Saturday, 23 August 2008

After a trip to the Shaw Festival. . .

Welcome to Julia Hedge's Laces - I hope you find something of interest here. What's likely to turn up is outlined on the righthand side. In turn, I hope to find a community of readers who are as passionate about Woolf, the times she lived in, and the books written during and about that period, as I am.

It's always hard to know exactly where to begin (with anything, not just blogs), but perhaps for this particular endeavour, there's no better place than to tip my hat to the Shaw Festival. Their mandate of putting on plays written (and more recently, set in) the period of Shaw's life makes it one of the most unique theatre companies in the world and of course inspired the thinking behind what my fantasy bookstore would stock. Shaw's long life (1856-1950) includes of course the whole of Virginia Woolf's (1882-1941) and the theatre of late 19th and first half of the 20th century, so a trip out to Niagara-on-the-Lake is always a must for me each summer. The Shaw is particularly good at remounting lost and forgotten plays from this era. Terence Rattigan's After the Dance which I saw last weekend, is a perfect example of what they do best.

This play first opened in June, 1939 and is set in the last years of the 1930s. The characters are a group of friends - the Bright Young Things of the 1920s, too young to have fought in WWI and suffering from survivor guilt, alcoholism, and a sense of the futility and waste of their lives that has come from years of partying and enjoying themselves. David Scott-Fowler is an author trying to write his big book but knowing in his heart that it isn't very good. He's also been recently told that he will die if he doesn't stop drinking. He falls in love with Helen, an earnest, young woman who believes she can save him. His wife Joan, also an alcoholic and madly in love with her husband although she can't bring herself to admit it to him, takes the news badly. When tragedy strikes, all the characters have to "grow up" and face the consequences of their actions, or rather in-actions. This is a suspenseful, poignant play that hooked me right from the beginning. Patrick Galligan, who plays David, has just become my favourite actor at the Shaw (he also gave a marvellous performance as Osborne in Journey's End a few seasons ago). His David is quietly romantic, troubled, guilty and tragic. The supporting cast is also terrific particularly Deborah Hay as Joan and Neil Barclay as David's wise-cracking friend John. Highly recommended if you have a chance to go and see it.
Another rediscovery being mounted this season is Githa Sowerby's The Stepmother. I haven't seen it as it keeps conflicting with another plays that I have tickets for, but I did buy a copy of the play, published by Women's Press. It was written and is set in 1924; you can read more about it here. I often bemoan the fact that people don't read more plays - in many ways I think they are the perfect literary form. The entire work can (usually) be read in a few hours and then hopefully, if one is lucky enough to see a production or multiple productions, can expand infinitely in the imagination. Plays are expensive which is why many bookstores don't stock huge sections. We're fortunate in Toronto to have Theatre Books which is a regular haunt of mine. I also never go to London without making a stop in the National Theatre Bookshop.

So many great playwrights from this period. Kudos to the Shaw Festival for keeping their work alive.

8 comments:

Nancy B T MA said...

I absolutely _adore_ the shoes. They are wonderful. I would love (and covet) them even more if I knew that you actually owned them. :-)

This visit was prompted by clicking on your highlighted name in the the 'Comments' section of Stuck-in-a-Book - where I became fixated on the shoes. I love finding other neat sites that way - from the various bookish blogs.

To close, I want to say I also love your idea of a bookstore.
Nancy (blogless, I'm afraid)

Blithe Spirit said...

Hi Nancy,
Thanks so much for your nice comments. Ah, I wish I owned the shoes but alas no. I found the photo while browsing the net looking for an example of Edwardian shoes I thought the "fictional" Julia Hedges might wear. But I'm keeping my eyes peeled...we just have to wait until Edwardian fashion comes back into style!

slb44 said...

Just discovered your blog via a regular google search of my personal interests which seem to coincide with yours in several areas. So I thought I'd stop by and say hello!

If you enjoyed Patrick Galligan in After the Dance you could go far from wrong by also seeing The Stepmother. Not only is the play a wonderful platform for women's rights and solidarity, PG has a lovely part in it and it resonates beautifully with his role in AtD and Journey's End.

Blithe Spirit said...

Thanks slb44 - I'm definately going to try and see it. I was hoping to catch it when I went back to the Shaw to see one of their limited perfomances of Follies, but it was on at the same time - so since I hated to miss a matinee, I'm going to see After the Dance again! Well, I really did love it.

slb44 said...

Loving your blog btw. I'll be back to comment more as soon as the house renovations finish. *grin*

I'll share a secret with you, I've seen After the Dance twice already. I'm a student of the era and I'm absolutely fascinated by the play and the way it changes from performance to performance. So much so that I and a group of female friends (who are flying in from around the world just to see Patrick Galligan) are booked to go to the closings of both Dance and The Stepmother.

You'll have to post and let me know about your second viewing. I found the play very different the second time around. Perhaps you will to.

Blithe Spirit said...

I will post for sure. One thing that will be different is my viewer's perspective. I saw After the Dance first from the balcony which I quite like for that theatre. My second viewing will be from the centre of the second row, so I'll be closer to the actors but further from seeing the big picture. It'll be interesting - I'm sure I'll concentrate on different details and perhaps even different actors. Your girlfriends' weekend sounds like a lot of fun - so that will be 3 times for you and Dance. Awesome!

slb44 said...

Yes, that will be three times for me and Dance. A Hat Trick as they say in hockey! *g*

I'll be seated one row behind you in the centre for that visit as well. Might I suggest you keep an eye on the mirror over the mantle. I didn't realize what an important role it plays in the production until we'd move to the right hand side of the theatre. It definitely adds a different perspective.

Blithe Spirit said...

Ah, as Agatha Christie said, they do it with mirrors! I will definately keep a look out. Thanks for the tip.