Solo Bard

As far as we know Shakespeare never wrote a solo. Well there are the poems of course. From time to time some brave actor has a go at the sonnets – an enormous challenge, and there are the narrative poems: Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece and the shorter, The Phoenix and the Turtle and A Lover’s Complaint – you seldom see these last named because if they do get an outing it’s usually a semi-desperate actor struggling to come to notice in one of the further-from-town venues at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Of all playwrights Shakespeare is surely the hardest to destroy.

Patrick Page in All The Devils Are Here. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

By which I mean, although it is distressingly easy to act Shakespeare badly, even when poorly done, something of the essence survives and makes the show worth seeing. Well having said that, I can think of at least one stand out exception at a major institutional theatre. Oh, alright more than one – but even in the worst of The Bard, you can close your eyes and forgive any shortcomings in diction, articulation and breath-support and imagine what your favorite actors would have done with it, can’t you? And if you do that, you can get drunk on the language.

Bad Shakespeare is, I admit pretty disturbing. But think of Shaw badly done, or, I will go further, Ibsen, nay, Pinter. When these masters are chopped up by practitioners that never found the rhythm, the result is often narcotic.

But when Shakespeare is well done … ah, that’s the stuff.

All this is a long preamble to me saying kudos to Patrick Page who has brought us a solo titled, “All the Devils are Here”. The show is an amalgam of theatre lore, well-chosen villainous Shakespearean soliloquies, (with a dash of Marlowe as a celebrity guest) and everyday chat nicely sprinkled with humor.

I persuaded Trish to accompany me on a visit to NYC to watch “All the Devils Are Here.”

It was fabulous.

I had been apprehensive. Sir John (Gielgud) has set the bar (his “Seven Ages of Man” solo) at a height to which few of us can aspire. Although his voice in recordings now sounds firmly rooted in its period; for diction, articulation, breath-control and above all, economy of expression, and once you get through all that, for the simplicity and the force of his characterizations, he stands alone.

Sidebar here: I saw “The Motive and the Cue” in London a few months ago. It has now transferred from The National to the West End, and there has been an announcement that it is hoped to bring it to New York.

The play treats on Gielgud directing Burton in Hamlet in 1964 on Broadway. A fabulous mixture of theatre gossip, and two actors divided by a mutual love of language and all that it can do. If the play does make it over here, run don’t walk for tickets.

But a solo Shakespeare? I half expected to have that experience that Peter Brook describes in his book, The Empty Space, that is to say, mouthing the words of the soliloquies that one half remembers, at the same time being mildly bored because of indifferent delivery from the performer on the stage.

Not a bit of it!

Patrick Page, who is a quality Shakespeare veteran was supported by an excellent production in terms of the lighting, set, and direction as well as his own superb skills as an actor, including a lean physique and strong baritone. His phrasing approached Sinatra-like detail and his vocal variety was finely judged. The show came in at 80 minutes which I think is clever. At 60 minutes the audience has fully tuned in and is thinking, “this could go on for a while” but at ninety minutes, the audience starts to look at its watch.

As well as all that, we had the New York City cosmopolitan experience of running into two dear friends, Carol and Bob, one friendly director, Gus Kaikonen, and a friendly actor Walker Jones – so there was theatre schmooze as well.

If you have Bardic leanings, I highly recommend this show, and even if you don’t!

Go here for tix.


Juice Craziness

DAY 15

“Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt…” Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2. If only the moody prince had done a reboot. The history of world drama would have been completely different.

A few slight modifications to the full monty. I.E.: two cups of coffee per day for the first 5 days, then one cup per day ever since and no withdrawal headaches = big result. Started to transition back to solids two days early so as not to shock my system with Christmas revels. Had a sautéed zucchini, (in coconut oil), three days ago. Two days ago vegetable soup (the best in the world, see recipe below), and yesterday a macaroni cheese from Pret a Manger (can only give it 2 stars). I will have a meal this evening…

I’ve tried juicing independently before, but never got past the first hurdle. Doing the guided reboot, made all the difference. First off, a big thank you to Stacy Kennedy, nutritionist – we had three webinars with her and she was available to answer questions throughout – very helpful with information and techniques.


