In honour and celebration of Shakespeare – short play Sweet Desdemona’s Revenge©

The formerly sweet Desdemona plots her revenge against her unjust death while remonstrating with a sorry Othello.

Click on the link to read the play

Sweet Desdemona’s Revenge©

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Turning with the earth

The earth turns in the air. It is an image so evocative that we sometimes forget that everything inside earth is turning in unison with the earth too. Every time, this happens we are in a different space to the one before, moving from there to here wherever that ‘here’ is. There is movement in the word turn. It involves some kind of change, movement, change cannot happen without action. I, turn briefly resting but never stagnating before turning again. It matters not the measurement of the time but the action of the turn itself. Turning provokes movement because like the earth, it can do little else. Idiomatic expressions show this movement, to turn a corner is to pass an important point, to change one’s life. Then expressions such as turn over a new leaf indicating becoming more of who we want to be rather than what we felt forced into being. As teenagers, we turn up the music so as to express the need for change outside inside. It is the softest way to express the violent need or want for the world to turn and be different, an end to warmongering, unfairness and injustice and the celebration of such things. It is maddening that adults sometimes perceive turning up music as bad behaviour. However, turning up music is much more preferable to malevolence or violence, an action that is genuinely designed to hurt or cause pain, to oursleves, to others, and most of all, to the adults worried about kids turning up the “loud music”. The earth knows it, the adults know it, once they were young and they played loud music because they dared to dream a different world. Everything had the possibility of turning, sometimes people return to the centre of where and who they once were, the same but oh so lightly different. Just teenagers tuning out, then in before turning up the volume. I will always be a teenager, turning with the earth, experimenting till it feels right not just outside but inside.

Theatre review: Speed-the-Plow with Lindsay Lohan is one for the women

Performance not personality should rule the roost for those who care what we feel and experience in the theatre. But director Lindsay Posner had to contend with a circus of media madness when he cast Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan for the production of Speed-the-Plow by David Mamet. And cope he did.

Speed-the-Plow is a satire about Hollywood movies. A huge star agrees to appear in a sure-fire commercial hit movie for small-time producer Charlie Fox (Nigel Lindsay), who takes it to big shot producer Bobby Gould (Richard Schiff) to greenlight. But a seedy suggestion planted by Charlie results in the attractive new secretary Karen (Lindsay Lohan) persuading Gould to dump Charlie’s project in favour of her meaningful story resulting from an epiphany. Charlie resorts to any means necessary to get Gould back on track.

Previous reviews concentrated on the private life of a performer with little about the actual performance. Lindsay Lohan, there, yes she is a Hollywood actress, who does things in life as stars and ordinary people do. It was previously reported that Lindsay Lohan could not remember her lines but she seem to delivered them extremely well when I attended. Indeed, the world she created lingered like the finish of a fine claret long after I left the theatre. Lindsay Lohan’s London stage debut in David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow delivered smouldering passion to refresh a character often treated as a sexual object with manipulative objectives. Hollywood producer Gould, played by Richard Schiff, is prone to flattery, favours and manipulation of any kind is suddenly challenged by his attractive new temporary assistant.  Schiff skims the surface of good and bad as he moves between seducing and admiring Karen for her beliefs instead of her body. Lindsay Lohan uses her vulnerable star quality to transform Gould.  Nigel Lindsay is less convincing if only he had spent time making his performance believable rather than his bad and highly unbelievable American accent.

Lindsay Posner, the director manages to shake David Mamet’s play out of the world of Adam and Eve as often seen in the likes of Oleanna and Speed-the-Plow. Posner reveals the usual maligning of manipulating women also has an opposite side, a world which exploits and manipulates naive women. Twist then turn again I say.

Speed the Plow played at the Playhouse Theatre in London.

This is a rather late review, there is a very good reason for my tardiness, alas I cannot recall what it is.

