Once the readership of this blog soared into double figures I took a six month sabbatical. Now that I’m returning to it on the last day of 2011 and in the middle of a run of Charley’s Aunt at The Guthrie, I’ve finally managed to break a leg. Actually it was a torn hamstring, but as so few us are reading, you’ll forgive the license. In passing I’ll mention that the editor has told me to make this returned-to-version leaner and meaner at 500 words a pop.
Charley’s Aunt has to be in the forefront of silliest plays ever written, but it’s one of the funnest to perform. Mostly because that great theatre sound, the sound of several hundred people all laughing at once is a great tonic. I mean where else can you get that?
Not in congress! At post play discussions I sometimes say that farce (Charley’s Aunt) is a naturally popular form in England, because for years now we’ve run the whole country on farcical lines. Now I see that trend is catching on with our American cousins. And I say this with all respect due and now that I have become a British American.
It’s a big circle for me to be involved here. Charley’s Aunt was just about the first play I ever saw, it was certainly the first time I was taken backstage. I was about twelve, and Tom Courtenay was giving us his ‘Lord Fancourt-Babberly’ – the one, you’ll remember, who personates Charley’s hitherto unknown Aunt.
I was utterly charmed by the experience, and it took me back when one of our audience here in Minneapolis told me that seeing our production had made him laugh so much that his stomach hurt – back when I was twelve I laughed so much my face hurt and my cheeks were stuck near my ears. Back then when we went behind the scenes I was introduced to an actor by the name of Wolfe Morris, he was playing Spettigue. Fifteen years later I was in a British production and played one of the lively undergrads, a character called Jack, notoriously tricky by the way because he is the ‘engine of the play’ (the author’s words, not mine), and is mostly the comic feed, the straight man. Now, forty years later, I’m playing the old fart, yes Spettigue. Time passes eh?
But let’s get back to politics.
Taking citizenship I thought I was privy to the finest of The United States ideals – how did that thing go? Give us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses longing to be free … we were 150 strong in the room where we took the oath, 42 nationalities represented. And in the course of the ceremony, with the New World genius for self-congratulation, we gave ourselves six standing ovations.
Do you know the difference between American politics and British politics?
There is no difference, they are the same.
Except that in America you don’t have the two drink minimum.
Happy New Year!