Archive for December 30th, 2013|Daily archive page

Thoroughly Modern Mary (Poppins)

I’m going to watch Saving Mr Banks later today as I have to submit my first round of votes for the BAFTA Film Awards tonight. I’m all the more up for it as on Christmas Eve I went to see Mary Poppins (1964) on the big screen for the first time since I was a child, at The Phoenix in East Finchley, complete with free sherry and mince pies, the Christmas Eve screening becoming an annual tradition for us.

Watching it five decades after its release (this coming year is its half-century anniversary), it  strikes me as modern in a number of ways, such as:

  1. Bert (played by Dick Van Dyke) has a portfolio career – chimney sweeper, pavement artist, one-man band, etc.bert in mary poppins
  2. Bert and his chimney sweep pals do free-running (parcours) on the rooftops of Edwardian London (really, check out some of the moves up and between the sloping roofs)mary_poppins_chimney_sweep
  3. Bert does free-style rapping at the gate of the park, making up his songs on the spot in response to the specifics of his audiencebert in mary poppins movie
  4. The bank where Mr Banks works is engaged in risky speculation with Other People’s Money and making nothing concrete or useful, and nearly collapses just because a young child speaks out and refuses to invest his two pennies in such supercrappifragileunrealisticexpatrociousness.

bank in mary poppins movie

The Play’s The Thing (Day 80)

Brendan-Behan irish playwright

Day 80 was just a couple of hours really. It was the day after Boxing Day so didn’t count 100% as a working day. I carried on pulling the research material together into the first draft of the Joan Littlewood chapter. Then I had an urge, mid flow, to try to write the emblematic scene which opens each chapter, designed to capture the essence of the protagonist. In this case I opted for a scene from the performance of The Hostage at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1958. It’s based on my interview with actor Murray Melvin. It’s actually the bit of the interview where my recorder crapped up on me for the one and only time so far but luckily I wrote down the main points on the Central Line home from Stratford – just as well as I’d already forgotten the finer details which surprised me. Even though it’s only been a couple of months I forgot which play it is associated with and what Behan actually said. The first draft I wrote from memory. Then thought to check my record and now I’m fixing it this morning (Day 81).

The point of the scene is that Brendan Behan regularly attended the production and had a habit of interrupting from the auditorium much to the delight of the audience. This meant the actors were put on edge which is something Littlewood liked as it kept the play fresh and alive during the run and underlined the participative nature of her theatre in that the audience, the actors, the writer and her as director all had significant contributions to make to make the play the best thing it could be.

the hostage brendan behan thaeatre royal stratford east poster

The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

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