The workshop was bursting to the beams this week, with the committee room at Questors groaning under the weight of the students rehearsing in room above. Does stomping and bumping really need to form part of the modern actor’s tuition ? Well, judging by some leaden-footed turns in the West End of late, who are we to judge ? And it all helps those who wish to perform some beat poetry.
Here in the Archives beneath Walpole Park, we have become used to the very ground moving above our feet as the transformative works continue to the Manor. Sir John would surely approve, a man always restless with redecoration – indeed, many a Tuesday was set to the background music of sawing, hammering and swearing as his latest grand design slowly became his next underwhelming knock-through.
We started the workshop with a duet of sorts, as new member Fengfan Zhou read us a famous Chinese poem (about a soon-to-be monk saying goodbye to worldly things) in the original Mandarin, followed by Steven Cowan providing us with his own translation, full of red curtains and fatted carps. Doig Simmonds was next, exploring a very busy delta where children are priests and fear is magnificent, whereas Alan Chambers has been finding the house only full of empty mirrors wheezy clocks. We then had a rare event courtesy of fellow newbie Danuta Sotnik-Kondycki: a song. About AIDS. And really quite funny. Martin Choules, on the other hand, has become a little jaded at a lifetime of setting the world to rights, and Owen Gallagher has been watching the latest get-ahead start-up arms-dealing entrepreneurs.
For Pat Francis, modern communication lacks a certain worlessness, while a Peter Francis told of an older time when a lonely old spinster accused of being a witch may not have been so incorrect, but was still horribly wrong. Christine Shirley has been remembering her parents, while blasphemy was in the air for John Hurley’s take on a picnic provided by a somewhat-peeved messiah. And although it is only November, Daphne Gloag is already thinking of January with her meditation on the Magi, Tintoretto, and the painting that links them. Nayna Kumari, meanwhile, was looking forward to a time when we could shake off our endless hope of finding love, and finally the welcome return of David Hovatter with a tale of how an unseen beetle’s demise brought down the full wrath of Nature.
Such was the noise some weeks, that the poets felt duty-bound to complain, but being poets, they could only do so through the medium of verse. So it was that Johnny Keats protested the round-the-clock renovations with Ode to a Nightingale, while Billy Blake’s Auguries of Innocence hinted at how even woodworms had a right to exist. But the hammering and the harrumphing all fell on Sir John’s deaf ears, and Percy Shelley could do nothing but mutter in a sarcastic tone “look on my works, ye mighty, and despair !”