the dramatic scene

March 22, 2018

I’m not a theorist. I’m not an authoritative or reliable commentator on the dramatic scene, the social scene, any scene. I write plays, when I can manage it, and that’s all. That’s the sum of it.

I’ve had two full-length plays produced in London. The first ran a week, and the second ran a year. Of course, there are differences between the two plays. In The Birthday Party I employed a certain amount of dashes in the text, between phrases. In The Caretaker I cut out the dashes and used dots instead. So that instead of, say, “Look, dash, who, dash, I, dash, dash, dash,” the text would read, “Look, dot, dot, dot, who, dot, dot, dot, I, dot, dot, dot, dot.” So it’s possible to deduce from this that dots are more popular than dashes, and that’s why The Caretaker had a longer run than The Birthday Party. The fact that in neither case could you hear the dots and dashes in performance is beside the point. You can’t fool the critics for long. They can tell a dot from a dash a mile off, even if they can hear neither.

Harold Pinter
Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998

Such a weight of words

March 20, 2018

Emanuel Kaja

I have mixed feelings about words myself. Moving among them, sorting them out, watching them appear on the page, from this I derive a considerable pleasure. But at the same time I have another strong feeling about words which amounts to nothing less than nausea. Such a weight of words confronts us day in, day out, words spoken in a context such as this, words written by me and by others, the bulk of it a stale, dead terminology. Given this nausea, it’s very easy to be overcome by it and step back into paralysis. I imagine most writers know something of this kind of paralysis. But if it is possible to confront this nausea, to follow it to its hilt, to move through it and out of it, then it is possible to say that something has occurred, that something has even been achieved.

Harold Pinter
Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998


February 10, 2018

It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.

Noël Coward
Blithe Spirit

his real genius

February 3, 2018

george bernard shaw

(George Bernard) Shaw was a very great man indeed. The danger is that when all the froth and nonsense about his being a philosopher has died down (as it must) a reaction should set in and lead people to forget his real genius. He was a comedian, in his own time, of the very highest order. . . .He was a humorist of the more intellectual kind, a master of satire, art and fantasy like Gilbert, Wilde and Aristophanes. In that class no one had more continuous vitality. He is also, in his prefaces, one of the great masters of plain prose. I have often, in that capacity, held him up as a model to my pupils and have learned much from him myself. Peace to his ashes!

C.S. Lewis
Comedian of Highest Order
Published in The Mark Twain Journal, volume 9 no. 4 (Summer 1954)

Sarah Bernhardt in pensive mood

I exist here in the wrong time and place. This is more than a feeling with me: it is an absolute certainty, I belong elsewhere – “fin de siècle”  Paris, for example!

Yes, a time of ‘semiotic arousal’, and in a place considered the heart of civilisation.

Why not?

The year 1900. The newly gilded Eiffel Tower thrusting into the soft grey underbelly of the evening sky. Lights glowing along the Boulevard de Strasbourg, circles of yellow eating into the gloom. The Théâtre-Français is my destination. Here, the long-awaited premiere of Edmond Rostand’s play L’ Aiglon, staring that most popular of actresses, Sarah Bernhardt, is about to take place.

Ah, Bernhardt, her ripe fifty-five-year-old figure laced into a black satin corset before dressing in the tight uniform of the Duc de Reichstadt. How I would love to charm and seduce her. Together we could sip the best champagne from frosted crystal flutes following her stunning performance. I could unlace that confining corset, and free tiny pale breasts.

During rehearsals of the play, dear Sarah insisted in one scene on having a horse on stage. What Sarah wanted, Sarah got. A horse was duly sent for – but proved too ‘frisky’ for the great actress. A second horse was supplied, but this one, unfortunately, suffered from terrible flatulence, and the many farts erupting from its rear-end were unacceptable to all. A third horse was to be summoned, but Bernhardt had changed her mind. There would be no horse in the scene.

Where was I? Oh, yes, fondling those small but beautiful breasts, lightly kissing the rosette nipples.

Sarah was born Henriette Rosine Bernard and her legendary affairs were the talk of the town. Napoleon III and Edward, Prince of Wales had both taken their delight in Sarah’s naked flesh (not, of course, at the same time!); they were just two of a coterie of lovers attracted to the bright flame that was Sarah Bernhardt. Her body was pale and skinny like a boy’s – which may be why she played so many male parts on stage?

“It’s not that I prefer male roles, it’s that I prefer male minds,” she once commented.

Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900

The Great Exposition Universelle – Paris 1900

Leaving Sarah semi-naked in her dressing room, I exit the theatre and make my way to the Place de la Concord – here I find the brilliantly lighted, multicoloured dome that houses fifty-six ticket offices for the exposition universelle: this is the entrance, Porte Binet, to the exhibition site.

There is, on my righthand, a fifteen foot high plaster statue symbolizing Paris, with great tits and flowing robes designed by Paquin. La Parisienne, sculpted by Paul Moreau–Vauthier, modeled on non-other than Sarah Bernhardt and described by many as ‘The triumph of Prostitution’; it is typical of the use of sculpted allegory throughout the exhibition grounds. No matter where you turn, you are confronted by plump plaster breasts, curvaceous bellies or muscular male athletes, semi-nude, with huge rippling biceps.

