Susan Hogan, Bill Richardson, Bunny Watson & A Remington Portable Model 5Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday night's performance in Granville Island, of the Art Club's Age of Arousal (a play written by Linda Griffiths and directed by Katrina Dunn) initiated an activity in my head similar to that primitive computer game Pong. Ideas and associations were bouncing off and I almost became giddy with my excitement. I had an intense Bunny Watson moment. What's that? Read below.
Bunny Watson was a Canadian radio program, which aired Saturday evenings on CBC Radio One and Sunday evenings on CBC Radio Two.
Named for Katharine Hepburn's librarian character in the movie Desk Set, the show was hosted by Bill Richardson, below, right, and was produced by Jennifer Van Evra and Tod Elvidge in Vancouver. Inspired by the Hepburn character's quote that she "associates many things with many things", Richardson explored a particular theme each week through his personal associations with music, literature and film.
The show first aired in the fall of 2004. In one of the show's most notable episodes, on October 2, 2004, the poet and performance artist Meryn Cadell came out as transgender.
The program ceased to air on the full CBC network in 2006, although repeats continued to air in Nunavut until the summer of 2007 to fill a scheduling hole created by time zone differences, and on Radio One's Sirius Satellite Radio channel to fill a scheduling hole created by the satellite channel not broadcasting local programs.
The above is from Wikipedia. I can only add that Bunny Watson was my favourite CBC Radio program. We had the opportunity to enjoy a dazzling and cerebral program but the ratings must have been low so the program was axed and now we have lots of Pablum. And if you must enjoy the dazzling and cerebral (and funny) Bill Richardson then "your thing" better be the opera.
In January 2006 I started this blog. Its framework is inspired by Richardson's Bunny Watson. I like to somehow bring together things that outwardly may seem disparate. I firmly believe that our ability to associate is what really makes us human.
If I digress in too many directions, and bore you, don't quit quite yet. Rosemary and I were sitting very close to theatre critic Jerry Wasserman. I watched him during the performance. Like us he did a lot of laughing. I am sure he has written a glowing review here. Now you can quit as I will now digress.
Right off the bat the stage was designed to look like the front end of a vintage Remington typewriter. The curves of a Remington are nearly as sensual as that of a woman. When each act and scene was typed on a projected screen and I heard Chris Hind's (Sound Design/Composer) rendering of a typewriter in action, it was sensual music to my ears. I remembered my grandmother (she was a terrific typist and a stenographer) typing on her Remington Portable Model 5. I now own that precious jewel of a machine.
When Susan Hogan, above, centre (she plays veteran suffragette Mary Barfoot) appeared on stage she threw me back to the last time I had seen her in person. I had photographed her in Egmont, B.C. the summer of 1979.
Laara Sadiq walked on stage. She is the self-styled "definitely odd" Rhoda Nunn who works for Mary Barfoot who runs a typing school for girls of possible ill-repute or down and out. She is precise, quite cold (she makes a wonderful reversal towards the end of the play that had this 66 year old feeling things he should not be feeling if heart attacks are to be avoided.) in her demeanor to Hogan's warmer approach. I was suddenly thrown into thinking of that beautiful William Wyler film The Children's Hour (1961) with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. The two women run a private school for girls and are accused by one of their nasty students of being "definitively odd".
As soon as Kerry Davidson as Virginia Madden, Gwynyth Walsh as Alice Madden and Jennifer Mawhinney as Monica Madden walked on stage I was transported to one of my favourite films of all time, George Kukor's 1939 The Women. The cast was stellar as you had Norma Shearer being almost friendly with Joan Crawford plus there was Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine and the luminous Paulette Goddard, plus of course Hedda Hopper! The performance of these Madden sisters was no less stellar.
When Jennifer Mawhinney's (she looks terrific in a suit, tie and moustache) alcoholic antics hit the stage I had another Bunny Watson moment. She is not at all like Marjorie Main (wonderfully gruff in The Women) but somehow here was a character that had the same matter of factness that Marjorie Main exploited in her Ma Kettle films. And of course Berlin will now have an extra meaning (a funny one) after Jennifer Mawhinney's performance.
But when the only male, Martin Happer, as Everard Barfoot, made his lusty entrance I too felt I was kicked in my nether parts (there is such a line between Rhoda Nunn and Everard Barfoot as they first repel each other). Then when one of the magnets was turned the attraction between them was primal. Warning, the magnets have nothing to do with this play, it's just another Bunny Watson moment! There were no men in The Women! Wait! That dog that walks into one of the scenes in the film. It was a male dog. Ha! Everard Barfoot is the dog of the play.
The funniest moment in The Age of Arousal happens when the women, one by one, faint amply proving one cannot faint twice in quie he same way in the waters of the River Swoon. And yes there is that nasty girl in The Children's Hour who also fakes a fainting spell but is ignored by the good doctor, James Garner.
All in all The Age of Arousal was a play that challenged me, but still managed to make me laugh, lots. After having seen a few plays directed by Ms. Dunn, below, right, I have come to the conclusion that she has a delicate touch and she never makes her presence as a director known. I think I like that. I like that lots.
The young lady dressed like a man with my grandmother's Remington Portable Model 5 is Ivette Hernandez. She is from León, Mexico. Why is she posing dressed as a man? Could she be definitively odd? No. The explanation can be found here. The first photograph of the Royal typewriter was taken by my favourite female photographer, Margaret Bourke-White. She took this picture in the early 30s when people had the novel idea that machines and engineering would save the world and make it better. She took this photograph in the spirit of Linda Griffiths' entertaining play, The Age of Arousal. The play runs until May 9.
I hope I will not have to wait another 30 years to see Susan Hogan again! And if Bill Richardson's Bunny Watson were still on air I could look forward to next week's program on Lillian Hellman, Clare Boothe Luce, Nora Charles and Linda Griffiths.