Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Robertson Davies, James Blish, and Dorothy Sayers." "I'll take 'Which authors cite Thomas Lovell Beddoes?' for $500, Alex."

Please stop your lion from eating the music
Here at the Riddled Amateur Dramatic Society we have experience of the struggle to wrest incomplete or fragmentary scripts into a fit state for performance, if only because the royalties are lower than for finished work. So we can sympathise with the trustees of the Cornish Bequest and their efforts to stage E. T. A. Hoffmann's opera King Arthur, as recorded in the documentary The Lyre of Orpheus.

Below, for instance, see our recent staging of The King in Yellow. This play remained famously unfinished at the author's death, and certain skeptics deny that it ever existed at all outside of the Library of Babel. But as other bloggers have explained, lacunae in the manuscript were largely filled by James Blish (whose qualifications for that task included his gift for pastiche, and his fondness for all the fantasy greats -- Dunsany, Cabell, James Joyce). Blish's version follows the conventions of Jacobean revenge tragedy: all masques and incest and court intrigue. In the course of an all-night drinking session a script workshop we added the character of Abdul Al-Hazmat to create a non-speaking part for Swearing Bob.
Another Kiwi has just made his dramatic appearance, seeming to morph up out of the floor (on which he was previously laying, prone and concealed) -- a clever piece of stagecraft requiring his costume to be made out of matching carpet. Not Comfortable but such is our commitment to the Thespian muse at RADS that we scoff at questions of personal comfort. If the scene looks familiar, that's probably because it previously featured in our rock opera version of Terminator II.
In the background, see Greenish Hugh and Space-Time Eddie handing out ether-soaked acorns to the audience, which will hasten the process of sending everyone to sleep by the end of Act II, allowing us to skive off to the Old Entomologist for a restorative brandy. This is how we handle the health-and-safety regulations. New Zealand law is quite strict about plays like TKiY, i.e. "dramaturgic productions likely to open the viewer's mind to unspeakable vistas of ontological horror, with a heightened risk of insanity".

Below: Did someone mention Revenge Tragedy?

Anyway... lurching back to The Lyre of Orpheus... Hoffmann's libretto for King Arthur was also far from complete. All the best Arthurian retellings are left unfinished, going back to Chrétien de Troyes. It must be a tradition, or an old charter or something.
So one of the trustees darned the holes with contributions from a contemporaneous poet... one Thomas Lovell Beddoes.

[explaining voice] Beddoes is an interesting case. Chronologically he belonged to the second generation of Romantic poets, but his sensibilities were more antiquarian, and he spent most of his time trying to write Jacobean revenge tragedies, a couple of centuries too late. [/explaining voice]

See how neatly the circle closes?

The next production from the Riddled Amateur Dramatic Society will be The Courier's Tragedy, by Richard Wharfinger. Though firmly within the Jacobean Revenge tradition, this play seldom disturbs the sanity of audiences (and then only members with a predisposition to paranoia).
Generally it's the directors of Courier's Tragedy who are subsequently hit with suicidal insanity, but in RADS, who would notice the difference?


BDR said...

Ozzy Froats with his microscope and turds.

I love Robertson Davies.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

But as other bloggers have explained

Thanks, old chum! I could use the publicity.

fish said...

On this opinion the esteemed BDR and I must disagree. In the middle of reading the Deptford Trilogy, I found myself contemplating whether suicide would actually end the pain I was enduring, or would it persist beyond death.

Mandos said...

Robertson Davies, CanLit hero. When you diss Davies, you diss Canada.

Smut Clyde said...

And the beard! How can you doubt the literary genius of someone with such a beard as that!

fish said...

When you diss Davies, you diss Canada.

Yeah, like I really need a proxy for that...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Speaking of beards, I mean orbs...