Tuesday, 22 May 2007

101 Uses for a (Live?) Puppy

I've always been intrigued by out of date topical references. Like the final chorus of the Suede song Animal Nitrate, in which Brett Anderson (or Bert, as the NME rather gloriously used to call him) sings 'now you're over twenty-one' in the place of 'oh it turns you on'. Listening to that song at the age of twenty, it seemed incredibly potent – the age of consent for heterosexual sex may have been eighteen, but at that stage consenting sex between gay men was still illegal in the UK for those under twenty-one. I was reminded of this today, when I came across an early modern topical reference which initially left me in a state of bafflement greater than that of a twenty-year-old listening to Animal Nitrate in 2007. From Thomas Nabbes's play Tottenham Court, performed at Salisbury Court in 1633 and published in 1638, from a discussion between two tenants who are supposed to be looking for their landlord's missing daughter:

'As sleepy as if I had eaten a Puppie'? Having read this at a point when I was feeling pretty sleepy myself, my initial reaction was to wonder, does eating puppies makes you sleepy? Or did people think that eating puppies might make you sleepy? Are puppies particularly sleepy? Sleepier than, say, kittens? (Having owned neither cat nor dog, I have no data on which to base any theories of relative animal-sleepiness, though I seem to recall that baby guinea pigs were pretty damn snoozy…)

A Google search just gave me sleepy puppies on YouTube, while searching Literature Online revealed nothing except the frankly dubious advice from The Charitable Pestmaster, or, The Cure of the Plague (1641) by Thomas Sherwood, 'Practitioner in PHYSICK', that you can cure someone of the plague by laying a puppy on their stomach:

Sadly (and you're probably ahead of me here), having consulted a review in a 1887 number of Notes and Queries (by putting tiny, tiny bits of text into Google Scholar), it seems that the Tenant's puppies should be poppies. Just a seventeenth-century malapropism, then. Ho hum.

Faustus in London

Dr Faustus
By Christopher Marlowe
Directed by Giles Foreman
Presented by The Caravanserai
Bridewell Theatre

Tuesday - Saturday, 29 May - 2 Jun 2007
Performances at 7.30pm
Saturday 2 Jun 2007
Matinée 14.30

The Caravanserai takes on Marlowe’s classic tale. Dr Faustus wishes to ‘practice more than heavenly power permits’, to transcend the limitations of human perception and to acquire ultimate knowledge.

[Yes, the world - well, Europe - is going sell-your-soul-crazy...]

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Read Not Dead in London

Read Not Dead
Shakespeare's Globe Education Centre Theatre, June-July

In 1995 Globe Education began to explore the plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries in a series of staged readings called Read Not Dead. Since then audiences have enjoyed over 130 plays that had been gathering dust on library shelves. Leading actors and directors have also enjoyed reviving them, turning the readings into ‘performances with scripts’ with entrances and exits, token props and costumes and the occasional song.

The Gentleman of Venice
James Shirley
Sunday 3 June, 3pm

On the one hand, take two young men, one the heroic son of a gardener and the other the dissolute son of a Duke; on the other, take a couple who are unable to conceive a child, and an Englishman abroad. Locating much of its action in the garden of the Duke of Venice, James Shirley's sophisticated tragicomedy plays with the possessive reputation of Italian husbands, the debate about the influence of nature over nurture, and the power of a mother's love.

Blurt Master Constable
Anon (?Dekker)
Sunday 24 June, 3pm

Hippolito and Camillo return to Venice from war with a French prisoner, Fontinelle; Hippolito's sister Violetta is admired by Camillo but promptly falls for Fontinelle; the courtesan Imperia is sent Fontinelle's picture and likes what she sees. This lively and highly musical comedy features a clutch of witty pages, an over-the-top stage-Spaniard, an antiquated suitor, and 'the duke's own image' - Blurt Master Constable.

The Knave in Grain
'J.D., Gent'
Sunday 1 July, 3pm

The seedy side of Venice in the English imagination comes to the fore in this engaging example of Caroline popular theatre, which seems to mingle Shakespeare's Othello and the madhouse plot of Middleton and Rowley's The Changeling. Franciscus, a merchant of Venice, is provoked by the eponymous knave, Julio, into murderous jealousy about his wife, Cornelia, and seems to commit murder as a result; Doctor Vanderman is driven to madness as his wife is pursued by the gallant Vallentius. 'Acted at the Fortune many days together with great applause'.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Faustus and Farces in The Hague

FEATS 2007 - The International Theatre Festival
25-28 May
Royal Theatre (Koninklijke Schouwburg), The Hague

Theatre Groups from Amsterdam, Basel, Bonn, Brussels, The Hague, Lausanne, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Stuttgart and Stockholm will come to The Hague for this International Theatre Festival to perform works in English from, among others, Shaw, Pinter, Marlowe and Tennessee Williams.


Monday 28th May 19:30

Chamber Music by Arthur Kopit (performed by Tagora, Strasbourg)

The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe (performed by ECC, Brussels, directed by Steven Challens)

Renaissance Farces by Rabelais and Boccaccio, adapted by Joseph Strick (performed by ATC, Brussels, directed by Christine Marchand-Long)

Nothing to do with Criticism, or Plays, or the Renaissance, but...

... last night I heard possibly the least glamorous thing ever said onstage by a guitarist to his glamorous lead singer - "you're like a skinny lizard..."

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Women Beware Women in Cardiff

Women Beware Women by Thomas Middleton
Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Friday, May 25, 2007
to Saturday, June 02, 2007

Directed by Martin Houghton

Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women is Romeo and Juilet for grown-ups. It begins pretty much where Shakespeare's vision of breathless adolescent romance ends: with a newly married couple, eloped from Venice, arriving in Florence. The husband's tragic mistake is to go to work. Young, horny Leantio would like to stay at home all day in bed with his bride, Bianca. But he decides to be responsible: "Man loves best/ When his care's most." Husbands get cuckolded when they are away at work, doing their breadwinner duty. It happens even now. The results can be frightening and often very bloody. A tale of lust, deceit and carnage.

This production contains material which is not suitable for persons aged 14 years or younger.


Admission: £8, £6, £3.50

Venue 2, The Sherman Theatre - Cardiff

To book tickets, please contact The Sherman Theatre Box Office: Tel. 029 2064 6900

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Early Modern Soap in Bromley

The Duchess of Malfi
Bromley Little Theatre
Directed by Pauline Armour
Friday, 18th - Saturday, 26th May 2007
A beautiful young widow, her two villainous brothers, a mystery lover, a treacherous spy, a wanton seductress - intrigue, lust, horror, madness and murder...

An episode of Desperate Housewives, Dynasty, Coronation Street or Eastenders?... No... The Duchess of Malfi, written by the acclaimed Jacobean playwright John Webster, in 1612.

N.B. Bromley Little Theatre is a private Club Theatre with a licensed members’ bar and audiences are required to be members of the theatre or accompanied guests; bookings can be made only by members.

[I've always thought
Desperate Housewives was more Jonsonian, meself...]