Pride & Prejudice and Fanny Burney
Thursday, February 11, 2016
|Fanny Burney at age 32, painted by her cousin Edward Francesco Burney 1784-1785|
Sometime around 2001 while rummaging through my then Oakridge Safeway book bin I was intrigued by a large paperback. It was titled Evelina or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World
. The author was Fanny Burney. I knew about her father Charles Burney (1726-1824) who was a minor baroque composer and who wrote interesting accounts of the major composers of his era and as a music scholar wrote A General History of Music History
. He was a proto music critic.
His daughter Frances (Fanny Burney – 1752-1840) had written a sketch of Evelina when she was 14 and anonymously published it in 1778. When she was found out she became famous and led the way for the later novels of Jane Austen.
Evelina was a pleasant but startling revelation as it had many parallels to the novels of Austen who wrote Sense and Sensibility
much later in 1811.
Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress
was Fanny Burney’s second novel and was first published on 12 June 1782, the day before her 30th birthday. Cecilia is a romance but also contains a strong moral message, not only that money does not bring happiness, but also that happiness bought at the price of duty fails to bring peace and joy. What is most interesting is that this novel was an influence on Jane Austen. Austen’s name is listed as a subscriber to Burney’s third novel, Camilla
. And then there is the title of Austen’s most famous book. It derives from a passage in Cecilia:
“The whole of this unfortunate business,” said Dr Lyster, “has been the result of Pride and Prejudice.”
With that bit of Austen trivia out of the way I will jump to my impressions of the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Janet Munsil’s theatrical interpretation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
directed by Sarah Rodgers.
I could rant and rave about the delightful night my Rosemary and I had last Tuesday the 7th at the Stanley. I will rant and rave but first to the important stuff (in my book).
This is actress (I am old fashioned) Naomi Wright who plays Elizabeth Bennet. I am sure that some scholars suspect that Elizabeth Bennet, the principal protagonist of the novel and the play is a version of Jane Austen herself. To me that is so. Watching Wright I was struck by her resemblance as a younger version of my fave Jennifer Lines. From our seats in the upper balcony in my diminishing eyesight she seemed to be a dead-ringer.
If you accept that Elizabeth Bennet is Jane Austen then you can make the jump as I did on all the stuff that Austen could have done with her life if she had lived longer than her 42 years. I can imagine that Austen and Elizabeth Bennet could have written as bravely as what Fanny Burney wrote in 1811 when she had a one breast mastectomy performed without anesthesia:
“Yet—when the dreadful steel was plunged into the breast—cutting through veins—arteries—flesh—nerves—I needed no injunctions not to restrain my cries. I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision—and I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! so excruciating was the agony. When the wound was made, and the instrument was withdrawn, the pain seemed undiminished, for the air that suddenly rushed into those delicate parts felt like a mass of minute but sharp and forked poniards, that were tearing the edges of the wound—but when again I felt the instrument—describing a curve—cutting against the grain, if I may so say, while the flesh resisted in a manner so forcible as to oppose and tire the hand of the operator, who was forced to change from the right to the left—then, indeed, I thought I must have expired.”
For me Naomi Wright’s performance was the anchor of the play.
The other players were all very good. Two men stood out. I like the new and more recent David Marr (Mr. Bennet) who has a light touch for comedy and thankfully has risen over some of the plays where he is forced to play insufferable twits. And any play (even bad ones, can be saved by any performance by Scott Bellis
) who plays the parson Mr. Colins and Mr. Darcy’s housekeeper.
Shirley Broderick plays the scary and nasty Lady Catherine de Bourgh to almost perfection. Why not perfection? In the spirit of Bellis cross-dressed as a woman I would have liked Christopher Gaze as Lady Catherine.
Years ago Crystal Pite
brought to Vancouver the idea of how important choreography (of every movement even those that are not dance) to the Electric Theatre Company’s Eadweard Muybridge – Studies in Motion.
