October 2010 Archives

Rebuilding, Remembering & Renewing

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Gillion_Grantsaan.jpgToday is the closing date for the "NotAboutKarenBlixen" exhibition at The Karen Blixen Museum in Rungstedlund, Denmark.  A collection of collaborative work between Kenyan, Danish and other artists from around the world, "NotAboutKarenBlixen" featured an installation performance art piece called "Rebuilding, Remembering & Renewing" by Gillion Grantsaan (pictured above) and Ato Malinda (pictured below).  Gillion and Ato constructed a shanty outside Karen Blixen's writing studio (pictured below), an artistic home for homeless real and imaginary writers in migration.  Gillion and Ato invited a number of writers (including myself) to collaborate on the installation.  Below is the piece I wrote in connection with the installation, which - consistent with the installation's themes of nomadism, immigration, displacement, alienation and assimilation - I developed in Denmark, wrote in Italy, and mailed to the The Karen Blixen Museum from England.

Maya Alexandri's stream-of-consciousness meditation on themes relating to Gillion Grantsaan's and Ato Malinda's installation "Rebuilding, Remembering & Renewing" in the "Not About Karen Blixen" show at The Karen Blixen Museum, Rungstedlund, Denmark

Ato_Malinda&Gillion_Grantsaan.jpgBoats are destabilizing.

On a boat, humans come closest to experiencing the movement of the planet.  Standing on the deck of a water bus in Venice, with the deck rocking beneath me, I place my backpack at my feet and worry about it slipping between the slats of the gangway gate and sinking.  I watch an older couple standing at the wheel of a speedboat passing us.  Neither member of the couple looks to be in great shape, and I am amazed that they remain upright as the lagoon bounces their speedboat into an imitation of an airplane taking-off.

Perhaps because of their ability to connect humans with the reality of the earth's motion, boats are vehicles of momentousness.  Pirates sail on boats.  Slavers carried their human cargo across the world on boats.  Karen Blixen sailed to Kenya, and Paul Gaugin to Tahiti, and King Claudius banished Hamlet to England by boat.

Hamlet was kidnapped by pirates.

Slave_ship.jpgAt Kronberg Castle in Helsingor, Hamlet's abode, the Maritime Museum contains a small visual memento of Denmark's slave trade: a painting of a slave ship below deck (pictured right).  Black people, naked, peer out from where they are stacked in horizontal berths.  Descending into their squalor are a black cabin boy and a black steward, both impeccably dressed.  The painting is beautiful: did the artist think he was documenting a horror?  

In a later room in the Maritime Museum, in an exhibit about Danish emigrants to the United States, the display is accompanied by the following blurb:

In the early days of emigration the voyage was made by sailing ship with the emigrant supplying his own food and drink, which had to keep for up to six weeks without refrigeration.  Added to this was the lack of ventilation and bad hygiene, not to mention seasick passengers.  Even though steamships and increased competition gradually improved conditions one can still safely conclude that a trip in emigrant class was often like a trip on a slave ship - an experience for life!
Whatever the phrase, "experience for life," means, emigrants, colonists and slaves all have it.  Transplants, (mal)adjusters, uprooted, disconnected, identity-inventors - all.  The difference is choice and humanity.  Those who choose to uproot themselves may be crazy, but they're not property.

Paul Gaugin was crazy.  Although he may have been born with a predisposition in this direction, at his death, the cause of his mental illness was syphilis.  Who knows how long syphilis addled his brain?  

When he arrived in Tahiti and learned that missionaries had banished paganism and converted the island a hundred years previously, he was despondent.  He carved his own pantheon of pagan gods.  He was going to out-savage the savages.  He was determined to paint like a primitive.  

What did Gaugin think "painting like a primitive" meant?  Was he seeking a visual palette free from the overbearing influences of the Old Masters, of the Romantics, of the Impressionists?  Was he enraptured by the stereotype of pure, uncorrupted, natural, sexual, uncivilized primitives?  Did he think painting like a primitive was beautiful?  Or was he just crazy?

Mette Gad probably regretted that Gaugin was a colonist (a pariah within the French colonial system in Tahiti, perhaps, but still a colonist), and not a slave.  A crazy husband with no property was no good to her and their five children, freezing in Copenhagen while Paul was sunning his syphilitic phallus in Tahiti.  At least if he'd been a slave, she could have sold him.  (Being married to Paul Gaugin must have been an experience for life.)

