Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Mysteries of blogging, and amdram



Art of Coarse Acting cover



Several years of books blogging have taught me one thing: I can never, ever predict which entries will provoke the most and best response. Hanging out the Washing is the prime example of a post that I truly thought would be of no interest to anyone but me, and turned out to be one of my most-loved, most shared, and most commented on. As it goes, everyone likes washing lines, and they all had great suggestions for further reading.

Then there's the whole question of bed jackets, and posts and comments that are an endless source of joy to me and many more. 


ARt of Coarse ActingWintle’s Wonders – an obscure Noel Streatfeild children’s book – was another winner. Half of those loving the post were the discerning readers who knew that although her Ballet Shoes is iconic and untouchable, Wonders is an intriguing and more real story, with one of the great slaps in all fiction (Hilary, we love you).

The other half – with perhaps some overlap – were those who recognized the sewing pattern I used to illustrate Rachel’s audition dress: they had made it, or their mother had, they had worn it and loved it in their youth.

What could be more satisfying for a books/clothes blogger than such a reaction?

This: after reading a ballet book for grown ups (by Noel Streatfeild, by coincidence, Pirouette, written under her Susan Scarlett name, blogpost last Friday) I remembered and looked at some other ballet books, and came up with a very casual post on mysterious scenes featuring tights/stockings for dancers in the days before lycra: how did they stay up?

This has now become my most shared and RT-ed post, with comment and social media attention from all over.

As one kind RT-er put it:

The answer turned out to involve pennies and elastic.

And then things got even better. The coins in the waistband trick was used by other performers too, and blog favourite Lissa Evans remembered that this was a feature in The Art of Coarse Acting by Michael Green: a comedy classic about amateur dramatics. I still had a copy on my shelf and I and various other Twitter friends (Sian Notley, looking at you)  spent the evening remembering our favourite bits, with me being called on to find and post some of the better pages, all of us falling about with laughter. I then had to re-read the whole book, and found it even funnier than I remembered. Michael Green was a comic genius, and I would mistrust anyone who didn’t find the book hysterically funny.

He writes for the am-dram characters who can’t remember their lines, blunder into the scenery, and really just want to get to the pub before it shuts: the subtitle of the book is ‘How to Wreck an Amateur Dramatic Society.

There are artful reminsciences of Unpleastantnesses in theatres all over Britain, and anecdotes concerning his friends Askew (and his unfortunate sister Maureen) and Watkins. Anyone who has ever been to the theatre would find this book amusing. But it IS artful too, not just slapstick. Green describes an all-purpose Coarse Costume (note the tights – not enough coins used there…)

Art of Coarse 2


Art of Coarse Acting 4


And then he gives a list of the parts for which it suitable. This is  nothing more than half a page of character names, the small roles of Shakespeare. That’s all it is, but it is just hilarious, I cannot read it without laughing, but I don’t know why. Is it because it sums up the whole of Shakespeare in half a page? Is it the strange existence of King Lear and Corpse of Henry V, in the middle of the servitors, two of Timon’s creditors, another poet and a Pander? Who knows.


Art of Coarse 3


I could keep quoting the whole book, but instead you should each go out and get your own copy. Enjoyment guaranteed.





















19 comments:

  1. Oh, that book sounds fantastic, Moira! I had a peek at the pages you shared, and just loved the wit that was there, even in those brief bits. Little wonder you recommend it so highly. And I couldn't agree with you more. You never know which blog posts will be a big hit...

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    1. It's such a mystery isn't it? I bet you find the same. And yes, that is one funny book.

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  2. That sounds wonderful. Must find it. Thanks for another great recommendation. BTW, I saw a re-tweet of the Pirouette post on Twitter, from a friend, who I never even realised was a fellow Clothes-in-Books fan. The post spreads ever further....

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    1. Oh that's so nice, so glad to hear that! And hope you enjoy the book if you can find a copy.

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  3. I've been a proud owner of The Art of Course Acting and the various plays Michael Green wrote around it for many years, Moira. I think my favorite is "The Cherry Sisters" where everyone is sitting around miserably wishing they could go to Moscow while Piles, the ancient servant, breaks the handle of the samovar and tea comes gushing out. Green was especially clever at parodying Shakespeare ("All's Well That Ends As You Like It"), and he did a nice parody of a murder mystery where some actor gets his cue wrong and the dialogue keeps looping in a circle over and over. I'm giggling just writing this! Thanks for the reminder!

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    1. I should've known you'd know it! I wasn't sure if it had made it across the Atlantic. But then I'm sure actors are the same everywhere. He does obviously have such love for his subject, as well as a talent for parody.

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  4. ...the waistband comes over your ears. Don't forget to cut holes for your eyes.

    Just reading yet another Simon Brett in the Charles Paris series.

    Fortunately I read Michael Green before I got into Fringe Theatre. The human cleat...

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    1. Yes, there's a real affinity between Michael Green and Charles Paris, though I'd never thought of it before.

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  5. Fond Michael Green memories... Can I have a borrow?

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    1. Most certainly can - I have put it to one side for you.

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    2. PS I love it that on my bookshelves it sits next to Graham Greene..

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  6. Wonderful, wonderful book. A few years ago I found a lovely first edition hardback copy, and it sits proudly on my shelf. One of the many bits that I remember is the advice to corpses in whodunnit plays, where you shouldn't strike a difficult pose that you cant hold, but rather be a pair of feet sticking out from behind the sofa.

    When people have had expeience of amateur theatre it does ring a lot of bells. I remember seeing a production of a Sherlock Holmes story on stage quite a few years back, and though the actors were not stars they were the sort of people that you would recognise from the telly. A newspaper review called the actor playing Inspector Lestrade an 'archeypal coarse actor' and he certainly was. Constantly trying to upstage all of his cohorts, going for easy laughs, positioning himself at the best bit of the stage even when it wasn't his scene...he was that actor!

    If Green were writing today, I wonder if he would have talked about Coarse TV presentation. There's one particular prsenter whom I saw on the box again recently, and I remember her earlier career, before she became a 'name'. She used to read the news, and then went into co-presenting shows, and she never lost an opportunity to try and upstage anyone appearing next to her. I got many hours of innocent pleasure watching her collection of smiles, nods, winks, double takes, laughs, coughs, shuffles, tics and sighs employed in drawing attention from her more boring co-stars.

    ggary

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    1. The corpse advice is absolute common sense!
      Upstaging: there's a film called Being Julia (based on Somerset Maugham novella called Theatre) and Annette Bening has a stunning performance as an actress, culminating in some of the best theatrical upstaging ever seen! The film is almost unknown, but she actually got a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Highly recommended.
      Some really charismatic actors can't help it, you can't take your eyes off them when they are on stage. Maggie Smith and Ian McKellen both rather like that.

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  7. Glen might enjoy this. He used to work in amateur theatricals before and for a year or so after we met. He acted, did tech stuff like lighting, etc. We even both worked together on some plays before we left Riverside for Santa Barbara, and I was on his tech crew once. Some fond memories, so not so fond.

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    1. I think anyone who did any amateur theatricals would enjoy this book Tracy!

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  8. Sorry, not sold it to me I'm afraid. Glad it was a source of high entertainment for you though.

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    1. Perhaps you would find one of his other books more to your taste - he wrote about life in many different areas, and he really is very funny. The Art of Coarse Office Life perhaps...

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  9. While catching up today I've seen this one mentioned twice, so now it's on its way to me.

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    1. I hope it will make you laugh - I believe it would cheer up anyone's day! I have just ordered another book by him myself.

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