Thursday, April 12, 2018

2 May - The Master Builder

In May we continue our perusal of the works of Ibsen!  This month, The Master Builder.

But, before that, two things.

Farewell to Dupe!

It is always sad when one of our group leaves, but we wish Dupe much happiness as she returns home.


And for those of you who enjoyed the Vegan Chocolate Cake, which was amazingly easy to make, here's the link (and you may well be eating it again as it's going to be my stand-by cake from now on!):

The Master Builder

Halvard Solness is a middle-aged master builder of a small town in Norway who has become a successful architect of some distinction and local reputation. One day while having a visit from his friend Doctor Herdal, Solness is visited by Hilda Wangel, a young woman of 23, whom Doctor Herdal recognizes from a recent trip that he had taken. The doctor leaves, Solness is alone with Hilda, and she reminds him that they are not strangers – they have previously met in her home town 10 years ago when she was 13 years old. When Solness does not respond immediately, she reminds him that at one point during their encounter he had made advances to her, had offered her a romantic interlude, and promised her “a kingdom”, all of which she believed. He denies this. She gradually convinces him, however, that she can assist him with his household duties, and so he takes her into his home.

For me this is not a 'comfortable' play, and it is difficult to sympathise with any of the characters: so not too unlike our April play!  We must be due something light soon!

  • Halvard Solness, master builder
  • Aline Solness, his wife
  • Doctor Herdal, physician
  • Knut Brovik, formerly an architect, now in Solness’s employment
  • Ragnar Brovik, Knut Brovik’s son, a draftsman
  • Kaja Fosli, a book-keeper
  • Hilda Wangel, a character introduced earlier, in Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea (where she is the teenage daughter of a lighthouse keeper who remarries after the death of his second wife: a previous lover of the new wife returns to claim her and she has to choose between her husband or her former lover – she decides to stay with her husband).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

7 March - August: Osage County

I hope you enjoyed The Hollow.  I have to confess I was a little disappointed, which is a shame as I've just picked up the book of 4 more Agatha Christie plays that I had ordered!

March will be completely different!  And I'm quite excited about it.  It's a script I'd forgotten I had, and simply can't remember buying!  August: Osage County is a Pulitzer Prize winning comedy drama.  Some of  you may have seen the film with Benedict Cumberbatch, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (order of listing Ed's choice!).  Or even at the National Theatre in London.  It strikes me a a modern Tennessee Williams.  I'm trying to cut it, but so far it just seems too good!  

You can of course look it up on Wikipedia, which for those of you who find following plays in English more difficult might be a good idea - but otherwise I would suggest you enjoy watching this family drama unfold.

So, here we go.

Tracy Letts (4 July 1965)

Tracy Letts is an American playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He received the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play August: Osage County and a Tony Award for his portrayal of George in the revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He is also known for his portrayal of Andrew Lockhart in seasons 3 and 4 of  Homeland, for which he has been nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards as a member of the ensemble. 

The Introduction to the Play

The child comes home and the parent puts the hooks in him. The old man, or the woman, as the case may be, hasn’t got anything to say to the child. All he wants is to have that child sit in a chair for a couple of hours and then go off to bed under the same roof. It’s not love. I am not saying that there is not such a thing as love. I am merely pointing to something which is different from love but which sometimes goes by the name of love. It may well be that without this thing which I am talking about there would not be any love. But this thing in itself is not love. It is just something in the blood. It is a kind of blood greed, and it is the fate of a man. It is the thing which man has which distinguishes him from the happy brute creation. When you got born your father and mother lost something out of themselves, and they are going to bust a hame trying to get it back, and you are it. They know they can’t get it all back but they will get as big a chunk out of you as they can.  And the good old family reunion, with picnic dinner under the maples, is very much like diving into the octopus tank at the aquarium.  Robert Penn Warren, All the King's Men