Paul Gaugin never enriched Mette Gad, though.  Carl Jacobsen was another matter.  Gaugin's Danish wife correlated with a disproportionately large number of Gaugin's paintings landing in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, the museum in Copenhagen housing Jacobsen's collection.  In the Glyptotek's sophisticated, well-appointed nineteenth century art wing, Gaugin's paintings don't look particularly primitive.  They don't have the appearance of paintings best viewed on a boat.
 
Shack.jpgI wonder if Karen Blixen ever saw the Gaugins in Carl Jacobsen's collection.  If she did, what did she feel?  A visual artist before she was a writer, Karen, too, had painted "primitives."  She, too, had sailed on a boat to live among primitives.  She, too, sought to understand their customs, religion and mindsets.  She, too, had syphilis.  She, too, was a prominent authority on whom Danes relied for information about primitives.  Did she see Paul Gaugin as her kindred?

Boarding my own boat - my imagination - I slip my toes inside Karen Blixen's feet and peer from her eye sockets at Paul Gaugin's painting, "Manao Tupapau."  No, he is not my kindred.  He is not noble; he represents nothing beyond himself.  He's a sexual adventurer among the savages.  I know his kind, and he wouldn't know the Crusades from the Renaissance.

(Isn't there always dissension among the ranks?  Geniuses tend to despise each other.  Byron and Shelley would've eventually hated each other if their premature deaths hadn't prevented them from doing so.  Wordsworth's ultimate treatment of Coleridge is abominable.  Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel Garcia Marquez couldn't remain friends.)

Imagining Karen Blixen viewing the Gaugins in Carl Jacobsen's collection, I am in a kind of matryoshka boat: a boat, within a smaller boat, within a boat smaller still.  In the boat of my imagination, I sail on a boat of another sort: Denmark.  For islands are boats more than other landmasses are.  And the ground in Denmark is moving perceptibly. 

Homogenous cultures breed conservatism that may mask the movement beneath the feet, but in the end it emerges because it exists: boats are destabilizing.  Shaky ground is not the place for an unstable structure, but instability is relative.  Paul Gaugin no doubt sailed on leaky ships, the Venetians rebuilt the Palazzo Ducale on its fire-damaged hulk, and a wobbly ladder didn't prevent Gillion and Ato from constructing the shack.  Instability, after all, lasts only until it is assimilated or eclipsed by the next cataclysm.

Every life - if we're lucky - includes more than one experience for life.   

(All photographs taken by Maya Alexandri)

In memoriam: Father Ignatius Ikunza, S.J.

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Fr_Ignatius_Ikunza.jpgA year and a half ago, I consulted on communications issues for the Jesuit Hakimani Centre, a social justice organization in Nairobi, Kenya.  This job was the occasion of the first - and possibly the last - time I stayed in a monastery.  The priests who were also in residence were very gentle, curious and kind.

The most engaging of the priests I met was Father Ignatius Ikunza, the man responsible for hiring me at the Hakimani Centre, and my boss.  Ignatius, as he insisted on being called, had a marvelous sense of humor, an ingrained instinct for justice and an implacable insistence on tolerance for other views and other people. 

Under his guidance, the Hakimani Centre had embarked on an ambitious program of peace-building, with the goal of a violence-free 2012 national election.  (New York Times coverage of the 2007 election violence here.)  He brought in external consultants to advise about transforming the Hakimani Centre's organizational structure and function, and he fired corrupt staff members.

Ignatius was a visionary.  He'd been raised in rural Western Kenya, tending goats, and he grew up to attend Harvard for theology and Georgetown for his LLM in International Law.  He clerked on the International Criminal Court trying war crimes from the Rwanda genocide.  (Blogger profile of Ignatius here.)  A man who could have gone anywhere and devoted himself to any cause, he returned to the capital of his home country and committed himself to promoting peaceful coexistence among Kenya's many tribes.

I am merely one of thousands of people whose lives have been enriched by Ignatius' insights, guidance and friendship.  For the experience, I am extremely grateful; for the loss, words (as usual) fail to convey my sadness.

Father Ignatius died on 25 September 2010 of liver cancer.  He was 39.