Sarah Rodgers, choreographer Julie Tomaino, ably assisted by Lighting Designer Marsha Sibthorpe and Set Designer Alison Greene created a set, a situation that was always in interesting flux. I thought of a friend, a lighting designer who is bored at having to constantly light theatrical living rooms. This Pride and Prejudice was far from that.
Now for a bit of a personal confession. As an only child I was always riveted to my mother’s account of the other child she had who would have been my sister but was born dead. She was a redhead. In my early 20s I was madly in love with my first cousin Elizabeth Blew who was a redhead. I was distracted from my preference for red haired women by the appearance of a min-skirted blonde with beautiful legs in 1968 who became my wife.
When not watching Naomi Wright’s Elizabeth Bennet I was all eyes for the sexy but nasty redheaded Amanda Lisman (Caroline Bingley) and Georgia Beaty
( a glorious redhead) who played Charlotte Lucas.
The musicians and actors Sarah Donald (Mrs. Gardiner) and Daniel Deorksen (Mr. Gardiner) added to the charming evening.
And I can only point out that Director Sarah Rodgers
is a redhead…and so it seems was Fanny Burney
I Was Dead
Thursday, February 04, 2016
|Las Momias de Guanajuato, Guanajuato, Mexico 1970|
Today, the first day where there is enough normality after our stressful move and I can sit at my computer (it was AWOL for weeks) I thought of the expression, “he is dead”. It occurred to me that there is no real finality in those three words. Finality comes with the addition of, “and buried.”
So I was dead for at least three weeks when I was off facebook (note that facebook should be written in lowercase). Comments and likes disappeared overnight. I was dead. If you are no longer in facebook you are dead. If it cannot be found in Google it does not exist. Kierkegaard would have been depressed.
I wonder what Sartre might have thought of all this. Kierkegaard would have been depressed.
Perhaps it was Christmas 1977 when I sent cards with the above image. There were four of us in the family so I thought it was a good idea. I received many complaints.
Eisenstein in Guanajuato
The Rivals - Bubbly Bath Soap Opera
Thursday, January 14, 2016
|Sitting Luisa Jojic & Emma Slipp - Standing Jenny Wasko-Patterson & Gabrielle Rose - Jan12, 2016|
For those who have gotten this far and want to read my take
of Blackbird Theatre’s production of Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals at the Cultch jump
immediately to Part II
My mother who was a consummate pianist often told me that
after Henry Purcell good English composers faded from history. Since then I
have come to disagree with her but she is not around for me to state my point.
In a similar manner (my ignorance of course) I thought that between Shakespeare's
plays and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of
Being Ernest there was a long vacuum in the English theatre.
My first glimpse to my errors happened in 1971 when I saw
Giuseppe Patroni Griffi’s film 'Tis Pity
She’s a Whore with (yes!) Charlotte Rampling. The film was based in a play,
a tragedy, by English playwright John Ford. It seems the play was performed
between 1629 and 1633.
Then in 2006 I went to a performance of Richard Brinsley
Sheridan’s The School For Scandal.
This was an Arts Club Theatre production at the Stanley and directed splendidly
by Dean Paul Gibson.
This amateur then came at the possibly erroneous deduction
that Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Irish not English - 1751 –1816) was sort of a
low-brow Shakespeare. Besides being a playwright Sheridan was a politician who
served in the British House of Commons for 32 years.
Two events in that show, The School For Scandal, have
remained with me aside from the fact that the play was hilariously funny
Christopher Gaze played two parts and one of them was of a
butler called Humphreys. If you research Sheridan’s play you will find out that
the butler is unnamed. Almost hidden in the credits was that one named C.C.
Humphreys had been consultant on the interpretation and pronunciation of the
I had photographed UBC sports doctor Dr. Doug Clement.
and his wife were sitting in front of me. I wondered why until I checked the
actor credits and found that their daughter Jennifer played the hilariously
named Lady Sneerwell. During this play Jennifer Clement performed the most
realistic faux-sex act I have ever seen on a Vancouver stage. Suffice to note
that my face turned into a very red tomato perhaps in solidarity to the
same-named Clement restaurant on Cambie.
