A “masquerade” of story-telling, based on the gothic tale, ‘The Deluge at Norderney’, by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen). Four aristocrats volunteer to face the possibility of death in a farm loft during a flood, so that the family who live there can find room on the little rescue boat. To pass the time until the arrival of dawn when it might be possible for another boat to reach them, they tell each other stories. Although these stories are known only to the teller and often concern events in their own life, the other characters begin to take on roles and enact the stories being told. So the action passes seamlessly from the loft to the locations of the stories, which become like plays within the play, and it feels as if actors and audience have travelled to distant lands, although they never leave the room in which they are imprisoned. The power of story-telling is fully demonstrated, and the two younger characters learn much which may help them in their lives if they survive. The two older characters then allow their masks to fall and their secrets are revealed. One has been living a lie, and the other is not who he says he is, but is unveiled as an anarchist and a murderer. Each has a different reason which made them prepared to allow the flood to carry them away.
“Green Grass Falls”
A woman doctor, who presents a successful TV show, but who leads a barren life with a loveless marriage, is visited by her husband’s young American lover. Once she is allowed into the house she turns the focus of her attention on the doctor herself, pretending to be a lifelong admirer. Although she senses the girl is a fraud, an instinct for self-destruction leads the doctor to become more and more involved with her fantasies, until a lesbian relationship develops between them. It is a dance of love and death. The girl claims not to know who she really is, but that the answer may lie at a place called Green Grass Falls. When they visit Green Grass Falls the doctor slips, or is pushed by the girl, who then steals her identity. After a long recovery involving loss of memory the doctor returns home to find that her husband has died, possibly a victim of the same murderess. While she recovers from this news she discovers that the girl has gained access to her house, armed with a gun. Claiming that she still loves her, the girl insists that they swap identities, and then calls the police. Just as the police arrive she shoots herself as a sacrifice to love, and leaves her traumatised lover to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.
The sinister character ‘Kurtz’ from Joseph Conrad’s novella, “Heart of Darkness”, is given the chance to tell his own story. In Conrad’s tale Kurtz is not so much a man as an idea, a powerful but wounded figure totally corrupted by the cruelties of the Ivory trade in the Congo. In a heart-searching monologue Conrad’s archetypal figure is given flesh and bones, and we see just how he fell from being a gifted musician and a man of grand political ideas, to become the monster who is found by the hero of Conrad’s story. Under the all-transforming power of greed and isolation, civilization and savagery are a hair’s breadth apart.
“The Kings Angel”
Told in a series of short plays, after the manner of the mystery plays of medieval times, the drama tells the story of the young king Charles VIII of France, and his invasion of Italy, which he regarded as a pilgrimage, and his secret belief that he may have found an earth-bound angel to guide him. The angel is in fact a goat herd coerced by an ambitious aristocrat. Deluded by adventurers who hope to make a fortune from his mad crusade, the king naively travels into lands where no victory can be won, encountering extreme and baffling characters like St. Francis de Paul, Ludovico il Moro, Savanorola, and Rodrigo and Cesare Borgia along the way. Surrounded by treachery, he and his “angel” carve a path for themselves which is strange and quixotic, but marks a turning point in history, which became known as the “Renaissance”.
“The Wars of Alexander”
The Wars of Alexander is a new theatrical trilogy on the life of Alexander the Great, which I have created from a forgotten masterpiece “The Warres of Alexander”, apparently by the writer of “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”, with which it shares many stylistic similarities. The original was performed by a single story-teller, but it is so powerfully dramatic that it is easily adapted for the stage. William Shakespeare drew more inspiration from this source than from any other early writing, the letters between Alexander and Darius creating the style which he used in his kingly speeches and soliloquies. Many phrases from it remain in folk memory. Such are “All the kings under the cape of heaven”, “All the world might a widow well then be called”, “Well beseems such a ‘satchel’ to seep thus of life” and “Alas, poor foal” on the death of Alexander’s warhorse in the desert, which Shakespeare echoed in King Lear.
The Trilogy presents not only a polemic against war, but a young man’s search for a father. Within it is seen the meeting of the western Greek philosophy of Aristotle with the eastern Brahmin and Buddhist philosophies brought about by Alexander’s conquests in India, and the curious parallels between the lives of Alexander the Great and Jesus Christ, both of whom claimed divine parentage, both of whom changed the whole world in very different ways, and both of whom died at the early age of 33.
The three plays of the trilogy are “The Childhood of Alexander”, “Alexander and Darius” and “Alexander in India”. The first of these plays now forms the libretto of an opera on which I am now working.
“The Gothic Game Musical”
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