Friday, 24 June 2016

The Burketeers out on The Deep Blue Sea

It's been a little while since I'd met up with the Burketeers, so I was really looking forward to seeing the old faces back together (and of course seeing Tom on stage was an additional bonus!) I knew that as usual I would end up in a bit of a flap, because my train arrived at Euston at 12:05 and Angie had arranged for us to go on a backstage tour of The National Theatre (on the Southbank) at 1:00. It would be cutting it fine to say the least!

Stop The Clock...

I sat cursing the chap next to me who refused to leap out of his seat as though he'd been stung by something and stalwartly just sat there letting everyone else of the train whilst he gathered his belongings together (slowly!) Once off the train I hurtled to the underground and headed to Waterloo. Surprisingly I was at Waterloo for about 12:30, so the next conundrum was if I should head to the hotel to drop off my bag or head straight to the theatre. I decided that the hotel wasn't far from the station so I'd head there, forgetting Waterloo has about 50 exits (OK, slight exaggeration). Anyway I stood looking vacantly on the roadside and decided to head left, a few minutes later I saw the welcoming sign of the Premier Inn and so I ran inside to dump my bag and ask directions for The National Theatre. The chap at reception was lovely, but again, the male of the species does not recognise the word hurry, and so he dutifully explained in detail how to get to my destination. I snatched the map off him and started running in the direction I had just come from. I felt like Anneka Rice on Treasure Hunt, hurtling off down the road, hair flapping in the wind, and a face going a strange shade of vermilion, all I needed was an orange jumpsuit. I ran to the theatre in less than 10 minutes (STOP THE CLOCK) That's the first time I've run anywhere in a while and hopefully it is the last time too!

By the time everyone else arrived I had resumed breathing in a more normal manner, however I was still in a bit of a flap and unable to get my rather funky dayglo orange safety vest on (still not a jumpsuit) for the guided tour. If ever I have felt a bit stupid, it was then! The tour itself was brilliant, and I can only thank Natalie and The National Theatre for allowing us to view what goes on behind the scenes. Natalie was very informative and it was a joy to listen to her. I was surprised that we were allowed backstage so close to the curtain going up. Props had already been laid out and we were under strict instructions not to touch anything! We got to see carved wooden decorations which were not made of wood at all, but some lite rubberised material, and into the workshops where the set designs are created.

They're dropping like flies...

Once the tour had finished a group of us sat and had a spot of lunch together and then we wandered slowly back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. I had heard that one of our group had not felt well on the journey down, but was feeling a bit better now. By the time we got back to the hotel, a second member of the party decided it was their turn to lie groaning on a cold ceramic tiled floor. The remainder of us sat rather worried outside the disabled toilet wondering if by 7pm there would be anybody left to watch Tom on stage that evening.

Tom obviously has a Lazarus effect on people though, no-one will miss him, and so fortunately a full complement of Burketeers met at The Lyttelton Theatre (part of the National) to watch Helen McCrory and Tom Burke perform in Terence Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea. It was a stunning production and you can access my thoughts on the play by clicking here.

"I can do things with my hands" 

Once the play had finished we hurtled to the Stage Door area. There was an tabled area nearby, and two unsuspecting men said it was fine for us to join them at their table. As we looked around we saw some of our party was missing, although once they arrived, it was fair to say the two men bolted off rather rapidly! The cast were having a birthday get together after the show, so we didn't see Helen McCrory or the rest of the cast. Tom however set foot outside and a number of fans started talking to him. One of our group wandered through everyone, tapped Tom on the shoulder and said something like "We're over there when you're ready". Bless him, he came wandering around the corner to say hello to us all. As we crowded around him telling him we thought the play was very good he suddenly said "I can do things with my hands." Hmmm I bet you can Tom!