Click the picture left to get an image with higher resolution of the crazy Aussie who started it all!

They send you an info pack which includes a daily schedule and detailed recipes and a shopping list – extremely useful. Armed with this I was able to order in advance from FreshDirect – if by any chance, anybody reading this would like to use Fresh Direct and you haven’t already done so, email me directly and I can recommend you – we’ll both get $25!

The best feature was the first 5 day transition. Going slowly and keeping some solids in the diet made all the difference.

You need two things to do this successfully:

  1. Organization: Have all the produce to hand before you start. Have a good quality juicer, arm yourself with glass bottles (some plastics can leech toxins).
  2. Time to prepare it: To begin with it took fully two hours from start to finish to prepare a day’s juice, but now, 15 days later I can do it in half the time and I make two days worth at a time.
  3. You don’t need willpower: well, I suppose it helps, but two things are on your side. First, the juices taste fantastic – ok, I made two mistakes, one juicing the skin of citrus fruits, two combining a banana with a beetroot (I know, it makes no sense), but if you follow the recipes you won’t go wrong. Secondly, once you get through the first 3/4 days you don’t feel hungry. Rather, if you feel a pang, just drink some juice, hunger subsides quickly. It gets easier all the time.

Special tip: clean the juicer before you drink the juice (thanks Ferol!).

No before and after pics at this point. This is only phase one. Saving that dramatic poster child image for later. Stats so far:

Skin clearer. Sleep improved. The inner man significantly closer to the outer man. 12 to 13 lbs gone on the juice reboot itself, but 25 lbs since Thanksgiving. Taking a sensible hiatus over the coming revels, but in 2019 looking for more becoming quite a bit less.

If you’re interested check out and his very entertaining and compelling film at

The Best Vegetable Soup Ever Made (Recipe)

Juicing produces a lot of pulp. To make stock, load a large pot with pulp, cover with water, roughly chop an onion and some garlic, bring to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for half an hour.

Strain the pulp twice for maximum yield, bottle the liquid, freeze the remaining pulp for future veggie burger base.

Repeat with three varieties of veggie juice, store in fridge.

When ready, sauté, an onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes 5 – 6 minutes in coconut or other oil, season with salt and pepper. Put into a large pot with: any veggies to hand, I used broccoli, carrots, sweet potato, and leafy greens including fresh parsley. Add the stock. Bring to boil. Mix up some miso, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce, (or flavoring to your taste) add to the soup, taste, add salt and pepper as needed.

Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Blend in a blender being very careful not to splatter yourself with hot soup, add an optional avocado for thicker texture if desired.


A Common Theme

My big recent discovery is that my paternal grandfather’s grandmother was a full blood Aboriginal. Which means that I am one sixteenth indigenous Australian. I am delighted with this news, and consider it a redeeming honor in a troubled genealogy. More of this later.

I’ve been thinking a lot about father/son stories.

Edmund Gosse gave us: Fathers and Sons (which I have not read)

D H Lawrence gave us: Sons and Lovers (which I have)

George MacDonald gave us a Victorian idealization of a son’s duty to his parents in: At the Back of The North Wind

A A Milne gave us an idyllic demonstration of what a father can do in: Winne-the-Pooh

Strindberg wrote a play called The Father, John Mortimer Q.C., Voyage Round My Father. Sir Roland DeBoys got some of it right as a father and quite a lot of it wrong as told in As You Like It.

And so on.

But it is in Hamlet we find the eternal wisdom on death of fathers.

“… but you must know your father lost a father, That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound, In filial obligation, for some term To do obsequious sorrow…”

And then Claudius (who remains unnamed in the play by the way) goes on for a bit about how grief must end, and, says Claudius, to continue going on grieving  is, among other things, “… To reason most absurd, whose common theme is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, from the first corpse till he that dies today, ‘This must be so'”

I’m sure you knew all that already, but isn’t it distantly reminiscent of that story about the Buddha who when importuned by a grieving mother to restore her son to life, finally agrees to do so, on one condition. Namely; that she can find a house where there has been no death.

And that Hamlet stuff is all very true no doubt, but a bit rich coming from Hamlet’s father’s murderer.His own brother, no less.

