I woke up this morning with the mother of all writer’s blocks. It was ever likely to appear at some point during this requiem project, but to happen when I’ve sailed effortlessly all the way to the last movement feels a bit like a slap in the face! It’s utterly predictable, as well. The London Road business slightly dented my confidence, and last night we went to see Parade at the Southwark Playhouse, which has got to be one of the greatest musicals written in the last 20 years. I saw the show at the Donmar Warehouse about five years ago and was left distinctly cold. It can’t have been a very good production, or perhaps my head wanted something different from new musicals in those days. I went with my friend Matt, who’d gone on and on about it and I really couldn’t understand why. Maybe it’s one of those shows which mellows when you see it for a second time, because I now fully understand why people love it. It is brilliant, and I recommend anyone who likes their musicals on the dark side to go and see it before the run ends.
Of course when you see something as well-written as Parade, it can inspire, but it also has the potential to niggle. Will I ever match it with something of my own? Will people ever mention my name in the same breath as Jason Robert Brown? Will I achieve what I want to achieve as a writer? Will I ever be described as great? I’m certainly taking my time!
I went back to what I’d written for the Dies Irae sequence in my requiem and immediately discarded the lot and started again... and then after lunch, ripped up everything I’d written in the morning and started a third draft. I suspect I’m considerably closer now, but I'm still in this sort of weird, hazy, formless, messy place, which I don’t really recognise. Nathan suggested I take a break, but psychologically I need to get to the end of the work. It’s been going on too long now. It just needs to be done, so that I can put it away as a complete work, and return to it afresh, after a time away.
Anyway, that’s pretty much been my day. Slightly dull. Unusually frustrating. I went to the gym and ran about a bit, then drove into town to pick Nathan up, who is working front of house at the Shaftesbury Theatre, where Rock of Ages has just started playing. I saw the piece in New York (get me) and can't imagine it will have the same resonance over here.
I also can’t believe it’s the last day of August. Where has this year gone? The slow march towards Christmas is upon us...
350 years ago, Pepys went with his old friend Luellin to the famous Bartholomew Fair. Luellin convinced Pepys to accompany him to a dodgy pub, “a pitiful alehouse”, which was filled with all kinds of undesirables, “where we had a dirty slut or two come up that were whores, but my very heart went against them, so that I took no pleasure but a great deal of trouble in being there and getting from thence for fear of being seen.”
After sensibly ditching Luellin, Pepys went back to the fair with two of Montagu’s daughters and they saw monkeys dancing on ropes, which didn’t impress Pepys at all, not just because the monkeys were fairly stubborn, but also because he found himself surrounded by such terrible people. On the way home, he bought all the women in his company a glass bauble, which seemed to please them a great deal.
He used the end of August as an opportunity to sum up his life, which was troubling him somewhat, because, amongst other things, he felt he was seeing too many plays. He was also worried about politics, his brother Tom, a lack of money, and, of course, the business of the will, which was still dragging on. His entry ends with the most chilling sentence: “The season very sickly everywhere of strange and fatal fevers.”