(Picture of Father Ignatius Ikunza taken by Maya Alexandri)  

Puppet master

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DonBecker'sRedAngel.jpg
My dear friend Don Becker has just been the subject of a short video, featuring his puppets and a micro interview.  Don works in miniature, building tiny - but professionally strung - marionettes in a style of unmistakably imaginative and unnerving beauty.  Well worth the minute viewing time.

(Image of Don Becker's puppet, Red Angel, from Don's website)

The spiritual hometown of Jorge Luis Borges

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Being in Venice without thinking of Borges is impossible for me.  Although (unlike many other writers, including Henry James) Borges isn't linked to the city through past residency, many of Borges' stories feature labyrinths, among them "Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth," "The Two Kings and their Two Labyrinths," "House of Asterion" and "Parable of the Palace" from The Aleph and other Stories; and a collection of his stories was published in English under the title, Labyrinths.  The importance of the labyrinth in Borges' work links him inextricably (in my mind) to Venice, a city and spectacular labyrinth in one.

I'd pondered Borges' fascination with labyrinths.  I know I'm not the first, and I'm sure many compelling explanations of Borges' labyrinth obsession exist.  Wandering around Venice yesterday, however, I came up with my own: a labyrinth is a physical representation of the brain's process of attaining insight.

As Jonah Lehrer writes in his New Yorker article, "The Eureka Hunt":

the cortex needs to relax in order to seek out the more remote association in the right hemisphere, which will provide the insight. "The relaxation phase is crucial," [Mark] Jung-Beeman [a cognitive neuroscientist at Northwestern University] said. "That's why so many insights happen during warm showers."  Another ideal moment for insights, according to the scientists, is the early morning, right after we wake up.  The drowsy brain is unwound and disorganized, open to all sorts of unconventional ideas.  The right hemisphere is also unusually active. . . . We do some of our best thinking when we're still half asleep. . . . [To attain insights, w]e must concentrate, but we must concentrate on letting the mind wander.
A labyrinth mirrors a path "unwound and disorganized," and in a labyrinth, we find ourselves wandering, searching our way, "open to all sorts of unconventional" directions.  In a labyrinth, we may feel lost, but we may also stumble on the Minotaur: wild, dangerous and totally original.  To enter a labyrinth is to embark on an expedition which may end in a creative breakthrough - or a despondent failure - but which in any event takes us beyond the routines of day-to-day living.  (And, in a lovely aesthetic lietmotif, the brain and its neural networks look like labyrinths.)

Perhaps, in setting so many of his stories in labyrinths, Borges was consciously or unconsciously referring to his own creative process.  And perhaps, in constructing their city-republic as a labyrinth, the Venetians were invoking the blessing of the gods of genius.  Among these possibilities, however, is one certainty: in the labyrinth of my neural networks, Borges and Venice are tangled up.

(Bolognino Zaltieri's map of Venice from Wikipedia)

The apple in visual art's Garden of Eden

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PaulKlee_Zaubergarten.jpg
Viewing the permanent collection at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection today, I was struck by the explanatory note accompanying Paul Klee's painting, "Zaubergarten (Magic Garden)" (pictured left).  In this painting, the note claimed (I'm paraphrasing), Klee wanted to shed all his preconceived methodologies and techniques and paint like an unlearned child.

Klee's desire sounded familiar.  Having just seen the Gaugin show at the Tate Modern, I read two novels based on Gaugin's life: Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, and Mario Vargas Llosa's This Way to Paradise.  Both novels emphasize Gaugin's desire to paint like a "primitive."

Although to our ears - disinfected, as they've been, by political correctness - painting "like a primitive" sounds dangerously like racist twaddle (premised, as the desire seems to be, on the romantic and inaccurate assumption that primitives are pure, uncivilized, uncorrupted, natural, sexual, etc.), I believe the impulse exhibited by Gaugin, Klee and other modernists is legitimate, non-racist and non-romantic, even if the semantics are now dated.  Here's why:

Humans have been making non-realistic visual art - figurative, but with elements of abstraction, two-dimensionality, fantasy, etc. - for vastly longer than they've been making realistic art.  Despite the horrified reactions of art connoisseurs to the onset of abstraction in the late 19th century (and the continuing bafflement of the public to 20th and 21st century art), the realism of the Renaissance, Enlightenment and Romantic ages (and not the subsequent reintroduction of elements of abstraction) was the aberration.

