July 2010


Crime writers to watch for

Check out the winners of this year’s Debut Dagger Award.
www.thecwa.co.uk

Warhorse sequel

A double-whammy winner for Michael Morpurgo, creator of the magical Warhorse, reviewed here in an earlier post. His book/play script has been acquired by Steven Spielberg and casting has already begun, which includes live horses to replace the awesome life-size puppets that thrill on stage.
Morpurgo has also written a much-demanded sequel, Farm Boy. This follows the life of Joey after the events portrayed so brilliantly in Warhorse and is getting an airing at the coming Edinburgh Festival.
The hero of the 65-minute piece is no longer a horse but an old and rusty Fordson tractor and instead of the big cast of Warhorse there are merely two characters – a boy and his grandfather.
Maybe the Victorian Arts Centre can afford this one while it rearranges its budget to finance a season of Warhorse.

Cliches alive!

I offer the following extracts from a novel I am assessing for publication:
‘Glad to meet you honey,’ he said in a distinctly southern American drawl. ‘My, but you are a good-looking babe.’
‘But look honey, if you want me for your date tonight, just let me know. I sure would like that honey.’
‘OK honey,’ Malcolm said, ‘You just put your fannies over there, and what will it be?’

The would-be author seemingly thinks this is a faithful rendition of how Americans speak. Please say it ain’t so.
On the other hand, Americans do tend to think Crocodile Dundee is truly representative of the average Australian. Ah, national stereotypes; you’ve gotta love ’em.

A rich and ripe tongue

The political scene in the UK continues to provide hope for the survival of English as it should be used – rich, varied and colourful in all its many shades of use and meaning.
Here’s one recent sample, written in the Daily Telegraph by commentator Simon Heffer. He described ex-PM Gordon Brown as ‘a megalomaniacal sociopath with the charm of a septic tank and the communication skills of a stoat’.
Can hardly wait for him to say what he really thinks.

Literacy lunacy

Why do we pander to the dumbed-down generation of Twitterers and texters? They are illiterate enough without encouraging them any further. But author and literary researcher (whatever that might be) Masha Bell now wants reforms made to the spelling of English because of the high level of under-achievement among young people.
She reckons the difficulty of learning their native tongue is the reason so many end up in jail and are classified as Neets, which apparently stands for Not in Education Employment or Training.
The more likely reason is that it has somehow become acceptable when sending text messages, Tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings and blogging to mis-spell, abbreviate and totally disregard punctuation and grammar. And underlying this is a lack of rigorous and sustained education in the use of English.
To reform spelling on these grounds is like making sure every jailbird has a passkey to the outside world.

Puppetry perfection

A million horses were taken from Britain to France to “fight” in the First World War; only 62,000 returned. Their treatment and the horrors they endured matched those of the soldiers who rode and led them.
The story of these loyal and willing animals is brilliantly brought to life in Warhorse, which has been on and off the London stage since October 2007 and has been running at the New London Theatre since March 2009. This is puppetry at its highest and most magical level. The technical brilliance of the Handspring Puppet Company dazzles the audience into soon believing the life-size animals rearing up before them are the real deal. Every twitch and flicker and heartbeat is magically conveyed by a cast of five horses manipulated by twelve puppeteers blended into the animals’ fabric.
Based on the book by Michael Morpurgo, Warhorse is far from a simple children’s tale. It is hard-edged, ripe with barrack room language and scenes that jolt and shock. It follows the tale of a pony, bought at a bitterly fought auction between rival farmer brothers, that is tamed and befriended by the farmer’s son before being sold to the army for service in France. It is wounded, captured by the Germans and rescued by the French in scenes that mirror the brutally shattering war experiences of troops on both sides of the conflict.
Set against a simple backdrop of battlefield visuals and with occasional outbursts of mournfully lyrical songs, the action flows across the stage and into the auditorium to become totally involving. It’s absorbing, often moving and continually exciting theatre with a difference. Punch & Judy was never like this.

Garrett on song

Perennially popular soprano Lesley Garrett, who has teamed up with Anthony Warlow on her visits to Australia, is now touring the halls in England with a show that’s a real knockout and – on the night I was there – scores her standing ovations.
It’s a delightful mix of classical (pre-interval) and showbiz with every number introduced in an informally chatty manner that proves you can take the lass out of Yorkshire but ye canna shift Yorkshire from the lass. Eee ba gum, she’s a reet funny gal is that Lesley. She calls on a baritone mate to join her in several duets and has a treasure of an accompanist in Andrew West that is great fun as well as a musical delight.
Perhaps there was a bit too much Handel and a similarity of songs in the first half but all were impeccably sung with clarity and a diction that is often all too lacking in other performers.
Garrett? Now there’s a name for musical Aussies to wonder about.

Boozy boy

Headline in today’s Daily Telegraph: “Drinking while pregnant could reduce a son’s fertility”.
I reckon that’s the least of his worries.
And perhaps the sub-editor should have rephrased his words.