Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There’s an out-of-season indolence along the sea front at Shanklin, souvenir shops still shut, entry to the lovely Chine area locked and the cliff-top lift closed till official holiday time begins. None of this detracts from the Isle of Wight's timewarp charm, which starts with the London tube-train waiting at the ferry point to transport the visitor on a rattling journey of nostalgia. As Yannis our host at The Grange says: 'Here you are a time-traveller. You walk down the street and you walk into the 1950s.'
My last Find Your Voice weekend here was a year ago - the 2008 Grangewriters had their reunion while I was back on the island - and though the group was great the weather was not. This time both were fab. Best bits: golden gorse and daffodils, red squirrels playing tag in the pines, spring notes of birdsong, and above all supportive friendly company and wonderful writing, brave, quirky, inventive & funny. For a sample - and a lush seascape image - see Jay's blog where the 'recipe for Shanklin' says it all.

Regular readers - don't laugh, there are some - of this blog may recall my comments on the revival of William Saroyan's play The Time of Your Life last December. I talked about an 'unsatisfying ending' but I wasn't nearly so disparaging as one reviewer of the original London production, 63 years ago this month. "The high spot of the evening was the incursion of an anonymous drunk. For this no marks can be allowed to the author" his summary concluded, adding dryly: "Certainly a play to be seen; one could hardly read it."
It's a voice I remember well. Regular readers of this blog will have to delve the archives a bit to realise why this review struck such a chord with me, as it was back in August last year I wrote "My father was a drama critic and he had a typewriter that must have been twinned with a lemon grater..." Yes, my regular and irregular friends, the H.G.M. at the end of this and several other pieces in Theatre World magazine in March 1946 was himself. My father, younger than I ever knew him but clearly no less acidic.
I owe this emotional reunion to the lost world of my London childhood to a pile of just-post-war issues of this once-premier theatrical magazine, dug out of my dramaturgic friend's attic. "I thought you might like to see these" he said, and indeed I did. Theatre World was heavy on black-and-white photos featuring kohl eyepencil and intense expression, and featured photo-stories of the major productions rather as The Sun uses graphic illustrations on their problem page.
HG continued to review in his own distinctive, often lugubrious, style until the late 70s, and was particularly proud of his appraisal of The Mousetrap: "I give it a week." His review of the 1946 Stratford-upon-Avon Festival concludes: "There were many children in the audience and from them the loudest applause followed the murder of Macduff's son and his mother's screams as she is strangled. Such are these times."

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