girl", she is the summer maid. She is a "buxom Irish peasant", in her early twenties with red cheeks, black hair and blue eyes. She is "amiable, ignorant, clumsy with a well-meaning stupidity".

Several characters are referenced in the play but do not appear on stage:

Eugene Tyrone – A son born before Edmund who died of measles at the age of two. He was infected by Jamie who was seven at the time and had been told not to enter his room but disobeyed. Mary believes that Jamie had the intent of hurting 

Bridget – A cook.

McGuire – A real estate agent who has swindled James Tyrone in the past.

Shaughnessy – A tenant on a farm owned by the Tyrones.

Harker – A friend of James Tyrone, "the Standard Oil millionaire", owns a neighboring farm to Shaughnessy with whom he gets into conflicts, often postulated to be based on Edward Harkness, Standard Oil heir, who had a summer home nearby in Waterford, Connecticut.

Doctor Hardy – The Tyrones' physician, whom the other family members don't think much of.

Captain Turner – The Tyrones' neighbor.

Smythe – A garage assistant whom James hired as a chauffeur for Mary. Mary suspects he is intentionally damaging the car to provide work for the garage.

The mistress – A woman with whom James had had an affair before his marriage, who had later sued him causing Mary to be shunned by her friends as someone with undesirable social connections.

Mary's father – Died of tuberculosis.

James's parents and siblings – The family immigrated to the United States when James was 8 years old. Two years later the father abandoned the family and returned to Ireland where he died after ingesting rat poison. It was suspected suicide but James refuses to believe that. He had two older brothers and three sisters.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

4 July - One Man, Two Guvnors

Once again, my sincere thanks to Kyung-Sook for hosting, Rina for 'leading' and Margaret for providing an apparently fabulous Strawberry Gateaux last month!

In July we will be reading a well-known comedy and farce, which has toured the world and won many awards.  It is an up-dating of Goldoni's classic Commedia dell'Arte work The Servant of Two Masters.

One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean.

It’s 1963.  Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe, a small-time East End hood, now in Brighton to collect £6,000 from his fiancĂ©e’s dad.  But Roscoe is really his sister Rachel posing as her own dead brother, who’s been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers.

Holed up in The Cricketer’s Arms, the permanently ravenous Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with Stanley Stubbers, who is hiding from the police and waiting to be reunited with Rachel.  To prevent discover, Francis must keep his two guvnors apart.  Simple.

In this highly acclaimed comedy, based on the Commedia dell’Arte The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, sex food and money are never far apart.


  • Francis Henshall 
  • Charlie Clench - Brighton based mobster
  • Pauline Clench - Charlie's daughter, in love with Alan Dangle but engaged to Rosco.
  • Dolly - Feminist bookkeeper of Charlie Clench
  • Lloyd Boateng - Jamaican friend of Clench
  • Harry Dangle - Crooked Rottingdean Solicitor
  • Alan Dangle - Dangle's Son
  • Rachel Crabbe - Sister of the deceased Rocco who we first meet disguised as her late brother
  • Stanley Stubbers - Home Counties, privately educated boyfriend of Rachel Crabbe

Although already famous from his role in The History Boys, this play launched James Cordon's international career.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

6 June - Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?

I think that after our reading last month our run on Ibsen has come to an inglorious end!  Although reportedly his most favoured play, The Master Builder was not such a hit with our group!

This month we have a classic American play by Edward Albee.  Albee's Three Tall Women was my directorial debut and it remains a favourite.

Before saying something (via Wikipedia) about this month's play I'd like to say ...


to Kyung-Sook for offering to host as I am unable to.  I am sure that she, and you, will discover just how much fun I have welcoming you!

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Famous as a film starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, this play was first staged in 1962. It examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship.