Nothing Like a Dame

A couple of months ago I posted a piece about my having joined a local drama group (A Measure of Success) in which I talked about the fun of performing Shakespeare in open air venues. I had hoped at the time that in any future productions I might be given a bigger role to get my teeth into.  They say be careful what you wish for, and this has never been truer in my case.  Traditionally, for Circle67, the said drama group, winter brings about the pantomime production.  This year it will be Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and I went along to the first reading to see if there might be a suitable part for me. I am always ready to take on a challenge, but being offered the role of the ‘Dame’ was something I was a little unprepared for.

For those readers unfamiliar with the traditional British pantomime, these are productions of popular children’s stories, Cinderella, Aladdin, Snow White, to name but a few, and as well as the traditional story line will contain jokes, songs and dancing. There is always a hero, defined as the ‘principal boy’, usually played by a girl, and the ‘dame’ played by a man (in this case, me). Confusing, eh?  There is always a villain who never wins in the end, and a happy ending for the hero and his girl (sometimes a princess).

Suffice to say, I have never dressed up as a woman before (honestly!), although a comic role, as this is, gives great licence to how it is played. My greatest fear, however, is the fact that I shall have to sing! Over the years my singing voice has not enjoyed the greatest of appreciation by those unfortunate enough to be in its range, although those occasions were usually alcohol induced  with my audience in a similar state. The prospect of singing solo – and sober – in front of a paying audience has filled me with dread.  Hopefully I shall win over the audience other than with my songs. Rehearsals are now under way. No turning back.

Example of a dame    Dame 1

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Write Back in the Groove

Given the dearth of any meaningful writing I have accomplished during the summer months, it is a welcome return tomorrow to the restart of the local writing group, when I might be prompted, prodded and pushed into some more creative writing. It is the encouragement and common purpose of being amongst a group of like-minded people that gives me the impetus to get on with my writing.  Towards a more positive outlook I have enrolled on a weekend residential scriptwriting course next month which I sincerely hope will be worth the investment.

I had a nagging feeling that as a group we had each been tasked with producing something during the summer months. And I had a vague idea that it might have been to produce something prompted by a piece of art.  So, inevitably at the last minute, I have selected a painting by Cezanne: The Card Players, and tried to interpret what might have been occurring in what has been termed ‘human still life’.

the card players

No words are passed between. So serious.

The studied focus of their cards imply

A wordless wager. Each impervious

To the songs and sounds nearby.

He, on the left, with dapper hat and tie

Suggests success. The casual pipe of clay

Confidently clenched. The other seems to sigh,

His downcast, haggard face a giveaway

To what he holds. Upon the table

No money, coins or tokens are seen.

The card play may merely be amicable,

Where their hands have little between

A friendly shake, exchange of names

And a ‘Thank you, for the games.’

Home Comforts

Having travelled to various parts of the globe in my life, I have surprised myself in recent months by exploring places much closer to home, and I am surprised and amazed that I have not done so before.  It was my youngest daughter’s suggestion, when I asked where she would like to accompany her old dad on a trip, that Dublin might be a good place. I was not disappointed. The city is as friendly and lively as I had been told, and not only because of the Guinness.

It may have been the realisation that a holiday does not have to entail several hours in a cramped aircraft or queuing for a car ferry, that made me decide to spend a summer holiday in Wales. Or, to be more specific, in the delightful city of St Davids on the Pembrokeshire peninsula.

St Davids

OK, the car journey was several hours, but with the opportunity at stopping at places en route.  For example, a small detour took us to Laugharne, where Dylan Thomas lived and this is a picture of me outside his writing shed, hoping I might acquire some inspiration from being there.

Laugharne

St Davids was absolutely delightful and only a couple of miles from a breathtakingly beautiful coast.  Enthused with the enjoyment that can be found on one’s own doorstep, so to speak, I recently travelled with my daughters to Edinburgh. Learning the lesson of hours of driving busy motorways, I elected to go by train, which proved to be a very sound decision.. Glorious countryside and views from the comfort of a train seat.  Edinburgh itself is enthralling, and, once again, I wish I had visited the place earlier in my life.  There is so much to see and enjoy, especially as the ‘fringe’ festival was in full swing when we went. Again, the beauty of the scenery and the coast was entirely captivating.  Whilst I am not a big fan of the word ‘staycation’, I have found that there are plenty of places to see and explore in one’s own country, and avoid the hassle and tensions that are an inevitable part of foreign travel.