Beverly Weston
The father of the Weston family, aged 69, an alcoholic and washed-up poet. His mysterious disappearance one evening causes the family's reunion. The reasons for his disappearance are a major plot point that bring some of the family's dark past painfully back into the light.
Violet Weston
The mother of the Weston family, aged 65. Undergoing treatment for oral cancer, she is addicted to several prescription drugs, mostly depressants and narcotics. Despite her drug-induced episodes, she is sharp-tongued and shrewd; she is aware of the family's many secrets and not hesitant to reveal them for her own benefit.
Barbara Fordham
The oldest daughter of the Weston Family, age 46. Mother of Jean and wife of Bill, though they are currently separated. She is a college professor in Boulder, Colorado. She wants to save her marriage, but has the intense need to control everything around her as it falls apart.
Ivy Weston
The middle daughter of the Weston family, age 44. The only daughter to stay in Oklahoma, she works as a librarian at the local college, and her calm and patient exterior hides a passionate woman who is gradually growing cynical. 
Karen Weston
The youngest daughter in the Weston family, age 40. She is newly engaged to Steve, whom she considers the "perfect man", and lives with him in Florida, planning to marry him soon. Karen can talk of little else but her own happiness.
Bill Fordham
Barbara's estranged husband and Jean's father, age 49. A college professor, he has left his wife for a younger woman named Cindy, one of his students, but wants to be there for his family. His marriage is disintegrating and his patience is slowly running thin.
Jean Fordham
Bill and Barbara's smart-tongued 14-year-old daughter. She smokes pot and cigarettes, is a vegetarian, loves old movies, and is bitter about her parents' split. 
Steve Heidebrecht
Karen's fiancé, age 50. A businessman in Florida (whose business, it is hinted, centers around the Middle East and may be less than legitimate).
Mattie Fae Aiken
Violet's sister, Charlie's wife and Little Charles' mother, age 57. Just as jaded as her sister, Mattie Fae constantly belittles her son and antagonizes her husband.
Charlie Aiken
Husband of Mattie Fae and father of Little Charles, age 60. Charlie, a genial man, was a lifelong friend of Beverly. He struggles to get Mattie Fae to respect Little Charles.
"Little" Charles Aiken
Son of Mattie Fae and Charlie, 37 years old. Unemployed and clumsy, his mother calls him a "screw-up", which may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
Johnna Monevata
A Cheyenne Indian woman, age 26, whom Beverly hires as a live-in housekeeper shortly before he disappears. Violet is prejudiced against her, but she wins over the other family members with her cooking skills, hard work, and empathy. Johnna is the silent witness to much of the mayhem in the house.
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau
A high-school classmate and former boyfriend of Barbara's, age 47.

In Summary:

Beverly and Violet

Mattie Fae
(Sister to Violet)

Charlie (husband)



Little Charles (son)



Set Layout

Please look at the photos, but basically you are looking at:

Ground Floor - or First Floor as in the American Way
Dining Room with archway to sitting room - Living Room - Study with arch to front door & stairs up

First Floor - 2nd in US
Landing with window seat and bedrooms off and stairs up

The Attic
A single bedroom

NB:  All the windows of the house have been covered and sealed to stop light coming into the house.


T.S.Elliot:  We've come across him before.  Famous for his bleak, deep poetry. And Cats.
Hart Crane:  Great admirer of TSE, writer of deep difficult modernist poetry.
John Berryman:  Major 20th Century American poet, credited with inventing the Confessional school of poetry.
Eric Clapton!  Yes. Really.

T.S. Elliot:  The  Hollow Men V

Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o'clock in the morning.

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
                                   Life is very long
    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

Eric Clapton:  When You're Gone

Like a shadow on my wall
you can make my neckskin crawl
and you don't have to say or do a thing at all
to catch me when I fall
Like the bloom of dandelions
you send shivers down my spine
and I will never lose my faith when you're mine
to me you are devine
When you're gone
there's a song to support me
when you're here
you're the song I hear
you bring music everywhere
Like an angel from above
you're an undivided love
and when I close my eyes it's you I'm thinking of
peace you bring, little dove
When you're gone
there's a song to support me
when you're here
you're the song I hear
you bring music everywhere
And the stars form constellations in your eyes
maybe that's why it's so hard to say goodbye
and your precence makes me more than flesh and bone
but when you slip away my inside turns to stone
when you're here
you're a song my dear
you bring music everywhere

Monday, December 11, 2017

7 February - The Hollow

First of all, once again my thanks for your lovely Christmas gift, which I know that Tim and I will enjoy!  And for understanding why we can't have a meeting in January.

After a bit of thought I thought we would start 2018 off with an Agatha Christie: there's just one left in my book of selected plays, and I shall enjoy looking for another compilation for us to work through!

The Hollow is a typical 'country house mystery' and an adaptation of a book of the same name, but, unlike in the book, it is not Hercule Poirot who is the detective. This might be explained by Christie's intense dislike for her Belgian sleuth, and she is recorded as having said that she particularly disliked his appearance in this novel: in her autobiography she claimed that she "ruined [her own novel] by the introduction of Poirot".

Despite this, The Hollow has been successfully staged in the theatre, on film and, of course, on TV.    

The Hollow

The eccentric Lucy Angkatell has invited the Christows, along with other members of her extended family, to her estate for the weekend. John Christow is carrying on an affair with Henrietta Angkatell, a talented sculptor. The beautiful Veronica Cray, an old flame of Christow's, suddenly appears in the house on Saturday night to borrow a box of matches ...


