Sunday, 30 September 2012

F*R*I*E*N*D*S - the TV thingy....

We couldn't find a non-copyright picture of Friends so here's one
we made earlier of the Trevi Fountain in Rome

I once had a conversation with a young woman who told me of her near obsession for the American sitcom Friends. She knew everything about all of the characters - what they ate, how they dressed, what piques and peculiarities each possessed. They weren't the figment of a script writer's imagination. For one young woman they were real people - and they were her real friends!

I have to say that I had very little to contribute to our conversation as I'd never watched an episode of the show in my entire life. But I was intrigued enough to discover what I'd been missing (or not), and this wasn't difficult to do, as the show was being broadcast almost endlessly on one of the digital channels. So I watched a couple of episodes (including one set in London with British counter-culture anarchist Heathcote Williams doing a walk-on) and have to confess that it did nothing for me, though I doubt if I'm the demographic that the show aims at. But I honestly didn't think that any of the cast were brilliant comedy actors, though the audience was evidently of a different opinion as they diligently laughed at everything they said. Or maybe it was the script that I had difficulty with. So I thought I'd write one myself, just to prove that it was impossible for me not to, and here's the rubbish I came up with....

PHOEBE is seated on the couch reading a magazine.
JOEY, a can of beer in his hand, involuntarily sits down on PHOEBE.


JOEY: Gee, sorry, Phoebe, didn’t see you sitting there.


PHOEBE: Like I’ve suddenly become the invisible woman?


ROSS comes in.

ROSS: What’s going on?

JOEY: (to Ross) I think Phoebe’s having her period?


PHOEBE: What was that?

ROSS: Oh, nothing, Phoebe, nothing.

ROSS and JOEY exchange glances.


RACHEL comes in.

RACHEL: Hi, everyone!

There is no response from the others.


RACHEL: OK, I’m gonna go out and come in again.


RACHEL goes out and comes in again.

RACHEL: Hi, everyone.


RACHEL: What’s going on?

ROSS and JOEY point to PHOEBE.

RACHEL: Ah, right, she’s having her period.


PHOEBE:  I am not having my period.  OK?  I’m just sitting here reading my newspaper.

RACHEL sits on the couch next to PHOEBE.

RACHEL:  Phoebe, this is a magazine.


MONICA comes in.

MONICA: Hi, gang. How’s the period, Phoebe?


CHANDLER comes in.

CHANDLER: Hi, everyone. (To MONICA) Phoebe riding the cotton pony?

MONICA: I think so.


CHANDLER: That’s what I thought.


The door bell rings.

ROSS: I’ll get it.

ROSS opens the door.  It is HUGH GRANT.

HUGH: Hi. 


ROSS: Are you….?

HUGH: Er, yes, so they tell me.

ROSS: Right.


HUGH: I’m looking for Phoebe.

CHANDLER:  She’s over there.  (Whispers)  But watch out.   She’s er….you know?….

HUGH:  What?


HUGH:  Oh, right.  Thanks for that.


PHOEBE: Hello, Mr Grant…. Er, Huge…Hugh!…. (Laughter)… Oh, my God. (Laughter)

HUGH: I’m your date, Phoebe. You won me in a competition. But if you’re having your period….?


At this point my inspiration abandoned me, and I can't say I blame it. I've since watched a few more episodes of Friends (including one all the way through!) and I think I'm beginning to understand the attraction of the show. It would be really nice if I could share it. Or on second thoughts, no it wouldn't.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bingo! It's Edward Bond.

Edward Bond's play Bingo, whose central character is William Shakespeare, was first performed at the Northcott Theatre, Devon in 1973, and revived the following year at the Royal Court in London, with John Gielgud in the role of Shakespeare, where it proved an unlikely box office hit for Bond. The attraction of Gielgud as Shakespeare, in a scenario in which Shakespeare kills himself, proved irresistible to playgoers, and the theatre was forced to turn many away, myself included. It was revived once more in 1995 by the Royal Shakespeare Company on a double-bill with The Tempest, when I finally saw it and bought the T-shirt.