Rosemary and I attended a performance of Blackbird Theatre’s
The Rivals, a play by Sheridan directed by Johnna Wright at the Cultch on
Tuesday. By the opening curtain (there was none) I can assure you that I have
some interesting and convoluted knowledge about this play that may explain
Christopher Gaze’s role as the butler Humphreys in The School For Scandal.
I read a very
fine swashbuckler Jack Absolute
C.C. Humphreys. I was so taken by it that when the next two, The Blooding of Jack Absolute
appeared I read them. By the second novel I found out that Humphreys
now lived in Vancouver with his wife. I contacted him and he came to my studio
and posed with a sabre
. Humphreys, I quickly found out was not only an author,
but also a swordsman and an actor. Before 2003 he had performed Hamlet
and Sheridan’s The Rivals on the
London stage. And you must know that the principal protagonist of The Rivals is
a dashing captain called Jack Absolute.
|C.C. Humphreys as Jack Absolute - 1987|
Humphreys became almost obsessed with the Absolute
character. He came to Vancouver and crashed in then Artistic Director of the
Writer’s Festival, Alma Lee’s basement and wrote Jack Absolute.
Consider then that the actor playing Jack Absolute writes a
novel in which the protagonist is the very man, Jack Absolute and that Absolute
(the protagonist in the novel) goes to the first day performance of The Rivals
and buttonholes Sheridan for writing him into the play.
Captain Jack Absolute
marched forward, his eyes reflecting the flames of a thousand candles.
‘There will be light
enough; there will, as Sir Lucious says, “be very pretty small-sword light,
though it won’t do for long shot.”He raised an imaginary pistol, ‘fired’it with
a loud vocal ‘boom’, then added, “Confound his long shots!’
This last, delivered
in an exaggerated Irish brogue, conjured a huge roar of laughter from the pit
and a smattering of applause from the galleries. The bold Captain had a way
Or was that the actor
In the pit the real
Jack Absolute had suffered more than enough. He rose and squeezed through the
tiny gap between knees and the backs of the benches, trying to obscure as
little of the stage as possible, though his kindly efforts were rewarded with
cries of, ‘Sit down, sirrah,’and ‘Unmannerly dog! Woodward is speaking! From
above, the actors glared down at him before continuing the scene… and when, in
a fury, he’d tracked his old friend Sheridan down, the rogue had barely blinked
at the his misappropriation of Jack’s name and history.
Jack Absolute – C.C. Humphreys - 2003
Since Chris (to friends) Humphreys is a friend of
, Gaze and Dean Paul Gibson decided on that inside joke of
calling the unnamed butler Humphreys in that 2006 production of The School For
If there has to be a rationalization to attend a play on
a cold and rainy Vancouver evening it is simple. It is about three women, all
who are gems. For one the play is directed by Johnna Wright
. Years ago I took
Rosemary to an evening of one act/one actor plays on Granville Island. Between
plays there was a young woman sweeping the theatre floor. The same woman was
selling the wine and sweets during the interval. My wife asked me who she was. “That’s
Johnna Wright, the director!”
, who plays Mrs. Malaprop is a Canadian
national treasure of an actress (I’m old fashioned so I say actress) whose list
of credits is miles long. I remember her best from the Arts Club Theatre
Company’s production of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Directed by Wright’s
father (and Artistic Director of Blackbird Theatre) John Wright
. It is amazing
to see a very good and professional actress do her thing which such skill while
obviously having lots of fun.
The third reason is Emma Slipp.
For reasons I very well
know she is continuously being described as luscious Emma Slipp. This is obvious
the moment the play opens on her
bath in Bath. After having seen her last year in the stage production of Farewell My Lovely
directed by Aaron Bushkowsky (an Arts
Club Theatre production) I
can assure you she is more than a pretty face and etc.