  • Sir Henry Angkatell, the owner of The Hollow. He married his distant cousin, Lucy Angkatell.
  • Lucy, Lady Angkatell, Henry's wife, whose sociable, charismatic veneer hides a dark side to her personality, occasionally glimpsed by her family.
  • Edward Angkatell, a distant cousin of Henry and inheritor  of the family's beloved house, Ainswick. He has charm but is overshadowed by Christow's dominant personality. He lives in the past and has been devoted to Henrietta for many years. He despises himself, thinking he is good for nothing.
  • Midge Harvey, Lucy's young cousin. Only partly related to the Angkatell family, she refuses financial aid from them and works in a dressmaker's shop.
  • Henrietta Angkatell, a sculptor, and cousin of Sir Henry, Lucy, Midge, Edward and David. She always knows the right words to say to make someone feel comfortable, albeit sometimes at the expense of the truth. Her art is the core of her being, which, at times, conflicts with her second important characteristic. She loves John Christow more than life itself.
  • Dr John Christow, a Harley Street doctor. He is passionate about his work and dedicates himself to finding a cure for "Ridgeway's disease" – the aetiology of which bears a marked resemblance to multiple sclerosis. He is very self-confident, attractive, and has great charisma.
  • Gerda Christow, John's wife. She is rather plain and stupid. She worries about everything. She idealises John, and blames herself for her problems, even when he is wrong. 
  • Veronica Cray, an actress. She is very beautiful and abnormally egotistical. She wanted Christow to abandon everything to follow her to Hollywood, but he rejected her; she found this unbearable. However, Christow is still attracted to her and, it is implied, had a one-night stand with her, which triggered Gerda's jealousy.
  • Gudgeon, the butler.
  • Doris, a maid
  • Inspector Colquhoun
  • D.S. Penny

There is a reference to a newspaper called The News of the World:  It is no longer published, but was a huge-selling Sunday paper specialising in gossip and scandal.  

The set for The Hollow is rather detailed, but I think that this picture is the closest to the long explanation!

Please let me know that you are coming by doodling here:  Thank you!

Finally, as I am writing this in December, I wish you all ...

Thursday, November 9, 2017

6 December - Confusions

Thank you all for  your appreciation of the cake and Rocky Road served last month, and as requested here is the embarrassingly easy recipe (from Nigella - so first put on your black negligee, or if you're following my version of the recipe, your tracksuit and a pinny):

200g Milk Chocolate
25g Dark Chocolate (Nigella says you can change the ratio, but it worked didn't it!)
75g Brazil nuts - roughly chopped (I have since made with brazils & slivered almonds which were nice too)
75g Mini Marshmallows (or large ones chopped up!)

Line one or two baking sheets with baking parchment.  They can be placed close together as they don't spread.

Melt the chocolates, either in a bowl over a gently steaming pan of water, or gently in the microwave - too much of a blast and it will ruin.

Mix all the ingredients.

Drop heaped teaspoons of the mixture on to the baking parchment and leave in a cool place (not the fridge) to set.

Sensually lick the spoon ............ 😁

Next month's play will be Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn.  It's 5 self-contained acts, and we will meet a number of lonely characters, so not really very Christmassy!  I'll try harder next year to find something more seasonal! Unfortunately my Google search for a Christmas play came up with nativities and other mostly child-orientated pieces.  I am as always open to ideas!

Please can you confirm by Doodling (or emailing me!) CLICK HERE!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

8 November - London Assurance

I am not sure how to describe our November play, perhaps as a "Love Story".  But when you look at the list of characters, and I tell you that it was written in 1840 and was recently very successfully produced at the National Theatre, I hope you will appreciate that this is no Barbara Cartland. I am very hopeful that we will have a fun afternoon!

London Assurance was written by Dion Boucicault, an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the English-speaking theatre. The New York Times heralded him in his obituary as "the most conspicuous English dramatist of the 19th century."

List of Characters

  • Sir Harcourt Courtly, cultured 57-year-old fop
  • Charles Courtly, his dissolute son
  • Dazzle, Charles' equally dissolute companion
  • Max Harkaway, country squire
  • Grace Harkaway, Max's 18-year-old niece, betrothed to Sir Harcourt
  • Lady Gay Spanker, horse-riding virago
  • Mr. Adolphus "Dolly" Spanker, her ineffectual husband
  • Mark Meddle, lawyer
  • Pert, Grace's maid
  • Cool, Charles' valet
  • James (Simpson)
  • Martin, servant to the Courtlys
  • Solomon Isaacs, moneylender, in pursuit of Charles

Some pictures from the recent production:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

6 September & 4 October - Anna Karenina

I hope that you have all had a lovely summer and are looking forward to our next season of play readings.

My thanks to Pernette for suggesting that we read this recent adaptation of Anna Karenina by Marina Carr, and also for the idea of reading it in two parts!