Leith

 

 

A Measure of Success

When I moved to this part of the country last September I had it in mind to involve myself in community activities as much as possible, but little did I know that I would end up performing Shakespeare in front of audiences in pub gardens and a castle.

Joining the amateur dramatic group Circle67, who are enjoying their fiftieth anniversary this year, has been a joy. When I attended the meeting for the reading of the summer season Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure, I had no idea that I would be taking part and performing outdoors in the summer evenings to appreciative audiences. Despite my role being small (two lines!), the involvement in rehearsals, the costumes, locations and the friendly members of the group have made the experience one I am eager to repeat.

Of all the locations, the ruins of the ancient castle in the town of Bungay has to be the most special for performing Shakespeare.

Bungay Castle

A lot of fun and teamwork makes the week long ‘tour’ the success it is, as indicated by the reaction and comments from the various audiences. I can’t wait to be a part of the next production which will be the winter pantomime, but hopefully not outdoors!

M4M

The cast waiting to go on ‘stage’ in the pub garden at Laxfield, Suffolk.

Shelf Life – Saving a local #library

I wrote a piece a short while ago about Writers’ Blockage, a state in which with too many projects on the go it is difficult to progress with any one of them. I recently overcame this hurdle and finally resumed a novella I’m writing which had reached a stop at 55,400 words. More than a year had passed since those last words were typed until yesterday, when I read the manuscript from the start again and found it quite good.  I even laughed loud at some humorous passages I had put in.  Having now seen where the plot had stalled, I was able to take a different tack and have since written over a thousand more words and now know exactly how the story will end.  It’s always worth going back to unfinished work and looking at it with fresh eyes. Needless to say I feel quite elated at the prospect of publishing another book. My last one, Shelf Life (available on Amazon) has not actually flown off the shelves, but my marketing flair was never that brilliant anyway.  I just enjoy writing.

shelf-life-cover-1

When I eventually finish my current one, look out for Idle Times of a Failed Buddhist.

Growth Industry

In March this year I wrote about my joy at having moved to a place that had a garden once more but then bemoaned the fact that I had forgotten in the intervening years just what amount of work was involved in keeping such an area up to scratch. Certainly the current place is big enough to keep me busy every day especially as Spring has brought everything into flower, and more especially armies of weeds.  Where do they all come from?  Maintaining the health of border plants, lovingly tended and watered, takes a lot of time and effort, whereas weeds just seem to thrive on neglect, popping up at will and in plentiful numbers, even in the driest of conditions. Even when trying to extract them, you realise when the long root snaps off below the soil that they will reappear in next to no time.

I resist the temptation to use weedkillers or other chemicals in the fight against these persistent interlopers, not least because of the danger to animals and birds and the environment in general. Anyhow, I am seeing the fruits, or more accurately the product, of my earlier trials. I spoke about purchasing seed potatoes in March and in recent weeks have dug the first of these, which have provided delicious additions to the salads we are now having in this hot weather. My success with these, however, will undoubtedly result in my having a crop in excess of what I can consume and will therefore be donating them to friends and colleagues. Nevertheless, for all my complaints about maintenance of the garden and battles with weeds, this has certainly encouraged me to plough on (pun intended!) with leeks, lettuce, and butternut squash.

This is a photo of my potato plants in flower.

Potatoes

Tubers produce fruits,

Subsoil nuggets to nurture.

Organic growing.

 

Acting on Impulse

It has been some time since I performed in public. And on the last occasion it was in one of my own plays and with a view to supporting the local library funds. Since then I have moved to another part of the country and in the past nine months have involved myself in several of the community activities in this rural backwater. Perhaps I’m being a little unfair in calling this delightful town a backwater.  It  may not be a name that is familiar to everyone, nor has it any special historical reference, depending on how special you consider the word ‘special’ but Halesworth in Suffolk certainly has a lot going for it for me.  Not least the local theatre/arts centre, The Cut, which stages some wonderful events and performances through out the year. I think it must have been seeing some live theatre at this venue that caused a resurgence in my desire to walk the boards again.

A writing colleague, who appeared in the company’s last production, suggested I go along to a reading of the current production, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Never having attempted Shakespeare before, I just had to go along to the reading. I consider myself fortunate in being such a newcomer to this well established group of players (the company was set up in 1967) that I was very happy to be given the role of ‘Servant’. The wonderful thing about this summer production is that it is performed in various pubs and gardens in this part of the county over the course of a few weeks.

We are now into the first few weeks of rehearsals and all is going well.  I have already learned my lines (both of them!). As long as I don’t foul up, I may be given a bigger part in the Christmas pantomime.  Can’t wait.