So Tom started signing autographs whilst chatting away, and then he started having pictures taken with his harem of very happy ladies. He seemed very comfortable with everyone and posed making silly faces and had lots of general chit chat with people. Normally I won't ask for a photograph, but this time I asked my friend Mel if she'd oblige. Whilst Tom and I stood huggled together he said, "you're outfit's my favourite of the night." I was sure I'd misheard, or that he was talking to someone else so the snap was taken during my mid pondering, checking he had really said it, then thanking him!  Must remember next time, don't talk just smile!!! Still the picture is a fabulous reminder that I've spoken to him again and that it isn't some dream that I'll wake out of if I pinch myself. Really I should be grateful and not worry about what I look like, there's far too many people out there yet to meet him! (It's also a piccy with him whilst he's got short hair, so that's a bonus; I've been waiting for one at a Comic Con because I'm really stupid and didn't like to ask him for a photo at Carols or Reasons to be Happy.)

Once we finally let the poor man go, we headed off to find food. On our way down the Southbank some lady ran up to me and said "you're outfit is so cool...respect." To be honest I thought she was taking the proverbial, but apparently not. She stopped and chatted and then let me carry on. My friends Cheryl and Angie thought I knew her..."nope" I said, "never seen her in my life before!" We managed to find somewhere that was still open for food, but as per usual, it isn't a proper Burketeer night out unless we are thrown out of somewhere (church, cocktail bars, Hampstead Theatre...) so we were the penultimate people to finally leave the restaurant to wend our way back to the hotel and to stay up chatting into the small hours about how wonderful Tom is with us all!!

The day after the night before

The next day started with a lovely, lazy breakfast as four of us sat discussing the play and putting the world to rights. We then realised that we had agreed to meet some other Burketeer friends at Shakespeare's Globe. We hadn't checked out of the hotel and it was at least a half hour walk to meet them, and we had about ten minutes to get everything done.  No problem we rearranged to meet them a little later. We decided that as we had now walked breakfast off it would seem polite to sit and have a drink and ponder about what to have to for lunch. As we walked into the courtyard we saw another Burketeer out with her daughter... "cooooooeeeeeee" we all yelled and waved at her. (No, it seems you can't take us anywhere!)

We ordered a Pimms and as it was the only alcohol to pass our lips that weekend, it went to our heads rather quickly. We sat and talked and laughed, and Janet...oh we will have to put you on Pimms again...your comments were priceless. I haven't laughed to the point of being in that much agony for ages... "It's when you suck up something in your straw that you're not expecting!" (I had a vision of Tom popping out of the straw saying hello!) It was just one classic line after another. Once we had laughed ourselves silly and finished lunch we went for a little amble around the Globe's shop. A couple of purchases later, and we wondered what we should do next...well all this sitting around chatting is hard work, so we headed downstairs to the cafe for a cuppa and some cake! Then it was time for me to say my goodbyes and head off for my train home. The post Burke blues hit on the tube train to Euston, but I realised it wasn't Tom I was missing, it was my fabulously funny Burketeers!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Deep Blue Sea -National Theatre 18/6/2016

I've read the play and formed my interpretation of the text. The physical play has divided opinions of those who have seen it before me. If you've read my summation of the book you will know that I formed am empathetic view of Freddie. Some people said that my opinion would change once I saw the live performance. I got the impression that people thought Freddie was a cad and a bounder for the way he treated Hester, whilst others couldn't see what he offered Hester or why she would want to leave her marriage for him. Rattigan has produced a piece of theatre which when you strip away the veneer, you see more than a distraught woman who craves our sympathy or a boorish man who should be tarred and feathered for treating Hester so mercilessly.

The cast and creative team should be proud of themselves for this heart rending, roller coaster of emotions, production. The stage is a large space, filled with a blue hued two story building. We can clearly see inside Freddie & Hester's flat, but we can also see the almost silhouetted images of the staircase leading to the other floors of the house, and the comings and goings from these flats at different points within the play. Seeing all of the action outside of the main part of the play, adds to the feeling that whilst Freddie & Hester's lives are falling apart, life carries on around them. You can see the close proximity of how everyone lives and how hard it is to keep a secret in such surroundings.