After Tuesday’s performance I felt like this play should
have further exposure, sort of like a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror
Picture Show. I felt like shouting at John Emmet Tracy who plays Faulkland the
retentive pessimist, “Shut up and kiss Julia Mellvile (played with sense and
sensibility by Luisa Jojic). Jojic is the kind of woman I imagine at a public
library front desk making us all swoon under her readers.
Jenny Wasko-Patterson plays a man (David) and a woman(Lucy).
As a woman she is devious and I had no idea on whose side she was.
Duncan Fraser plays the English Gentleman of uncertain
parentage (is he a bastard or not?) to the hilt and Scott Bellis’s is the kind
of American (he is not one in real life) that made me glad I live in Canada.
Kirk Smith as Bob Acres is over the top and fits Humphrey’s
Jack Absolute description as in my Part I. And can he dance!
But it was Martin Happer, as Jack Absolute that I scrutinized
in detail. I had seen him before in The
and I was aware of his dashing good looks and Bruce Wayne square
jaw. His soto-voce to the audience nicely reminded me of Ian Richardson in
House of Cards. He passed muster for me but I wonder how he would have fared in
a mock duel with that other Jack Absolute
The play was so satisfying for me that I came to the late
realization that Bill Millerd is not a theatrical God. If he were he would have
mounted this play.
If anybody here wonders what book Gabrielle Rose is
holding it is Humphrey’s Jack Absolute. Humphrey’s wife requested Rose hold the
book as Rose and Humphreys appeared in a play together many years ago.
At the play I noticed people who were mostly my age. For that younger generation that avoids Shakespeare because the language is difficult, The Rivals offers them the pleasure of listening to a sophisticated English, the manipulation of words in a medium that is understandable and that entertains.
A Quotidian Custom
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
It seems to me that the word routine has been given a bad
name perhaps because of its overuse. A less frequent but with a similar meaning is quotidian or every day.
perhaps around 17 years ago my friend Mark Budgen (who died in the waning
months of 2015) told me that I could get a daily subscription to the New York
then we have been getting the paper daily. It shows up at our doorstep around
four in the morning but on Saturday nights, not later than nine in the evening
the large Sunday edition crashed on that front door. The daily NY Times
initiated a routine that became a never-to-be taken lightly pleasure. This is
the pleasure of having breakfast in bed with my wife in which she gets to read
the NY Times while I read the Vancouver Sun. We alternate then as we also
alternate who prepares the breakfast and brings it up in our Filipino made
wicker tray that we spotted in the little window on the Robson side of the
years ago we had bacon on Sundays. Now breakfast is the same every day except
on insomnia mornings (many with this terrible slow move from the big old house
to the newer small duplex). On those insomnia mornings I make myself a couple
of soft-boiled eggs (3 minutes 45 seconds) and a large mug of very strong
Yorkshire Gold loose tea. On some mornings I make my rosemary her favourite
cream-of-wheat sweetened with brown sugar. She has her usual decaf, a glass of
orange juice while I partake of the smooth and seasoned V-8. Since Venice Bakery disappeared I now get my bake-in-the-oven scissor rolls (no butter or jam on them) at Save-On. Rosemary opts for President's choice Buttermilk Waffles with Bonne Mamam Strawberry jam.When she makes the breakfast she does not use butter on her waffles. When I make it I do. In the picture you see the two little trays with the pills that people of our age seem to need in order to have quotidian life.
times of stress we make sure one of our iPhones (my 3G or her 4) wakes us up
with enough time for breakfast and the papers (and a bath) before we embark on
whatever will be our less satisfying quotidian event of that day.
Note that today we slept in and breakfast was ready at 10:19.
My New Ikea MÄSTERBY Step Stool & My 30 Year Detritus
Sunday, January 10, 2016
Had I known about the collection of stuff I would one day amass, for a few minutes many years ago when I contemplated becoming a Holy Cross Brother, I
would have surely ended up as Brother Alexander Waterhouse-Hayward, C.S.C.