The post-Renaissance artist desiring to make abstract art, however, faced a problem that didn't arise for his pre-Renaissance counterpart: literacy.  As Walter J. Ong describes in Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, the consciousness of people in primary oral societies is considerably different than that of people in literate societies (see especially pp. 31-77). 

In particular, "the shift from oral to written speech is essentially a shift from sound to visual space."  (p. 117).  While people in primary oral societies experience language as sound, alphabets and print have the tendency "to reduce all sensation and indeed all human experience to visual analogues."  (p. 76.)  Sound, of course, is invisible and dissipates rapidly; words, in Ong's analysis, are "events."  Writing, on the other hand, is visible and "immobile"; words become "things . . . for assimilation by vision."  (p. 91.)

What writing, print and literacy mean for the post-Renaissance artist is that the visual arena is now invaded by the word.  The instinct to seek a primitive state in order to paint is the impulse to return to primary orality, to a consciousness in which language is relegated to sound, and in which the visual sphere is uncoupled from linguistic communication. 

The impulse goads the artist into a near impossible task.  As is explained in Maryanne Wolf's, Proust and the Squid (discussed in this New Yorker article) and Stanislas Dehaene's, Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention (reviewed in the New York Times piece) both primary orality and literacy are encoded at the neurological level in the brain.  I'm no neuroscientist, but I'm guessing that to move from one system to another requires rearranging neural circuitry.  (Ong laments that "we can never forget enough of our familiar present [literacy] to reconstitute in our minds any past [of primary orality] in its full integrity" (p. 15).)

On a more personal level, in writing my last novel, The Celebration Husband, I attempted to portray characters from primary oral societies.  To do so, I needed to achieve an understanding of their thinking patterns, logic, motivations, emotional processes, etc.  Despite extensive research and imaginative effort, I am not confident that I got it right.  Although I believe that the attempt to gain understanding of primary oral consciousness is critical (even in failure), I doubt that a medium of literacy can ever bring to life fully a person from a primary oral society (with the possible exception of poetry).  Visual artists might have a better chance.  In any event, I feel in a small way that through my work on The Celebration Husband I can relate to the quests of Klee, Gaugin and other modernists to reconstruct a primary oral consciousness (even if they didn't understand their mission in those terms).

Significantly, conceptual artists represent an abandonment of this effort of the modernists.  Conceptual artists accept a visual field occupied by the word, and they put the word (and its corollary, ideas) to work in the service of art. 

The effect is necessarily less visually arresting.  After all, we literates already experience a visual sphere cluttered with words; conceptual art may invite us to think differently about those words, but it does not present us with a visual arena in which words are absent, as they are in the art work of a person from a primary oral society (or a child).

Ong describes writing as "a particularly pre-emptive and imperialist activity that tends to assimilate other things to itself."  (p. 12.)  In Klee, Gaugin and other modernists, we may have witnessed the last resistance of visual artists to this imperialism.  And though subsequent generations may not have picked up their fight, these rebel artists produced a legacy on par with that of the Renaissance.  We have yet to see post-modernist artists do the same.

(Image of Paul Klee's Zaubergarten from the Guggenheim website)

An artist and a nobelman

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Mario_Vargas_Llosa.jpg
One of the (many) aspects I admire and appreciate about Mario Vargas Llosa is his interest in visual art.  The connection between visual art and literacy being one of the great passions of my life, I feel a kinship with the author of In Praise of the Stepmother, a novel that includes fantastical elaborations on six great paintings, each of which is reproduced in the text.

I was thinking of Vargas Llosa earlier this week when I was in the Tate Modern.  First, I thought of him when I saw a Francis Bacon akin to the "Head I" that is among the paintings featured in In Praise of the Stepmother.  Then I thought of him as I walked through the Gaugin exhibit.  Gaugin's paintings seemed to court literary exploration.

In the gift shop at the conclusion of the exhibit, I found a copy of Vargas Llosa's novel, This Way to Paradise, which is inspired by Gaugin's life.  Imagine my delight at reading, in the second chapter, Vargas Llosa's take on the creation of Gaugin's masterpiece, "Manao Tupapau."  Vargas Llosa had beat me to the very literary exploration I'd sensed the paintings invited.