The play commences with the landlady letting herself into Hester's flat. There is a strong smell of gas, and the neighbour Philip Welch notices Hester's slumped body by the fire. She has tried and failed in a suicide bid. Whilst trying to make sense of the situation, a neighbour is called to give medical attention to Hester. Somehow it slips out that Hester is not married to Freddie, and as no-one knows how to contact him, Welch decides to telephone Hester's real husband to advise him that his wife has had an "accident."

Always tell the truth...

Hester, played with a certain fragility by Helen McCrory, makes a rather quick recovery and tries to sweep the serious events of the night before under the carpet. She removes her suicide note from the fireplace and pops it in her dressing gown pocket. This seems an innocuous thing to do, but it certainly plays an important role about how future events unfold. Hester makes it clear to the Welch's and her landlady that Freddie is not to be told about 'her little accident'.

Those who think that Freddie's reaction about Hester's suicide bid is a callous response must try and think about the life he has led so far. Hester herself says his life ended with the war. He is a man who is emotionally scarred from a life in the RAF, who can not help but find himself feeling hurt, angry and betrayed by this woman with whom he has tried to form a meaningful relationship with. The fact that she has tried to cover up the suicide attempt makes things can he trust her if she can't trust him enough to tell him how she feels? Tom Burke conveys this wealth of emotions brilliantly. I never feel much sympathy for a simpering character who feels sorry for themselves. When I read the play I wanted raw fury, and Tom delivered this perfectly. He is outraged that someone who is loved so deeply could do such a thing to him. Freddie is a vulnerable character, he hides behind a gruff persona, but the heart to heart he has with Jackie Jackson shows what a multi-faceted person he really is.

A toxic affair...

I admire Freddie for taking the bull by the horns. It was a difficult decision for him to make, but it was the right one, "I know this is right, you see. I know it, but with your gift of the gab, you'll muddle things up for me again, and I'll be lost." Tom Burke's portrayal was not of a weak man that warranted sympathy, but of a tormented soul, a man who has been through the mill; a man who then has such a shock that he realises being in love with Hester is not enough, their relationship is too toxic. He has started living his life through the oblivion of alcohol and she is so unhappy that she has tried to kill herself. He knows they have to part and he has to be the one to end it.

Two private conversations between Hester and Collyer, and Freddie and Jackie, show just how disparate Hester and Freddie view their relationship. Collyer: "You said just now his feelings for you hadn't changed." Hester: "They haven't Bill. They couldn't you see. Zero minus zero is still zero."

But in a separate conversation, Freddie: "Hell, it's not that I'm not in love with her too, of course I am. Always have been and always will." He then expands on this statement, he allows the audience to see him for who he is, he has always been faithful whilst he has been with Hester, he was the one who wanted to wait for her divorce; he was the one for who "All this hole-in-the-corner stuff gets me down." Whilst Hester does not believe that Freddie has ever loved her, it is clear that in his mind he does. He has done everything she has wanted because of his depth of feeling for her.  As Freddie is having this conversation, it becomes increasingly clear that he knows that Hester had been serious in her suicide attempt, she hadn't been playing a joke on him or seeking attention, and you can sense that this really has been a devastating blow for him. We see a war hero, crushed to the core and despairingly trying to answer why Hester would do such a thing. Even Freddie was capable of realising it was for far more than him forgetting her birthday.

For those who have such a negative viewpoint of Freddie, if he hadn't cared about Hester, he wouldn't be feeling such a strength of anger. He would have a feeling of indifference, and that would have been a far worse character than the one we see, angry, shouting and drinking himself into oblivion. If he hadn't cared, then the audience could be forgiven for thinking Freddie a cad and a bounder! But it is the fact that he obviously does care that means my sympathy lies more in Freddie's corner than Hester's.

Just what do you mean by "love" Hester?

Hester appeared to me as a rather needy character. Freddie put it succinctly when he said to Jackson "A clergyman's daughter, living in Oxford, married the first man who asks her and falls in love with the first man who gives her the eye."