Dear Sarah, walking here amongst all this exposed allegorical flesh, would undoubtedly feel a certain dampness in her baggy silken drawers – as, in all probability, do many visiting females. Speaking for the male of the species, I find Loie Fuller’s spectacular dancing in her own art nouveau theater, quite arousing: those whiplash curves match the flowing movements of her body and flying, illuminated veils. It all leads one, inevitably, to remain in the perpendicular throughout her performance.

The most obviously picturesque sections of the exhibition lay along the banks of the Seine. Old Paris on the Right Bank with its gables and spires and its costumed actors; on the Left Bank, overshadowing it, rests the Rue des Nations – great pavilions erected by the many foreign powers (but not the US whose modest building is wedged between Australia and Turkey, elsewhere). Richness metamorphosed into vulgarity. The plaster picturesqueness of the colonial section below the Trocadero, where Javanese nymphets vie with devil dancers from Ceylon, Chinese violins, Spanish castanets, African drums and high pitched wails of Algerian singers, mingle –

And the pretty Moroccan boys with their dark, restless eyes who offer to take your penis in their mouth for a couple of francs. Buggery is slightly more expensive, of course.

Paris moving pavements designed for the Exposition

Moving Pavements designed for the Exposition

Art and sex go hand-in-hand. For the gentleman impossibly aroused by the sights and sounds of the exposition universelle and with no desire for young boys, then beyond the exhibition grounds are the maisons closes, or “shuttered houses”; for example number 12, rue Chabanais, a prestigious bordello where you can bathe with prostitutes in a huge copper bathtub of champagne – for a price! There are other brothels offering more specialised services: dominatrix role play, for example. You can be birched by the dominatrix for five francs a stroke, ‘manual relief’ may be offered afterwards for a further five francs.

Typical Parisian brothel on a quiet day

Paris 1900 is an island of fantasy and pleasure. It is a time of sadomasochistic impulses, Oedipal desires, homosexuality, incest, violence and the irrationality that hides beneath the fragile veneer of civilisation.

Ah, but I cannot remain in this wonderful Paris – I must return to my damp, cold moor at the edge of the world; to this place, home, and my reckless liaisons. To this world where one powerful, egotistical child informs another powerful, egotistical child: ‘My button is bigger than your button!’

Who says satire is dead?

Depressing démarche!

looking for dead things

November 4, 2017

How strange the moon seems! She is like a woman rising from a tomb. She is like a dead woman. One might fancy she was looking for dead things.

Oscar Wilde


April 3, 2017

Bare interior.

Grey Light.

Left and right back, high up, two small windows, curtains drawn.

Front right, a door. Hanging near door, its face to wall, a picture.

Front left, touching each other, covered with an old sheet, two ashbins.

Center, in an armchair on castors, covered with an old sheet, Hamm.

Motionless by the door, his eyes fixed on Hamm, Clov. Very red face.

Brief tableau.

Clov goes and stands under window left. Stiff, staggering walk. He looks up at window left. He turns and looks at window right. He goes and stands under window right. He looks up at window right. He turns and looks at window left. He goes out, comes back immediately with a small step-ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes six steps (for example) towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, gets up on it, draws back curtain. He gets down, takes three steps towards window left, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window left, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. He gets down, takes one step towards window right, goes back for ladder, carries it over and sets it down under window right, gets up on it, looks out of window. Brief laugh. He gets down, goes with ladder towards ashbins, halts, turns, carries back ladder and sets it down under window right, goes to ashbins, removes sheet covering them, folds it over his arm. He raises one lid, stoops and looks into bin. Brief laugh. He closes lid. Same with other bin. He goes to Hamm, removes sheet covering him, folds it over his arm. In a dressing-gown, a stiff toque on his head, a large blood-stained handkerchief over his face, a whistle hanging from his neck, a rug over his knees, thick socks on his feet, Hamm seems to be asleep. Clov looks him over. Brief laugh. He goes to door, halts, turns towards auditorium.

CLOV (fixed gaze, tonelessly):
Finished, it’s finished, nearly finished, it must be nearly finished.
Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there’s a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap.
I can’t be punished any more.
I’ll go now to my kitchen, ten feet by ten feet by ten feet, and wait for him to whistle me.
Nice dimensions, nice proportions, I’ll lean on the table, and look at the wall, and wait for him to whistle me.

(He remains a moment motionless, then goes out. He comes back immediately, goes to window right, takes up the ladder and carries it out. Pause. Hamm stirs. He yawns under the handkerchief. He removes the handkerchief from his face. Very red face. Glasses with black lenses.)