For a few minutes I wondered about being told that I had to
go to one of the missions in Africa and that I was to pack. I knew that into a
suitcase I would have placed a bible, four pairs of black socks, a couple of
black pants, four white shirts, one black sweater and whatever necessary
toiletry and underwear I might need. As an extra I could have picked a couple
of novels and portraits of my father and mother. And that would have been it.
But now in 2016 after 30 years in one home the detritus
of my life is almost overwhelming. It is impossible to give books away and my
many years of National Geographic will have to be trashed. Should I keep at
least one copy of every magazine I ever had a photograph in? I have hundreds of Georgia Straights and at
least 50 covers. What is the use of keeping them? Are they legacy for others?
About 25 years ago my old Sony Trinitron ( I still have a
newer Trinitron) sparked and caught on fire. I had to get rid of it. I went to the Vancouver City Dump and paid a
special fee. This enabled me to enter a cavernous building that went many
(hundreds?) of feet down in what was a spiral route that a huge excavator used.
There was one at the bottom. I was allowed by my fee to lift the Trinitron into
the air and then listen to it crash at the bottom. I must confess that the
pleasure was meaningful.
Today I went to Ikea to buy a kitchen step stool. It is
made of one piece and it is solid and sturdy. With my Ikea step stool in the
back seat of my Malibu and with the trunk full of that aforementioned detritus
I drove a few blocks to a street that had three very large metal bins. With my
stepladder I was able to get high enough up the bin to throw the stuff into it.
The noise while pleasing to the ear was not as satisfying as that Trinitron of
There has to be at least a few good things going when on
is living in Slow Dresden. And getting rid of stuff is that much easier.
A House is Not a Home Until...
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
|Christmas Eve - 1994 - Athlone Street|
My mother used to say that a house was not a home until
you put at least one framed picture on the wall.
This romantic idea of hers I have kept all these years
but of late I have been thinking about the reverse of it. What happens when you
start removing pictures from walls (and if you are frugal as I am you take out
the hanging nails to be re-used)? Does the home suddenly become a house or does
it simply embark on a slow death?
I am not sure but I do note my Rosemary’s grim expression
as she enters this room or that one and sees the bare walls.
Today the carpet cleaning man (a pleasant Iranian)
delivered five cleaned rugs to the new house. They had been removed from our
present house/home. The bare floors in the living room and the dining room were
grim reminders of days to come.
But on the positive side I placed those five carpets on
the floors of the new house which already has some pictures up. Is this new
house becoming a home?
In situations like these in which increments are part of
the process I always think of the co-founders of the calculus, Sir Isaac Newton
and Gotffried Leibniz. I believe that in some way just the re-using of my
hanging nails will bring bits of the old home into the new. We do know that if
you pour a bottle of Scotch in the Pacific Ocean, one can calculate with the
study of ocean currents and with Newton’s and Leibniz’s help the time it will
take for infinitesimal quantities of the liquor to show up on the Pacific.
I also think of the infinitesimal when I consider the
slow death of a home. In my neighbourhood which I call Slow Dresden, the noise
of houses being torn down by excavators, of late, has been reduced simply
because there are few old houses standing. The noise is a cacophony of pain to
my senses and I often wonder if the ghosts and spirits that inhabit all homes
at that point will leave for better haunts.
The days when my Rosemary would confront developers who
were about to cut down trees have ended. There are few trees to cut down but
our present home will give these people ample opportunity to sever them once
they get the permits for their four or five car garages.
I do know that on that final day (the day after the
moving vans?) I will drive my Malibu away and I will never return. I will not
hear the noise when our home, by then a house will cease to be either. I will
imagine it, perhaps. But by then I will be taking my mother’s advice and I will
be hanging pictures in what will be our new home. In my heart I know it will be
Death comes to Athlone
Sullenly & Silently Over The Fragments Of The House