Congratulations on the Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa.  The stunning accomplishment of your oeuvre has merited this honor, but more importantly has earned your place among books well-loved for ages.

(Image of Mario Vargas Llosa from The Guardian)

The incredible disappearing play

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All_My_Sons.jpg
Samuel Beckett makes Arthur Miller look like an amateur.

Within 18 hours last week, I saw Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" (at the Apollo Theater in London, pictured left) and Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape" (at the Duchess Theater, pictured below).  The plays are quite different.  "All My Sons" has a relatively big cast and is about family and ideals.  "Krapp's Last Tape" is a one-man show about alienation and mortality.

Nonetheless, the comparison is illuminating.  The aim of both plays is to affirm for each audience member his or her connectedness with the rest of humanity.  "They were all my sons," the father, Joe Keller, says of the twenty-one pilots who died because of faulty parts that he shipped to the military in "All My Sons."  "Let me in," Krapp says to a lover, whose half-moon slit eyes open all the way.  Miller roots moral responsibility in our common humanity; Beckett finds solace from the inevitability of death.

Despite this similarity, the plays' methodologies could not diverge more radically.  Miller works very, very hard to manipulate the audience in "All My Sons."  The plot is painfully contrived and teeters on the brink of melodrama.  The extreme compression of time and events forces the characters into hairpin emotional flip-flops that are tiresome and eventually strain credibility.  Moreover, Miller is hectoringly didactic.  Chris, the son in "All My Sons," resists his father's autocratic worldview, but Miller is just as autocratic with the audience: you will learn this, you will feel this, he intones in the play's subtext.

Krapps_Last_Tape.jpg
Beckett, on the other hand, endows "Krapp's Last Tape" with no plot, simply a scenario: Krapp, on this 69th birthday, listens to a tape he made on his 39th birthday, and then tries to make a tape to mark his 69th year.  Krapp makes no decisions in the play, unless you count his decision to abandon any attempt to finish his 69th birthday tape and return, instead, to listening to the tape he'd made 30 years earlier.  The play happens in real time: the audience peeks in on Krapp for 50 minutes of his life.  Rather than didactic, Beckett is poetic: the play conjures a mood of terrible sorrow about being shut out from life, and holding oneself clenched and aloof from life.  

All theater, of course, is contrived.  The brilliance of the medium is the way the contrivance falls away, and the illusion takes over, allowing the audience a very intense experience of vicarious living - both for its pleasure and edification.  

Miller doesn't trust the audience to be edified, and so he freights his play until the contrivance is too heavy, and suspension of disbelief becomes impossible.  While I wouldn't hazard that Beckett trusts the audience more than Miller, he's more confident: the contrivance of "Krapp's Last Tape" utterly dissolves in the illusion of spying on Krapp's life.  The result is testament to Beckett's genius: the light touch elicits a shattering effect.

(Image from "All My Sons" cast from The Telegraph; image of Michael Gambon in "Krapp's Last Tape" from The Guardian)

Words fail

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WalterJOng.jpg
The New York Review of Books is a superb publication.  I therefore cannot describe the way it has glossed over Walter J. Ong as anything but shocking. 

Ong posits that changes in human society and development is explained by the differences in human consciousness in oral and literate cultures.  Current neuroscientific work is finding support of Ong's theory.

Ong may turn out to be the great and definitive thinker of the second half of the twentieth century, the person who laid the foundation for our understanding of our own consciousness in a technologized (and technologizing) world.  And yet The New York Review of Books contains merely two reviews of his substantial body of writing, the most recent dating from 1968.

The 1968 review, of Ong's The Presence of the Word, is by Frank Kermode, a writer I admire; yet Kermode doesn't strike me in this review as being at his best.  (His gratuitous rudeness - "If one calls the style of [Ong's essays] highly typographic, it is only a way of saying that they have no style at all" - seems out of place, as well as out of character.)

The crux of Kermode's critique is that Ong's study of the impact of the transition from orality to literacy on humans and their societies sets forth a defective theory of history.  In Kermode's analysis, Ong's theory fails for two reasons: (1) the evidence supporting the Ong's theory equally supports other theories, and (2) Ong organizes his evidence to promote a Catholic agenda.

Neither objection seems terribly cogent.  Humans and their history are incredibly complicated, and the ambiguity of evidence supporting theories of human history is commonplace: we should neither be surprised, nor dismissive, when evidence can support multiple theories.  

