Sunday, 29 November 2009

Collapsing Creation, a play by Arthur Meek

When I walked to my seat and sat down facing the set at Downstage Theatre, Wellington, I experienced such disappointment that I complained about it to my husband during the entire 10 min before the show started:  the set was far too white, Victorians would have neither white curtains nor white window-frames in a gentleman's study, the carpet was insipid, the furniture boring, beige and tired, the only picture a lone ancestor in a heavy frame. At some point in all this whingeing, a thought did run quickly through the back of my mind that there might be a reason for the blank walls, should one trust that they knew what they were doing, but the complaining was stronger.

From the moment the play started, I forgot about all that and was riveted. The movement on the stage was so dynamic, so expressive of what the characters were feeling, they were so original and natural in their interactions that I was delighted and fascinated. I have rarely enjoyed a play as much. I found I now liked the set, the roominess which gave the characters plenty of scope, the blank walls which became screens onto which people's shadows or luminescent colours, - greens and purples, blues and reds, very satisfying hues - were projected. I have often seen Peter Hambleton perform and felt this was one of his best performances - the moment when young  Thomas brings his Big Idea to him and his heart sinks - I felt it viscerally.

The play itself pleased me, oh yes it is pleasing: the humour - how Science, in the shape of an increasingly cringeing but dogged servant,  keeps intruding on Mrs Darwin's intimacy with her husband, the fight she leads to be the One and Only in his life, her battle with his obsession, his respect for hers.  Never does Darwin say what might upset her - that is left to the other protagonists, Roberts, the man of faith and Thomas, the young upstart scientist. Both evolve and change believably and shockingly in the course of the play. Themes are interwoven - reproduction, fecundity, kinship, 'the most important part of a tree', a man's life work, the meaning of children, of religion, publish or be damned, various ambitions, different kinds of intimacy, and love and trust, hope and despair.

I think it must become a classic.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Enjoyable coincidences

This may be of no interest to anyone but me: I am busy these days, differently from before. Instead of being pulled this way and that by a confusion of competing priorities, I allocate time correctly - long enough to do what needs to be done at any given time - and stop when it is time to do so, moving on to the next necessary thing, as if carried by a river, flowing with it peacefully. There is little free time, but no feeling of enslavement, no resentment. This happened for the first time a few days ago, and today it happened again: no panic when faced with a large task. I know when to start, and an inner knowledge makes sure that it gets finished on time, as if functioning at an instinctual level.

The same instinct got me my German dictionary, and my books about writing: I bought them years before I needed them, at second hand dealers, not knowing why except that I wanted them and they were not expensive.The German dictionary is a treasure, big, fat and reliable. and if I did not have it already, I would need to buy one for the translation work I do now  which I never expected to do. Two small gold initials are embossed on the red leather cover. They happen to be my husband's and mine.

I don't believe in events that are 'meant to be'. It's a coincidence, an enjoyable one...

I am reading another Jenny Diski, a collection of essays, columns for newspapers, always clever, but not as deep as the Skating to Antarctica. This one is called A View from the Bed and other observations (Virago, 2003). The first sentence is fun:

"It isn't often that I wake in the early hours of the morning to find a happy ending squatting in the corner of my bedroom."

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Great Nanny

Saw Julia and Julie - was that its name ? - film about US TV cook Julia Child, and a present-day writer/cook, cleverly interwoven, and good, pared-down dialogue, endearing characters. Meryl Streep maybe over-acting a bit, but mostly convincing.

The scenes around writing and about the issue of being published or not were upsetting. Close to the bone.

It is distressing to discover how much I want to be able to like the people in movies, and in books, a flaw. Came away from In the Loop - a very good movie, about UK/US politics and a possible war in Iraq - with acute disgust, despite the sometimes witty dialogue, because, entirely believably, none of the characters could remain honest given the pressure. The older the person is supposed to be, the more they are represented as twisted and bitter, while their ambition burns on. Anyone acting ethically or kindly seems a little ridiculous, as if they were living a dream, or in a nursery under the Great Nanny Who rules justly and compassionately over her charges.

Had an insight into a way I might write my book, differently. Off to try it out.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Not knowing everything

Yesterday, translated p. 30 of 120, and it has taken me a month...I am working faster now, both more confident and finding it less tiring. Hopefully it won't take me another 3 months to finish.

There are a number of books to read, which I want to get hold of, for instance one by Diana Athill which she has written now, in her 90th year: Somewhere towards the end. She worked in a management position for a large American publishers and has written another book called Stet, published when she was 83.

P has joined a men's book club; I read last month's offering, a small book by Pat Barker, a psychological thriller, well written , Border Crossing. It has lots of unanswered questions in it and that that feels fine when you read it, people are told what happens though not exactly why. Like in real life.