My point is that irony often follows death.

My own father died recently and left a situation dripping with irony. Fraught with the stuff, entwined and re-entwined. In my case (one of several) I found him a little late in life, but now I’ve lost him. I wonder what Oscar Wilde would say about that?


The final resting place of my father’s last mortal remains. As a man of the sea it seemed appropriate to blend his ashes with the water. The ceremony was attended by his sister-in-law, two of his nieces, and his second son (that we know about). Others were there in spirit.

For a man who once wrote a melancholic paragraph, beginning, “Nobody came to his funeral…” His remembrance stats were quite impressive, there were at least three occasions where he was remembered fondly. Here is an account of one of them:

Ian’s Memorial

There were last minute changes of venue. There were re-directions, wrong turns taken, some uncertainties, u-turns and confusions.

No, I’m not talking about Ian Johnston’s singular path through life, this was just getting to his funeral. I was in a car with my new found brother, David, an impressive Army Reservist by the way, among other things, and his girlfriend, Judy. Both of them excellent folk and precisely the right people to be with navigating this path to remembrance.

We arrived at car park one, where we met Edouard, my other brother and a full time military man. His lovely fiancee, Lital was there too, and his mother, Lizzie. Of the 4 mothers of Ian’s 5 children, Lizzie was the only one able to attend. NB: the above figures, 5 children by 4 mothers, correct at the time of writing. Penelope, David’s daughter, and my niece, came to see her grandfather off too.

And where was my lovely sister, Georgina?

There was some conference among my brothers and we set off for car park two. Lizzie had brought extra umbrellas, also tissues and aspirin. We set off in convoy. It had been raining for days. And was doing so now, but lightly and intermittently. Initially the seven of us in three cars overshot. We did a u-turn as Georgie caught up to us, but not seeing us, passed us, now going the wrong way. Another U-turn and we collected her and then effecting a third U-turn, joined the other two cars, now we were 8 people. All of us with very different relationships to the man we came to remember, and all of us related to each other in the strangest modes and through the most extraordinary discoveries, none of them via the man in question’s own disclosure or design.

So we parked and the rain stopped, and we followed single-file into the bush along a secluded raised walkway, till we came to a secluded small circle overlooking the harbor with the harbor heads in the distance across the bay.

There were photos.

Then we stood, this unique family group, some of whom had only just met for the first time. David, as the oldest (as far as we know) spoke first. He gave a resume of Ian’s life. There were some details that I had not known, or perhaps not retained – that Ian had military involvement himself, for example. And David said how glad he was to find his father and all of us! And we agreed.

Then David read a brief melancholy passage written by Ian himself, which began, “Nobody came to his funeral …”

Among the many and varied ironies of the general situation is the fact that actually in more than one remembrance he was well attended. There was a wake of sorts in his local pub and our gathering here described and we will think and speak of him again in Melbourne.

Years ago when I met Ian for the first time I wrote an account of it, but I had lost the text. I think Peter had kept it and send it to David and David had made copies and brought them. So I was able to read a few paragraphs describing how we met at Central station in Sydney. What wasn’t in the text, but what I told was how much we drank at that first meeting, viz: 3 beers, a bottle of champagne, 2 large iced cointreau’s each, and then we retired to Annandale, where he was living, where we drank a case of beer. It was the drunkest I have ever been, but the old man appeared stone cold sober (I don’t think he can have been).

I recited the farewell from Cymbeline.

“Fear no more the heat of the Sun
Nor the furious winter’s rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must
As chimney sweepers come to dust.”

(I wonder if Wordsworth was thinking of this idea when he wrote in Ode to Immortality … but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home …)?

Georgina spoke next. She spoke of the positive memories she had of Ian, and in the most touching phrase said, “I loved him, although often I didn’t know why.”
Edouard began by saying, “I’ve been hard on him.” – I acknowledged that I had too – and here I say – not without cause! But we remembered him with affection and with love, through all the conflicted feelings.

The rain held off. Until as we left the promontory, it started again. And then we went for a five star dinner. Sending him off with a champagne toast.

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shinning stars to you
Deep peace of the son of peace to you