Me –
(he yawns)
– to play.
(He takes off his glasses, wipes his eyes, his face, the glasses, puts them on again, folds the handkerchief and puts it back neatly in the breast pocket of his dressing gown. He clears his throat, joins the tips of his fingers.)
Can there be misery –
(he yawns)
– loftier than mine? No doubt. Formerly. But now?
My father?
My mother?
My… dog?
Oh I am willing to believe they suffer as much as such creatures can suffer. But does that mean their sufferings equal mine? No doubt.
No, all is a –
(he yawns)
– bsolute,
the bigger a man is the fuller he is.
(Pause. Gloomily.)
And the emptier.
(He sniffs.)
No, alone.
What dreams! Those forests!
Enough, it’s time it ended, in the shelter, too.
And yet I hesitate, I hesitate to… to end. Yes, there it is, it’s time it ended and yet I hesitate to –
(He yawns.)
– to end.
God, I’m tired, I’d be better off in bed.
(He whistles. Enter Clov immediately. He halts beside the chair.)
You pollute the air!
Get me ready, I’m going to bed.

Samuel Beckett

To dream without sleep

March 25, 2017

Diary 24th / 25th March

Question: What is the hardest thing to write about?

Answer: Happiness – anyone car write about misery, it’s easy. But real happiness with all its stubborn imperfections is the subject matter of great writers (unfortunately, I’m far from being a great writer).

My own writing evokes an inner world, a world of projections, fantasies and demonic illusions – or such is my intention. It is a world of emotionally greedy women, men whose incredible egoism is pushing them towards madness, and precocious adolescents who form an integral part (whether willingly or not) of the “ME” generation, which we seem to have created during the past three decades. All in their own way are seeking love and happiness; and all are sublimely selfish, considering only themselves in the paths they choose to take.


In good art we do not ask for realism; we ask for truth.


Pussy is a good moisturiser for the whole face. I like to apply it nightly. Even daily if the opportunity presents itself.


I have some sympathy with Oscar Wilde when he said: ‘I have no objection to anyone’s sex life as long as they don’t practice it in the street and frighten the horses.’ No one should ever want to frighten the horses.


‘As a musician I tell you that if you were to suppress adultery, fanaticism, crime, evil, the supernatural, there would no longer be the means for writing one note’ – so said Georges Bizet, and I totally agree.


Diary 6th December

Muggy this morning. The sky fell on the moor during the night, smothering it and its few inhabitants in this damp closeness.


Yesterday I did a little work. A very little work. Finished reading “About KANE: the playwright and the work” by Graham Saunders. Here, we are able to read Sarah Kane’s own words on her plays. For example this, on ascribing meaning to the play “Crave”:

‘I was trying to do something different with Crave which was in a way about not releasing control, but about opening up options. In some ways for me Crave is very specific. It has very fixed and specific meanings in my mind, which no one else can possibly know, unless I told them. For example, who here knows what 199714424 means? None of you knows. I’m the only person that knows – beside the actors – and I’ve no intention of telling anyone what it means. So I can’t possibly expect to see the same production twice.’

An excellent little book, highly recommended.


Diebus ac noctibus…ingemiscit.


And who dealt me the feckin’ Ace of Spades on the day of my birthing? A card of ill omen, if ever there was one, full of malice, misfortune and perhaps death.

Hey, Moth, Come Eat the Flame

November 19, 2016


Diary 19th November

Fact is unstable by its very nature.


Visit to T yesterday. We spent Samhain at her enchanting home with its menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Trees surrounding the house were finally turning to the russet colours of autumn – and so near the end of November, too. It’s very peaceful here. And T is probably the maddest, but most contained woman I have ever met. She works such incredible magic. She is totally at one with her world and the people in it.

She points to a white feather on the ground beneath a chestnut tree. ‘That,’ she says, her voice gentle but totally sincere, ‘is an angel’s feather. It means good luck to us here today.’

And I feel she really believes this feather is fallen from an angel, not from the back of a near albino chicken clucking about in the undergrowth.

How I envy her the simplicity of her chosen lifestyle…

Two years ago her aunt was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. T concentrated single-mindedly on her aunt’s recovery day-in, day-out, for a period of four months. She said at the time, ‘I don’t know if it’ll do any good. These thing are either meant to be or not. We can only try to intervene. It’s all we can do…’

Her aunt’s doctors at Derriford hospital were astonished when a scan showed the cancer in remission. Within two months the cancer had gone and the aunt had made a full recovery. I cannot explain it, but T is convinced her “magic” worked – as it has done many other times in the past.


I have kept notebooks since my twelfth year. During periods of creative sterility, I look back across the years for ‘fresh’ inspiration. Like Dylan Thomas whose mature poems were plagiarised from his much younger self.

What, I wonder, would have been in Shakespeare’s notebook in the years leading up to Macbeth? It take no Oedipus to guess. Cats and toads as familiars to witches, rats without tails that gnaw holes in the bottoms of ships, mariners spell-bound for nine times nine weeks, the vaporous drop on the tip of the moon, plants the roots of which deprive us of reason, air-drawn daggers with gouts of blood, maddened horses that devour each other, charms of all sorts, from the sweltering venom of the toad to grease from a murderer’s gibbet, the strange phenomena of somnambulism, ghost-lore, the behavior of owls. And that is as nothin to the farrago of the notebook which might have preceded Lear!


Gillian Rogers was my first love. I remember still her kisses in the recreation ground after school, fiery things they were, that tasted incredibly of aniseed balls and chocolate, the taste of innocent sin…