Hester will have wanted for nothing as a clergyman's daughter, but she may have had aspirations of mixing with a higher society than that which she was used to. In her conversations with Collyer, it is clear she enjoyed the parties and the socialite aspect of her marriage, (as opposed to going on a pub crawl with Freddie) but there was obviously something lacking from her marriage for her to leave everything for the first man who paid her some attention. Collyer did not love her in the manner in which she wanted to be loved, this is later echoed in her relationship with Freddie, as she believes he has never loved her. With respect to her relationship to Freddie, when you watch this particular performance, it is evidently untrue that he never loved her.

In the book I didn't feel any sympathy towards Hester, all of my emotions were poured into "poor" Freddie. But Helen McCrory's portrayal of Hester did soften me. There were times I wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be OK.  The character Miller figuratively performed that role. He has obviously suffered in his past, he was once a doctor, but stripped of that job in disgrace. Nick Fletcher played the role with great restrain, he didn't overdo it with the emotions, but he made it clear he had suffered in his past.  His slight German accent and comment about living on the Isle of Man for some time made me wonder if his past had included being a a Jewish internee at the Hutchinson Camp? Whatever his past, he had come to the point where he no longer wanted to live life, but he had got through those difficult times. Whilst his new job as a bookmaker was not ideal, it allowed him to pay his rent, and he continued his work for free in a hospital. He had a new life, and he informed Hester that she could too, if that is what she wanted, but she would have to do it for herself.

There is a callous swine...and it's not Freddie.

It is interesting that towards the beginning of the play, Welch describes Miller as 'a callous swine' however, towards the end of the play I think he is the one who deals the hardest, callous blows to Hester. His attitude is far worse than anything Freddie or Miller dishes out. He enjoys his role of the man of the house. His wife dotes on him, she looks up at him proudly when he is on the telephone being so commanding; but he is a bully unlike Freddie; one who subtlety abuses those around him. It is pure arrogance of him to tell Hester he knows how she feels, to compare her feelings to his. He had become infatuated with an actress that he 'thought he loved'. His answer to the problem was to go on holiday "I know if you do think things out honestly, you'll see how awfully petty the whole thing really is - when you get it in perspective." I could feel myself drawing a sharp intake of breath and desperately wanting Hester to slap him! Hubert Burton should be commended for his performance of this odious man!

'Sorry to have caused so much bother'

The play is to be commended on all fronts. It is a play full of facades; the stage mirroring the issues that the characters are dealing with. Whilst the story is heart wrenching and full of angst and despair, you are immersed into a world of subtle humour, both in the words of Rattigan and how they are beautifully delivered, especially by Helen McCrory and Tom Burke. When you consider how dark their lives have become, it is admirable that the characters were able to be so flippant with one another.

The Deep Blue Sea is currently being performed at The Lyttelton auditorium at The National Theatre, London until 21st September 2016. National Theatre Live will be screening a performance at various cinemas around the country on Thursday 1st September 2016.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Live life in colour, not redundency can unlock so many opportunities.

Life. Isn't it a curious thing? What makes one person happy will make someone else sad. When it was announced that the office I was working in was closing down and we were all being made redundant, I felt nothing. Those around me were distraught, their lives ended, they were in tears. I was confused. I felt neither joy nor despair, what was wrong with me...surely I should have felt something. Instead with a gallic shrug I continued with the day to day monotony of getting up, going to work, covering for those off sick, and then going home to a night of cooking, cleaning and watching dross on TV.

I was supposed to finish work in April 2015, so the first thing I did was book a holiday for myself for the beginning of May. I decided I would head to Prague, on my own, for a week. I thought it would be a good place to walk, drink tea and get my head together about my future. I had spent twenty years working in a job I had drifted into, I needed time out to decide what to do next, not blunder into the first job that came my way and return to that life of working drudgery. This trip would be my new beginning. Of course that wasn't to be, the closure of my office was not going well so I was asked to stay for several weeks longer to sort the mess out. It was a nice holiday though, and the thing that shocked me the most was that I had been abroad on my own for a week and I had enjoyed it! I'd even managed to fly on my own. I hate flying, it terrifies me, but I did it, without fuss or ceremony, I had just done it!