The central theme of the play is, to quote Bond himself, 'the relationship between any writer and his society'. He approaches this through an imaginative exploration of the final years of Shakespeare's life, when the poet has retired from the London theatre and is back in Stratford upon Avon. Here we see townspeople suffering from his business activities, specifically his part in the enclosing of farmed land resulting in loss of employment and an increase in the price of grain. 

The play also has scenes of Shakespeare's domestic life, of which less is known than of his business transactions, and his 'merry meeting' in a tavern with Ben Jonson, where Jonson calls him a 'patronizing bastard'.

The plays most recent revival was in February 2012 at the Young Vic in London, with Patrick Stewart in the central role.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Pope Urban VII - the papal troublemaker

Portrait of Urban VII by an unknown artist

On this day 522 years ago, 27th September 1590, Pope Urban VII died of malaria. A virtuous and selfless man, he eschewed all the perks and privileges traditional with his high office - wealth, nepotism, incest, murder, adultery - and in their place decided to dedicate his pontificate to the cause of helping the poor. On the very first day he ordered that money be distributed around the districts of the poor, and that a list of the poor in each parish be established in order to assess their needs. He ever ordered that the bakers of Rome must bake larger loaves and sell them at lower prices. 

And he didn't stop there. He forbade the wearing of silk by Vatican officers and banned the smoking of tobacco in public places. He even cancelled the debts of bankrupts in the Ecclesiastic State.

Then a thunderbolt strikes! Just several days into his pontificate he becomes grievously ill with malaria. The faithful  flock to the churches to pray for his recovery. Forty-eight hours of prayers are ordered. There are processions in the streets around St. Peter's. But to no avail. The pious pope is given his last rites, and just 13 days after his election, he dies.

He is succeeded by Gregory XIV, whose first act as pope is to reward the 52 cardinals who elected him with a gift of 1,000 ecus each. Normal service had been resumed.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The fairy world Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)

The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania (1847)

Scottish artist Sir (Joseph) Noel Paton earned recognition for his painting The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania, which was winner of the Westminster Hall competition of 1847. The painting, together with its sequel The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1849), depict erotic encounters of naked fairies, and form part of the genre of fairy painting, popular at the time.

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania (1849)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Edward Bond's Early Morning

Marianne Faithfull and Moira Redmond in the Royal Court 
production of Edward Bond's Early Morning in 1968.
Photo: Douglas H. Jeffrey

'The events of this play are true'
Edward Bond

Celebrated British playwright Edward Bond's  surrealistic and  controversial  play Early Morning has the distinction of being the only play banned in toto by the Lord Chamberlain, the official theatre censor, whose office was finally abolished in 1968.

The central character is Queen Victoria,
and in the course of the action she strangles her husband Prince Albert with a garter sash (after first poisoning him), and has an affair with Florence Nightingale. 

The reason for the Lord Chamberlain's ban was that the play might have offended the family of the recently dead. After the repeal of the censorship law the play was performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London on 31 March 1968, with Moira Redmond cast as Queen Victoria and Marianne Faithfull as Florence Nightingale. Whether or not it offended the family of the recently dead is not known.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sir Max Beerbohm and Master William Shakespeare, gent.

This caricature of Shakespeare as complicit plagiarist is the work of English satirist and cartoonist Max Beerbohm (1872-1956). Entitled William Shakespeare, His Method of Work, it is the artist's wry comment on the idea (we won't call it a theory) that Francis Bacon was the true author of the works attributed to Shakespeare. 

Our own 'theory' is that the author of the plays - whose identity we have not yet established - used an Irishman by the name of O'Ricky as a conduit between himself and the theatre company. It is self-evident to us that this is the case since the author clearly immortalised O'Ricky in the skull of Yorick, an anagram on his name. 

We can see O'Ricky arriving at the playhouse and handing over the author's latest manuscript to Richard Burbage, perhaps with the words: "Begad, will ye look what I have here, now? 'Tis only the new play by himself, or my name's not Paddy O'Ricky, an' dat's a fact, now".

We recognise that our theory needs further research, but are convinced that in time it will be as incredulous as any other.