Life is here©

Life is here

not there

folks joke

while birds croak

and cars beep

incremental creep

traffic hums

do the sums bums

winds shuffle

feathers ruffle

rubbing against trees

above greyness hovers

but never over lovers

birds fly

promises ride high

nothing is missed

all is blessed

everything with a place

leaves an invisible trace

Aristotle deconstructed Sophocles like Joseph Campbell explained Joyce

I had an epiphany about myths and story telling this week so naturally I want to share it with everyone.
I have not yet read Finnegan’s Wake but the term ‘monomyth’, as used by Joseph Campbell is taken from Joyce’s work. Joseph Campbell utilised ‘monomyth’ to identify a universal journey of heroism which is the basis of universal myths that work across countries and cultures. Joseph Campbell as you know worked with George Lucas on the original Star Wars. The universal myth structure he discovers is also the basis of rituals and rites of passages in indigenous cultures. Having started to read Joyce’s work, I now know it is personally necessary for me to read more Joyce because he speaks to me but also because Joyce will help internalise the way to write stories with true mythic value that resonates with others.
Campbell notes that Joyce’s writings had three stages that operate on the macro and micro level. The stages comprise of the following: Separation, Initiation and Return. Please see more details to elucidate the journey Campbell identifies. James Joyce’s character Stephen Dedalus (originally called Hero) in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man undergoes the cycles each time he has an epiphany. Stephen comes back changed unable to return to what he was or had before. Campbell identifies the story structure of Joyce in a similar way to how Aristotle analysed the plays of Sophocles in Poetics. A Portrait of the Young Artist follows this very specific personal trajectory which has the universal myth imprint. I have since discovered that the stages of the journey can also be found in reading the collective stories of Dubliners in the order presented. To elaborate, read Birth up to the story Araby, Initiation up to the story A Painful Case and return to the ordinary leads you to Death. For Campbell, universal myths are metaphors but myths should never be taken literally. Campbell believed people who can see myths in their own lifetime and sometimes even in their own life can see this heroic journey being played out. From examining Joyce’s work, Campbell was in search of such figures and clearly saw Joyce could see the myths being played out in his own life and lifetime. As a result, Campbell was able to identify a story structure through Joyce’s work. The study of Joyce informed Campbell who was later able to show universal myths across the world also follow the trajectory of Joyce’s work. This led Campbell to write Hero with a Thousand Faces. I have written up a simplified structure below but if you are a writer, please read Joseph Campbell’s original work or look up monomyth on Google and read Joyce’s work on someone who understood the myths of his time and his own lifetime and discover the myths of your time and possibly even your own life.
Joseph Campbell’s heroic journey stages
Birth into the ordinary world leads the character to Separation
1 Birth: The monomyth cycle begins and we see the character is different to others – an archetype showing patterns of human behavior found in dreams, movies and stories universally.
2 Call to Adventure: The character despite being at odds with others or the environment is reluctant to go towards the calling.
3 Helpers/Amulet: Something, a person or a calling show the character a different way.
Initiation takes the character into a special world
4 Crossing the Threshold: The character is forced or realises he/she must undergo an ordeal or face the unknown.
5 Tests: The character must undergo a series of tests on a journey toward the climax.
6 Helpers: The character may be helped by a a loyal companion or pursue a calling.
7 Climax/The Final Battle: A crisis or battle heads towards a particular resolution.
8 Flight: The character becomes a hero, fights opposing forces or is given the elixir freely.
Return of the character to the ordinary world changed
9 Return: The hero returns to the ordinary world awakened, reborn and resurrected.
10 Elixir: The object, knowledge, blessing or realisation can now be put to use in the everyday world and the hero can stay and share with others or leave as the truly enlightened.
The journey must involve a change, Joyce’s epiphany, the beat in a script, the response to a reversal in a Shakespeare play. Campbell wrote some notes on art and Joyce’s work. These were kindly provided to me by London’s Literary Salon director Ms Toby Brothers on this very point. Campbell lays out his thoughts on proper and improper art. Real art does not just represent, it offers or brings change and continues to evolve. True art never dies.
The hero’s journey structure follows the journey of various religious figures but this classical story structure identified by Joseph Campbell is also found in Hollywood classics. It adds to the form identified by Aristotle when he studied the reasons for the enduring popularity of Sophocles plays. Similar story structures can be found in the works of Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen and Arthur Miller. You will also find these structures embedded in the poetry of William Blake, in songs by John Lennon, Joseph Haydn and the work of Kadinsky.
Lastly these heroic figures underwent their own mythic journeys. So I wish who ever read my blog and any others the best of luck with whatever your mythic journey is.