What else can I do that the last twenty years has stifled? 

12th June 2015, my last day at work. A blank canvas lay ahead of me. I told my partner I would take a couple of months off and then look for a new job. I still felt nothing, no emotional reaction to losing my job and I still had no idea what else to do; so I booked a trip to Barcelona with a friend.

I wanted to see Gaudi's architecture and that cathedral that still isn't finished, I thought I might as well see it now whilst I've nothing better to do. It was an amazing experience, and my friend bless her had found a proper tea shop for me. I went in and the first thing that hit me was how similar it was to the tea places in Prague I visit. I started chatting to the owner who said he had lived in Prague for a while. My friend left me for the afternoon to sit and discuss tea with him!

You really can do anything if your want it badly enough!

It was on my return that I decided the chances of me looking for a job in the next few months was slim. I was enjoying this new found freedom. I used to go to the cinema or the theatre with my "cinema buddy", but she was now travelling 5 hours a day to get to and from her new job, she didn't have time to accompany me to the theatre or the cinema anymore, so I would have to hold my head up and go it alone. I did, and I don't know why I had thought it would be so traumatic, it wasn't. It has led me to the best of both worlds. If there is something I want to see and no-one else is interested I can go and watch something on my own. I don't get to miss out on seeing exceptional plays and talented actors anymore; but if someone wants to come with me, that's even better! It's also nice from my friends point of view, they know I will go on my own, so they can be honest. If they want to come they say yes, if they don't they say no.

I promise I'll look for a job at the end of the summer!

I found my sewing machine. It hadn't been used in years, and I was always good at sewing. At university I used to make dresses for the end of term balls for me and my friends. I even made a few garments when I first started work, but somehow along the way I had stopped. I made five dresses, two tops and three skirts. I then found some blank masks I had bought in Venice several years ago that I "would get around to decorating." It was rather enjoyable doing these craft projects, and more importantly, having the time to do them.

Tom Burke, is he really a guru?

Actually I think it's Tom's fans that are my guru's. I've enjoyed watching Tom on screen for years, but that's never compelled me to pick up a book, or go to the theatre, so why the change? Well it's all down to a TV show called The Musketeers. Many people found Tom through this show, and so fan groups were formed on social media. (Speaking of which, that was also new to me. I accidentally fell into social media when I was considering buying a horse and needed to look for livery for it.) As I started dipping in and out of Twitter I found the Burketeers! I can't say that I contributed that much to conversations but I did pluck up the courage to see if I could join in with a meeting of North East England Burketeers. (I live in North Wales!) The answer was yes, and whilst part of me thought I was deranged going to meet people I had only spoken to on Twitter, I am so glad I did. I met some of the most warm, generous and inspiring ladies I have ever known. I'm going to blame them for the rest of my odd behaviour on my years sabbatical. Yes you read that two months off had suddenly changed to taking a year out, and no I wasn't telling anyone that was my new plan!

It's all about charity!

I had done a quick sketch of Athos sitting on his horse when I was fed up in work and tweeted it. The reaction was surprisingly nice. Taken aback by this I dusted off an old art pad and did a couple of sketches of Tom Burke as Athos from The Musketeers. It was strange holding a pencil again, I had flunked A-Level art at school (a D grade) and had given up on drawing. The drawings were a bit raw, but you could tell who it was, so I donated the sketches to an online site that was raising funds for one of the charities that Tom was involved in. I then heard that another Burketeer was trying to start an online fan magazine. Well I had done journalism in a previous life so I thought I would see if I could still write. I wrote 5 articles and took part in one of the first interviews for the magazine! So thanks to Tom, I had started drawing and writing again, and a few more pictures were donated to the Burketeer shop.

I've got no-one to talk too...