Anna Karenina  by  Leo Tolstoy
Anna Karenina was first published in serial installments from 1873 to 1877.  However, due to a clash with the editor of the periodical, The Russian Messenger over political issues that arose in the final installment (Tolstoy's negative views of Russian volunteers going to fight in Serbia) the novel's first complete appearance was in book form in 1878.
Widely regarded as a pinnacle in realist fiction, Tolstoy considered Anna Karenina his first true novel, after he came to consider War and Peace to be more than a novel. Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared it "flawless as a work of art." The novel remains popular, as demonstrated by a 2007 Time poll of 125 contemporary authors in which Anna Karenina was voted the "greatest book ever written."
Anna Karenina is the tragic story of a married aristocrat/socialite and her affair with the affluent Count Vronsky. The story starts when she arrives in the midst of a family broken up by her brother's unbridled womanizing—something that prefigures her own later situation, though she would experience less tolerance by others.
A bachelor, Vronsky is eager to marry her if she will agree to leave her husband Karenin, a senior government official, but she is vulnerable to the pressures of Russian social norms, the moral laws of the Russian Orthodox Church, her own insecurities, and Karenin's indecision. Although Vronsky and Anna go to Italy, where they can be together, they have trouble making friends. Back in Russia, she is shunned, becoming further isolated and anxious, while Vronsky pursues his social life. Despite Vronsky's reassurances, she grows increasingly possessive and paranoid about his imagined infidelity, fearing loss of control.
A parallel story within the novel is that of Konstantin Lëvin or Ljovin, a wealthy country landowner who wants to marry Princess Kitty, sister to Dolly and sister-in-law to Anna's brother Oblonsky. Konstantin has to propose twice before Kitty accepts. The novel details Konstantin's difficulties managing his estate, his eventual marriage, and his struggle to accept the Christian faith, until the birth of his first child.
The novel explores a diverse range of topics throughout its approximately one thousand pages. Some of these topics include an evaluation of the feudal system that existed in Russia at the time—politics, not only in the Russian government but also at the level of the individual characters and families, religion, morality, gender and social class.

Main Characters
  • Princess Anna Arkadyevna Karenina: Stepan Oblonsky's sister, Karenin's wife and Vronsky's lover.
  • Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky: Lover of Anna, a cavalry officer
  • Prince Stepan "Stiva" Arkadyevich Oblonsky: a civil servant and Anna's brother, a man about town, 34. 
  • Princess Darya "Dolly" Alexandrovna Oblonskaya: Stepan's wife, 33
  • Count Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin: a senior statesman and Anna's husband, twenty years her senior.
  • Konstantin "Kostya" Dmitrievich Lëvin/Lyovin: Kitty's suitor, old friend of Stiva, a landowner, 32.
  • Nikolai Dmitrievich Lëvin/Lyovin: Konstantin's elder brother, an impoverished alcoholic.
  • Sergej Ivanovich Koznyshev: Konstantin's half-brother, a celebrated writer, 40.
  • Princess Ekaterina "Kitty" Alexandrovna Shcherbatskaya: Dolly's younger sister and later Levin's wife, 18.
  • Princess Elizaveta "Betsy" Tverskaya: Anna's wealthy, morally loose society friend and Vronsky's cousin
  • Countess Lidia Ivanovna: Leader of a high society circle that includes Karenin, and shuns Princess Betsy and her circle. She maintains an interest in the Russian Orthodox mystical and spiritual

Anna Karenina Family Tree:  it might be easier to read here:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

2 August - Appointment with Death

August's play will be a return to an old favourite: Agatha Christie.

Appointment with Death

The play opens as the family and the victim are introduced through the perspective of Sarah King and Dr. Gerard, who discuss the behavior of the family. Mrs. Boynton is sadistic and domineering, which she may have inculcated from her original profession: prison warden. Sarah is attracted to Raymond Boynton, while Jefferson Cope admits to wanting to take Nadine Boynton away from her husband, Lennox Boynton, and the influence of her mother-in-law. Having been thwarted in her desire to free the young Boyntons, Sarah confronts Mrs. Boynton whose apparent reply is a strange threat: "I’ve never forgotten anything – not an action, not a name, not a face." When the party reaches Petra, Mrs. Boynton uncharacteristically sends her family away from her for a period. Later, she is found dead with a needle puncture in her wrist.

Main Characters

  • Colonel Carbury, senior figure in Transjordania
  • Mrs Boynton, the victim
  • Ginevra Boynton, the victim's stepdaughter
  • Raymond Boynton, the victim's youngest stepson
  • Lennox Boynton, the victim's eldest stepson
  • Nadine Boynton, the victim's stepdaughter-in-law (Lennox's wife)
  • Jefferson Cope, a family friend
  • Dr Gerard, a French psychologist
  • Sarah King, a young doctor
  • Lady Westholme, a member of Parliament
  • Miss Pryce, a former nursery governess
  • Alderman Higgs, fellow traveller