Aristotle Drama and the Classic form

Readers of my blog know about my obsession with the classic form. Even if none of us had ever read the work of Aristotle, we know and understand the fundamentals of good drama when we discuss plot, characters and story. However, it took someone like Aristotle to explain exactly why great writers stokes audiences. Aristotle dissected the fundamentals of plays to discover the key principles of classic drama. Poetics freed writers to expand the classic form and this is why Aristotle’s principles of writing good drama continue to be of great significance today.

I studied Poetics because it was vital for me to have Aristotle’s key principles present in my work after I discovered that all the works that stoked me from childhood to adulthood originate from this form. Upon studying the work, I soon realised this classic form also exists in music and poetry I love. The problem for me is to be able to express Aristotle’s fundamental principles without it feeling contrived when you write. There is usually a flow which takes shape when this happens. I myself, am put off by contrived situations on screen and in print. I now realise the only way to avoid this is to practice until the the form becomes second nature in my work. Only then, will I be able to play with the form. I examined the work of Aristotle sometime ago but I now intend to return to the work again and I hope this is useful to other writers like me. Apologies if it is basic but I believe in starting from somewhere.

Aristotle, who lived between 384-322BC, wrote ‘Poetics’ but the work is not known to have been widely circulated or published in his lifetime. The discovery of Poetics years after Aristotle’s death has since influenced the dynamics of writing drama and poetry. The impact includes but is not limited to Poetics being properly translated in Italy during the Italian Renaissance and the time of Shakespeare in 1600. An Oriental version existed in 935AD. The classic form highlighted by Aristotle can be found in the works of Henrik Ibsen, Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Miller, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon etc. The impact of Poetics has been considerable. I have written a short summary of Poetics but the original text, which is only 50 pages is a great read. It can be found at this url:
Poetics looks at the fundamentals of writing great tragedy. Aristotle believed the art of good dramatic tragedy was personified by the works of the Greek playwright Sophocles who was constantly voted as the most popular by audiences. Few of Sophocles plays now survive.

These are the fundamental principles of classic drama: –

Poetics considers tragedy to be the dramatisation of a sequence of events which cause a situation to go from good to bad in a logical but surprising way. The dramatic events must show not tell what actually happens and must function according to the laws of logical probability or necessity. The events must evoke strong emotions such as pity caused by the character facing ‘unmerited misfortune’ or fear caused by relating to the character facing adverse circumstances. 

The plot should be an arrangement of events derived from an unbroken chain of cause and effect. The beginning, middle and end must have causal connections comprising a holistic whole to ensure audiences do not suffer from a suspension of disbelief or become disengaged from the plot. This is like looking at one’s own life, it is not split into dates but events which shape-shift into the life we have and know.

Aristotle acknowledged good characters must be complex, never stereotypes. The character like all human beings must have a flaw. This flaw must cause their situation to go from good to bad where they lose something of importance be it power, status or even risk their own lives or loved ones. Aristotle believed a good character has to be highly renowned and prosperous for the fall to be truly tragic. 

The character’s speech or action must express their character and their personal motivations must support the plot and its overall holistic theme. There must be continuity.

The written character must be relevant to the role, provide a picture of their morality, be true to life and show consistency through necessity and probability. This realism must also show an otherness which shows the representation of perhaps what may be a greater capacity in all human beings. Today, we may describe this as human ideals but these attributes will be universally recognised in heroes and heroines. A great favourite of Hitchcock and Spielberg is where the ordinary person becomes extraordinary in particular circumstances.

Poetics is the basis of Western drama and is used by playwrights and screenwriters alike. Poetics is the standard text in Hollywood but some choose to digress from the classic form. Therefore, most of us know the classic structure of all drama but choose to watch drama at the cinema, TV or theatre rather than the amphitheatre.