I'm very good at talking! Now I was at home alone, I realised I didn't have anyone to share my nonsense with. I would write a blog!  I wrote my first post on 12th August 2015. It was very short, in fact it was hard to write anything in the first few posts. Who would read this rubbish? It's not like I had an audience to write for...or anything to write about! Or did I? I headed off to Pembrokeshire with a friend to seek out where Tom had filmed Third Star, so I shared my experiences online. I then headed back out for another solo trip to Prague, but this time I was going to record my adventures. I also decided that I was a rubbish Burketeer. All these years that I wouldn't go to the theatre on my own, or indeed travel anywhere on my own, had meant that I had missed out on all of the plays Tom had performed in.(I had actually been working in London during the time some of those plays were being performed, I could have gone if I'd had the inclination to go out instead of being too fearful of venturing out of my hotel room at night!) So I bought all of the play scripts, took them to Prague, read them, made notes and decided to publish my thoughts on each of the plays. How I kicked myself for not seeing them.

Start as you mean to go on!

I met Tom for the first time at London Comic Con in June 2015. My first encounter with him was having a professional photo taken with him. I was so excited I just threw myself at him. I then went to get his autograph, and whilst all around me were nervous at speaking to him...I wouldn't shut up. I don't think I let the poor man get a word in. I told him off for not having any photo's of his character Davy from Third Star and so I gave him a drawing I had done of Davy to sign. Actually, looking back I'm glad that I got my drawing signed, he put a sweet message on it, and my friend managed to record this event for me. It was such an amazing day, meeting lots of Burketeers for the first time, seeing some "old" Burketeer friends that I had met in Newcastle and of course meeting Tom.

A couple of months later, and another opportunity to meet Tom, this time in Newcastle. My friend told me to come up and stay with her and some other Burketeers. Well we had a great night, and even better was to come. Newcastle was a lot quieter than London Comic Con, which meant lots of talking time to Tom. This time I did let him speak. I'm glad, I got new tea shop recommendations for my next trip to Prague! I had found a copy of an old book called Tom Burke by Charles Lever. I couldn't leave that in a dusty old book shop, so I bought it and got him to sign it...the result? Something else to chat about, so I also got some book recommendations from him. A couple of dark books I had never heard of but which I immediately bought and read...well tried to.

My third encounter with Tom was at a charity carol concert in December. "Oi, I've a bone to pick with you!" Sadly for Tom it wasn't third time lucky, I had found something else to tell him off about. "That book you recommended, it necessitated the use of a dictionary and pencil." Imagine my surprise when he agreed and said he'd had the same problem...

Since these meetings I've been fortunate to talk to Tom on a number of occasions. He's such an interesting person to chat to. To think, during my working days, that my closest encounter of him was his picture on a mousemat, never did I think it would be possible to see him in real life, let alone be given the chance to chat to him!

Why don't you blog about the books you've read?

After the carol service I was talking to someone about the books Tom had told me to read. She said I got through a lot of books, so why didn't I put something on my blog about the books I'd read? I thought about this, and she was right. I had read English Literature at university, but this was something else I had sidelined during the working years. I still read the odd book, but not on the scale I used to. I had heard early in the year that Tom was filming War and Peace. I thought I had better read it before I watched it, and I thought it would take me forever to read. Despite it being a busy period in work, I started and finished the book in February 2015. I had even written notes and looked up historical points. I had really thrown myself into the book and loved it. This started me off reading again with a great passion, and so the more I thought about my friends suggestion, the more I thought perhaps I should. I then heard about the 2016 Reading Challenge. Read a book a month and blog about it. I could do that for one of Tom's charities, Box Clever Theatre Company, literature and theatre, a great marriage! And so the challenge began. It is different reading a book for pleasure, and reading a book that you know you have to write about! The challenge is actually harder than I thought but very enjoyable!!!

6 months in...only 6 to go.

