Thursday, 13 May 2010

Cast out those harps!

We went down to Clapham last night to watch our friend Jonny in a play called Bent. It’s a brilliant piece. I read it first when I was at drama school. It’s about the treatment of homosexuals under the Nazi regime, and it’s a stifling, claustrophobic work, which is almost too painful to watch at times. The tiny auditorium was packed to the brim with theatre royalty. It was almost unnerving to see Kevin Spacey slumming it in a fringe theatre. This is, after all, the man who has become the face of first class plane travel.

I got to meet the lovely Frances Rufelle. Nathan would describe her as one of the West End’s finest daughters, but to me she’ll always be the girl who sang Lonely Symphony at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994. I still remember watching it in my student house in York.

Talking of which, I’m now back in Yorkshire. Today I was in Sheffield meeting a set of very good string players, one of whom had played in the Northamptonshire Youth Orchestra, so we got misty-eyed and had a natter about the good old days. After Sheffield, we drove cross country, through the beautiful undulating landscape of South Yorkshire to a little village underneath a wind farm, where we listened to the Mill House Green Male Voice Choir in a tiny community hall. I don’t know if I’m just a bit tired at the moment, but they had a profound effect on me. Every single one of them seemed to be singing from his heart and when they let rip in glorious four-part harmony, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I was deeply moved by the experience and would be honoured to work with them in A Symphony for Yorkshire. So it’s with a feeling of great contentment that we drive back through the gloaming; the yellow rape fields on either side of the road glowing almost iridescent in the half-light.

Less good news on the Nathan front. Naked Boys Singing was served its notice today. They haven’t even been given the honour of a last performance, which is sickening because Nathan’s father was due to watch the show tonight. There seems to have been some kind of row between the producers and the new owners of the Arts Theatre and the show was axed in a millisecond despite being the nearest thing to a hit that that theatre has seen in years. Yet again it’s the actors who get shafted at the hands of a whimsical, tin-pot dictator who’s convinced she knows how to run a theatre better than any of the countless changes of regimes who’ve failed before her. Go back to being an agent, darling, you were shit at that, but you’ll be even shitter at this.

Sunday May 13th 1660 was a busy day on board the Nazeby. The tailors were still making and amending flags, painstakingly cutting out pieces of yellow cloth into the shape of crowns and sewing them over anything that resembled Cromwell’s Arms. Their day’s work was shown to a poorly Montagu, who'd taken to his chamber, but he was thrilled enough with their labours to offer a tip of 20 shillings for them to share between them. Probably money he’d won playing nine-pins! Pepys continued to hear stories about the great and the good paying homage to their King in Breda. Some were knighted, others left Holland in disgrace for saying all the wrong things to their new monarch. Later in the day a council of war was called, but seemingly only to tell the tailors that they needed to remove all the harps from the union flags. Under the commonwealth the instrument had featured in the middle of the British flag to represent Ireland, but this was apparently offensive to the King, who viewed Ireland as nothing but a leech-like dependency. The harps were duly unstitched.

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