Moreover, The Presence of the Word (which I have not read) collects adaptations of talks Ong gave as part of the Terry Lectures, the purpose of which is "that the Christian spirit may be natured [sic] in the fullest light of the world's knowledge."  That Ong's talks in this context have a theological agenda is therefore no surprise.

Ong's most important well-known (and probably most important) work, Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word, cannot be tarred with this brush.  The book lays bare Ong's passion for understanding based on truth.  The accusation of subordinating his scholarship to a missionary agenda is offensive - and unsupported: Kermode's claim that [get exact quote] "Ong values orality because it is holy" fades in the face of Ong's numerous assertions in Orality and Literacy that

without writing, human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials . . . . Literacy is absolutely necessary for the development not only of science but also of history, philosophy, explicative understanding of literature and of any art, and indeed for the explanation of language (including oral speech) itself.
(p. 14-15.)  Whether Ong fundamentally revised his theories since The Presence of the Word, or whether Kermode simply misconstrues Ong, I cannot say; but that The New York Review hasn't reviewed Orality and Literacy (or any of Ong's prodigious output since 1968) is a lapse.

In our current globalized, post-colonial environment, we reject notions of historical change that rely on racial (and increasingly, religious) superiority.  The reason for that rejection is not ideology: we believe it's true.  Ong - like Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel - offers us a theory of human social development that is race (and religion) neutral - literacy (not race or religion) is the provocateur.  (For Jared Diamond, geography is the culprit.)  No publication purporting to offer an analysis of our times can fail to engage Ong in some capacity.  To ignore Ong is to court irrelevancy.

(Image of Fr. Walter J. Ong from the St. Louis University Walter J. Ong Archives website)

Thoughts on the staging of Henry IV, parts 1 and 2

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Thinking Shakespeare above mistakes is a mistake.  He's none less great just because someone should have asked for rewrites in certain plays at the time they were originally staged.

I don't count as "mistakes" aspects of the plays that appealed to Elizabethan audiences, but that are less suited to our modern tastes.  Rather, I'm referring to issues that arise in theatrical productions cross-culturally and across centuries.

Henry IV, parts 1 and 2 is prone to one such mistake: dead space onstage.  People onstage waiting, or staring into space, sap energy from the scenes.  Vast swaths of emptiness where the play calls for hub-bub can have the same effect.

Unfortunately, Shakespeare spring-loaded the Henry plays with this trap.  The plays include many pub and market scenes, where many people must be onstage, but only one or two (typically Falstaff and Prince Hal) are talking. 

The plays also include battle scenes where, implausibly, only two people are onstage.  Worse, the plays grind to a halt for inopportune monologues by Falstaff - e.g., his monologue on honor, just before a major battle; his monologue on sack, redundant and slowing of the already slow pace of Henry IV part 2.

These scenes simply don't work as commonly staged.  A pub containing people standing around, watching two people talk, doesn't come across as a real pub.  Where are the ribald conversations?  The games of chance?  The flirting?  Nor does a battle scene with merely two people in it work.  Where's the noise and smoke of the battle?  The movement of fighters and animals across the battlefield?  The chaos of war? 

As for Falstaff's soliloquies, the most promising way to minimize their plot-dragging tendencies is to set them in context - in the swirl of battle preparations, for example - rather than the clear the stage and ask poor Falstaff alone to bear the weight of the entire audience's expectation. 

I appreciate the exigencies of cost and the pragmatics of staging a scene so that everyone in the audience can see it.  Nonetheless, there's no point in having an enormous cast (as one must for the Henry IV plays) and keeping them backstage when they could be put to work onstage.  Nor is there any point in staging a scene that is visible to all, but compelling to none.

The pub and market scenes need real activity - waiters buzzing back and forth, patrons up to their own tricks, pub owners disciplining staff, pickpockets.  The battle scenes need real action, whether offstage in sound or onstage with other fighting or troop movement.  And Falstaff, sociable creature, needs people around him. 

Otherwise, one ends up uttering of the bulky Henry IV plays what Prince Hal cries upon mistaking Falstaff for dead: "could not all this flesh/Keep in a little life?"

(Image of Roger Allam playing Falstaff in the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre's 2010 production of Henry IV, part 1 from The Telegraph)

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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