The time was flying by. I had drawn for the Burketeer shop, why not start selling stuff for myself? So I opened up a Redbubble shop of my own. That has been running for a while now, but not everyone wants pictures on a t-shirt or a phone cover, so if someone just wants a print of the portraits I have drawn, they can now buy them direct from my Etsy site. I was contacted about doing a special drawing for Howard Charles (Porthos) who had been involved in an accident. I ended up making a get well soon card from his Musketeer fans. It was very special to be asked, and his thank you video message just stunned me!

Recently I remembered that when I was at work my former boss told me I should write a blog about my allotment. I used to laugh at her. I can't write a would read it. I now realise that isn't really the point. Whether people read this or not, writing is a cathartic experience. Even if only one person reads this and feels better about themselves, then that is a job well done. So I now have an allotment blog.  During my year of escapades I let the allotment do it's own thing. I was too busy travelling and having fun to go and weed it. That meant that for the last few weeks I have had to put aside all of my reading, writing and drawing to get on top of things. The result is that I now have an allotment to be proud of, and something new to write about! And that's something else I have realised. My partner wanted the allotment, but he got bored of it after a few years. He didn't go down to it, so I couldn't be bothered to go down either. I think I felt resentful. Why should I do it? It felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. I have to do all the household chores, I'm not doing the allotment too. It was the wrong attitude. I have really enjoyed the last few weeks digging, clearing and making the site my own again. I'm not going to lie, it has been hard work, there have been times I thought I couldn't do it, but I cast those doubts aside and it has been done and it's another achievement to be proud of.

And so the year finally ends...

I got a phone call from a company asking if I would consider working for them full time. It would be doing what I had done before.

I really did not want to go back to my old life, but my visits to watch Tom had cost a fortune, and he had announced he was going to be in another play... I had enjoyed all of the lunacy that the last year had afforded me and there was a fear that if I went back to an office environment it would all be taken away from me. But that could only happen if I let it. I had chosen to stop living the black and white life I had previously lived for one full of colour and adventure!

I therefore agreed to only work a four day week. I need my Friday's to travel and to keep on top of my drawing and writing. I need an early start and finish time so that I don't waste precious hours sitting in traffic crawling home. I agreed to a six-month contract on that basis. If I can keep all of this up, I can continue with the job. If I can't, well there will need to be a discussion. I need money to keep a roof over my head and to do the things I enjoy...but I also need the time to do them!

So this year has not been wasted...I have learnt some very valuable lessons during the last 12 months.
You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Ignore all the naysayers around you. Just remember, they are either too scared or too lazy to try to turn their lives around. Don't let them drag you down to their level. Ignore them. Feel the fear and do what you want to do anyway.

I have read books I would never consider, I have been to different genres of plays and films. I have met my idol (several times now, he's even pulled up a chair and sat down opposite me for a chat after performing on stage) I have met fantastic people who are energetic forward looking people (one has even taught me the virtue of Skype!)  I have traveled on my own and with friends and had countless fun adventures. I now have three blogs and two online shops. I have written for a fanzine. I have sewn an entire new wardrobe. I have created many interesting pieces of artwork. I could go on, but now I'm heading off to make a cup of tea and start packing for the weekend. Where am I going? Oh just to London to see a guy called Tom in a play called The Deep Blue Sea!!!

Friday, 17 June 2016

The Deep Blue Sea

I saw the production of Flarepath earlier in the year, it was fantastic, and I wanted to see more of Terence Rattigan's work. Tom Burke is performing in The Deep Blue Sea as Freddie, a tortured soul and former WWII Spitfire pilot. I don't know how I will react to watching the play, but reading it had me spell bound. Rattingan has created a dark play, full of tortured souls who deserve our empathy and understanding.

The play focus's on Hester, a middle class woman who has left her upper class husband for a former Spitfire pilot. Hester is discovered unconscious in her rented flat by her landlady, having tried to commit suicide. The plays follows on from when she has been found, and whilst it sounds rather a depressing read, it is actually a well written, thought provoking play. 

