The spaces between
How many viola parts does it take to make a novel?

Where did the week go?

Oh dear, oh dear, time does slip by during half term. What with having family to stay, and an editorial report to write, and a PhD chapter to finish, and vast quanties of reading for that and the new novel, and a big update for my website about A Secret Alchemy - temporary cover, extract, reading-group-questions, how-I-came-to-write-it and all - the poor blog's been going hungry.

A truly superb production of Pygmalion at the Old Vic is one of my better excuses. I know the play pretty well, and it never fails to be good value, but here was a subtlety of thinking and acting I've never seen used on such an old warhorse of a play. Shaw's a wordy writer even at his best - clearly a novelist manqué - but talk about what goes on in the spaces between the words... It was the kind of production where you can see just how important Ibsen was to Shaw, and just what a difference the right acting and directing can make.

Firmly told that it's the play My Fair Lady is based on, but the ending is different, the teenagers settled down with reasonable eagerness, and absolutely loved it, and the granny (who played Freddy Eynsford-Hill as a schoolgirl just after the war and as an English teacher and long-term RSC fan has high theatrical standards) did too. Even a nerdy middle-generation novelist like me was completely gripped. I could only quibble with the pronunciation of Clara, since I refuse to believe that an English girl of that date would have said it like a German, and the angle of Eliza's very gorgeous hat. But then, if they'd put it on as it should be, we wouldn't have been able to see her eyes, and so much would have been lost. In the end it's no good being authentic if it means you're not communicating.

Talking of which, it's nearly midnight. Only my reading for Pipe & Slippers to give a final run through, but maybe I need to go to bed instead. Or maybe a bath, and some thinking about the new novel. I can't do it when I'm in the middle of an editorial report, but that's gone safely off and my mind is free to get back to what it really wants to do. The business that Pygmalion's all about, of people being translated from their background into someone else's, and what then happens when they turn round, and see their route home cut off... that's really interesting... Hmmmm...

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