Man plays a woman pretending to be man

When not playing Richard III at the Apollo recently, Mark Rylance appeared in a parallel production by the same company on the same stage and using the same set.  I am not sure the company did both plays on the same day (extraordinary if they did, amazing even if they didn’t) but the two pieces were certainly done many times a week each for a whole season, now sadly just ended.

If you hadn’t guessed already, the second play was Twelfth Night. As this was a production in the Elizabethan style, the female roles were played by chaps. As there are rather a lot of restrictions on stage performances by school-aged actors, adult men played the female roles rather than the teenaged boys that the Elizabethans would expected to see on stage (acting was no job for a respectable woman until the mid-20th century). The plot calls for a girl to pretend to be her own lost brother in order to gain access to court, and a huge amount of misunderstandings and fun arise as a result, only compounded by the fact that the female parts are acted by males.  Mark Rylance once again plays a blinder, with a terrific performance as Milady who falls for the young man, who is of course the girl, played by a bloke.  If you are confused by this description, you should see the play.

So not only was Richard III ending on the West End stage just as the long lost remains of the real Richard hit the world’s headlines, Twelfth Night ended just after the House of Commons voted to allow those of the same sex to marry. So Milady could nowadays have married her boy lover, even though she was a chap and he was a chap too.  Shakespeare is nothing if not topical, 400 years on…

On the tube to the theatre, a man gave up his seat to me. Tonight a small child of two whom I had never met addressed me as ‘grandpa’!  Just what is going on? I thought I was more or less sixteen, as always…

King Richard III

He of the title may be more associated with Leicester than London, having died there for want of a horse, but I have to say that he inspired a terrific play.  We saw the latest production last weekend at the Apollo, and it was even better than the one put on a year or two back by Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic.  The inestimable Mark Rylance played the last of Plantagenets, to the hilt and beyond, in a wickedly funny and chilling tour de force that didn’t miss a beat.

In this play Shakespeare pretty much coined the character of the overly ambitious, dissembling, murdering, unpredictable psychopath, climbing the greasy pole by stamping on all around, an early Hitler or Stalin (currently Putin or Assad?) conniving and killing his way to the top of the tree, until his downfall, a sticky end which the sickening manner of his rise to power made inevitable.

This production was first seen at the Globe, and much of the atmosphere of that arena was recreated in the frilly-knicker Edwardian surroundings of the Apollo, in part by building two small galleries of seats on the stage itself, so that the actors were almost surrounded by the audience, in the original Elizabethan style.  The costumes too were Elizabethan, and we took our seats in a side gallery by walking through the actors as they dressed and warmed up on stage in front of the audience, as one might have done in the earliest days of the theatre.   The  female roles were played by men, helping further create the illusion that one was watching the original production of the play in 1591.  It was an extraordinary evening.

The 1958 house

Picture 1

Idly looking at some property websites, we came across this house. It’s not the best side but it’s all I can show at present.  It is one of a group of four built in 1958, almost literally on the edge of London. The green belt* stopped London growing any further outwards, at this point.

We had to go and view it, and we both immediately decided we had to have it. There are all sorts of drawbacks of course, but nevertheless we made an offer for it and we’re reasonably optimistic that if we can get a quick offer on our existing house we can clinch a deal with the owner.

He has lived there since it was built and has hardly altered it. So unusual is it to find an unaltered architect-designed ‘modern’ style house, mid-century, that it was recently proposed to be listed (which means given statutory protection from being altered, on account of its architectural or historic interest).  If we do manage to acquire it, we will perhaps try to get it listed once we have carried out some modest updating (without of course harming the features which make it eligible for listing).

So now there is a panic here to get our house fit to place on the market. That long, long list of jobs that need doing, stuck to the fridge years ago as a reproachful daily reminder to Mr Lazy when reaching for the ingredients of yet another cheese sandwich,  is now rapidly getting shorter as items are crossed off.  Tiles have been regrouted, damp patches hidden, handles put on many doors, and so on and so on. We have perhaps 2 weeks before the first viewing.


* The green belt is a designated area of land around most urban areas on which virtually no new development is allowed. The main idea is to prevent towns expanding infinitely and uncontrollably outwards, often swallowing up surrounding villages and causing one town to merge eventually with its neighbours.    In the case of London, the city has grown to about 40 miles across in just this way, before the policy took real effect in 1947 and stopped the endless spread of suburbia.

A little puzzle

I’ve been wondering for a few days now how to start this blog.  In addition, I have puzzled over what to post in it,  once I  eventually manage to start it up.  Anyway, now that I have started it, I realise  that I have to decide upon a look, so I’d better do that before I deter anyone from reading further by the current default look, which is a bit dull.

Ok, I’m going for it. I have missed blogging, for a few weeks now.  So I am going to hit ‘publish’.  Publish and be damned seems an appropriate quote at this slightly tiddly juncture.

There…now I’ve been and gone and done it…