When I saw the headlines about Tom Burke playing the part of Freddie, they made me think that Freddie was a character to be hated. Hester's life with him was so bad she felt compelled to commit suicide. He was made out to be the villain of the piece, but I did not feel that when I read the play. In fact, at times my sympathies lay at Freddie's door rather than Hester's.

There are four main characters in this story. William Collyer, an upper class gentleman who it could be argued has married beneath him. He is a high court judge and has a large social standing, his lifestyle is one of holding dinner parties and soirees. He undoubtedly loved Hester, but did he show her that love? Their marriage should be questioned, because if everything was so perfect between them, why would Hester leave everything behind her to commence a relationship with a former pilot?

Hester, the centre piece of the story, a middle class woman, the daughter of a vicar. As such she will have lived a comfortable life. She would be educated, but she would not move in the same circles as her husband. Has she married above herself? Did she dream of a grand lifestyle and then find out it wasn't all she imagined. Was she bored? Bored with having to play the dutiful wife when her husband had his friends and wives around for dinner parties? We get a sense of what her early life had been via her artwork. There are a couple of pictures hanging on her wall that she is offering for sale. Both are different in style. One painted in earlier times when she was carefree and happy. Was this the lifestyle she wanted, the bohemian artist; was she not allowed to continue when she married Collyer? She is a needy character, did she think her life was dull with her husband and Freddie could give her the excitement she craved, and the attention she needed?

Freddie, a former Spitfire pilot, always playing Russian Roulette with his life. Firstly as a Spitfire pilot, never knowing if he would make it back from a mission alive, and then as a test pilot, if he got in the sky would he land back safely? Why does he now live his life on a golf course and a whiskey bottle? He didn't want to live with Hester while she was still married. He wanted her to divorce before they got a flat together, but Hester would not divorce her husband. Did this lead to them both tearing each other apart emotionally?

Miller, the doctor demoted to bookie. He has hit the depth of despair but managed to fight back, to see he has a future. It might not be the future he wanted, but he is in a position to understand Hester's delicate state of mind and be more forgiving than Freddie or her husband. Miller has the power to show Hester that her life is worth living, but that she needs to live it for herself, and not be reliant on men to make her life an enjoyable one.

Suicide, which is how the play starts, is the ultimate act a person can commit. It is an act of anger...the person committing suicide is angry with what issues life has dealt them, and the person left behind feels shock, despair, sadness, and then anger. Anger that someone could do such a thing without saying anything. Freddie has witnessed good friends die around him, fighting in a war they had to be part of, who had everything to live for, but their lives were extinguished too early. He himself has headed out in a Spitfire, not knowing whether he will come back or not. He knows that in war you are really fighting for the man next to you, not for your country. To him, considering what he has been through in the war, Hester's act would be met with total anger, so is it really such a shock that towards the end of the play he throws a shilling at her so that she can do the job properly next time? 

Men and women view love rather differently. Men take, women give. Men enjoy the happiness that is given to them, whilst women revel in dishing out that happiness. The problem is when women want that feeling reciprocated, and in hoping that the man they love will make them happy almost certainly ends up with the opposite effect. Hester has not been given the love she craves from her husband. She won't divorce him though, so she is not giving Freddie what he wants, he in turn can not make Hester happy and so the destruction of two souls continues. But Freddie should be respected that he has realised that they are bad for each other, that they are destroying each other and he is now doing something about it. What isn't to be commended is his timing of events, or how he goes about it (forgetting Hester's birthday and losing his temper with her!)

This is a very powerful play and by the end there is a feeling of hope rather than the despair of the beginning. In dragging each other to the bottom of self-destruction, Hester has helped Freddie move on to a new life in America, and Freddie has helped Hester move on to a new life, not reliant on him or her husband, where she can go back to art school and start her life again. In the last few lines of the play, it is clear that they did really love each other, but that they weren't right for each other. Whilst it was hard for them to accept, and difficult to move on, they both knew the only way they could live was to move on.

I think it will be a heart wrenching but enjoyable play to watch.