Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Italy rocks Too

A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Torre del Aquila of Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento. The first recorded painting of a snow scene is just one of 11 (remaining) months decorating the walls of the former Bishop-Prince palace. They are sublime. A fine example of International Gothic, according to the audio device handed out as part of the tour and available in four languages. None of the peasants talk to each other, whereas the aristocracy are painted bigger and always in polite exchange of courtesies. Not quite the lie of the land outside the castle walls, apparently, where within a few years, the whole political structure had succumbed to revolution. But a perfect fantasy for a man with a tidy view of social relations. It's the 'Cycle of the Months' and I'm sure I must have seen it on some text book when I was studying history at school (so that's a long time ago then!).

In the evening of the same day, I was sitting in the Arena at Verona, to see "Aida" performed on the most extravagant of sets. Nearly as many people on the stage as on the seats (which were full to bursting). Couldn't hear much and I didn't like one of the voices, but it was heaps better than the ROH "Aida" I heard a couple of years ago. That was by Robert Wilson and rather stilted, whereas Franco Zeffirelli was behind this one - a more flowing style that, to my mind, suits Verdi better. I associate Zeffirelli with "Romeo and Juliet" and that is probably apt in the city where one of the attractions is a house reputedly belonging to the Capulets. Actually it was assembled well after Shakespeare's play (which was no doubt written well after the events allegedly took place), but it's funny to be in the Italian Stratford-upon-Avon.

Well, enough stream of consciousness passion from my Italian trip. It was very nice, thank you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Brushing with Ravenhill

Want to learn how to write a play? Don't ask me - my workshops are rubbish
Mark Ravenhill
Monday July 31, 2006
The Guardian

In April 2004, I did a playwriting course. I'm sure it would have been documented here had I not spent my leisure time in those days writing monologues rather than blog entries. Well, I did write such things until I went off to Shropshire to attend the Arvon course with Mr Mark Ravenhill. And it went downhill from there. But it's OK now. Mark has finally, even exaggeratedly, acknowledged that he can't run workshops, only two years after I acknowledged that I probably can't write plays. And maybe I should be grateful: the atmosphere on that course speeded up the realisation...

I'm told there were an abundance of letters about the article, none of which I saw - a bit of a shame. However, I did send a note to the Arvon address I'd corresponded with when I'd first registered my dismay at Ravenhill's complete lack of interest in instructing us (it was supposed to be a general, rather than advanced, course and therefore educational). And I got a nice note back from Dan at The Hurst:

Yes, I see what you mean. Funnily enough it was the first course I was here for, and I hadn't really learned to gage the effectiveness of tutors and courses. I hope that you did get something out of it - I think at least some of the article is a bit over done (for effect perhaps - but I couldn't possibly comment Yer Honour). All I can say is that Arvon have been running "workshops" for over thirty years and the vast majority of writers (certainly in my experience over the last two and a half) have found our formula works a treat - amongst them another Mark - Mark Haddon. I reckon we must be doing something right.

Of course I did (the scenery was lovely); of course they have (not least evidenced by the workshop that I'd been on previously to this one, with the wonderful Moy McCrory). I've no beef with Arvon, but I agree with Ravenhill that he should stick to writing.