Monday, 24 February 2014

Win here

Want to see Angel / Now We Are Pope for nothing? Enter the competition sponsored by TheGayUK; it runs until 15th March. And if you don't win, you can always pay for the privilege :) book here.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Abandon Hope . . .

Who do I kill? No, that's going a bit too far. Who do I strip naked (or nearly so, if you're reading this and under 18) and torture relentlessly (or annoy a little, if you're under 18 and still reading this)? Or, as I come back down to reality, who do I blame for the many mistaken listings on the internet of our upcoming production?

The production has a simple title: Angel / Now We Are Pope (alternately: Angel & Now We Are Pope). It's by me, Martin Foreman. You wouldn't think that would be too difficult for listings editors, would you? Well, to paraphrase Phineas T Barnum, never over-estimate the intelligence of the average copier-of-information. Checking on various websites I've come across various combinations, including We Are Pope and Now we are Hope. The writer has been listed as Frederic Rolfe - yes, one of the plays is about Fr Rolfe, but the author is me, moi, yours truly. Further mistakes include faulty or only partial descriptions, which has not pleased the two actors involved, to see a summary of the play he is not in and no information about the one which has spent weeks learning and rehearsing.

More annoying than the initial mistake is the inability or refusal of listings editors to correct it. I'm still waiting for - yes, the essential guide to what's on where - to abandon Hope and give the correct information after I emailed the correction forty-eight hours ago. It's Friday now and no-one will answer the phone, but on Monday morning I will have them - and South London Press, the local paper which has calls the production We Are Pope - on fast redial until I get through. Then I'll go through the rest of the list and see who else needs a metaphorical kick up the backside.

The sad thing in all this is that I'm not really surprised. Did you see the news earlier in the week that reveals that even the offspring of the wealthiest families in the UK perform worse at school than the children of Chinese labourers? For thirty years or more we've turfed students out of schools and universities with no sense of pride in their work, with no awareness that details actually matter, with no thought of consequences. So Joe or Jane Bloggs misspells a listing that has been sent in to them. What do they care? It's not their money in the show. It's not their name on the programme. And they're working for a boss who has a similar attitude. Accuracy isn't important. Offering a good service is irrelevant. People like me should be pleased that we're mentioned at all and who cares if half the information is wrong?

I can't waste energy blaming individuals. It's not even worth blaming the culture we live in since there's nothing I can do to change it. I and the few others who think like me just have to get used to it. We may not be living in Dante's Hell, but still the advice still stands - Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Faith and desire

It's time to gear up the publicity machine. Well, let's be honest, it's more like a pedalbike with a broken chain. What I mean is I have to find time in my day to not only rehearse with the cast and run my book business and, since I'm a stay at home worker, do some housework while the Other Half braves the winds and rain to get to and from work, but also to promote Angel & Now We Are Pope, which opens at the London Theatre New Cross on 18th March. Details of the production for those reading this post no later than 23rd March 2014 can be found here; details for those reading this post after that date are here.

Francis, not Hadrian . . . 
The double-bill of one-man plays which I have written and am directing (those of you who already know this should probably skip to the next paragraph) focus on two very different Roman Catholics. In Angel a fictional priest, albeit based on someone I met many years ago, is torn between his faith and sexual desire. In Now We Are Pope, the writer Frederick Rolfe, who died in Venice in 1913, relives his best-known novel, Hadrian VII, in which an Englishman becomes Pope, while also enjoying the intimate company of young gondoliers.

I am hoping that Catholics who hear of the plays will curious to see how I treat these characters and how they respond to the conflict between faith and the celibacy that the priesthood imposes. In Angel the conflict is clear. Here is a man with a powerful sex drive - a drive directed towards adults, by the way - who must nonetheless suppress it. What strains does this impose upon him? How does he resolve the conflicting needs of body and soul?

Now We Are Pope focuses less on that conflict, although Rolfe himself was aware of it and responded in his own manner. There the emphasis is more on the writer's challenging personality and his narrow vision of the world. In that play I am more interested in the question whether this is a man who should have been Pope, a man to be respected or condemned?

It's no secret for those who have wandered through my various websites that I am an atheist. But that does not mean that my views on the (non-)existence of God play any part in either play. In my fiction and drama I have never wanted to promote any world view. What I want to do is reveal the complexity of human character, to understand, and help my readers and audience understand, what motivates individuals. In Angel, the (non-) existence of God is irrelevant; what matters is the response of one believer to the impossible demands placed upon him. In Now We Are Pope, Rolfe's fantasy of being Pontiff is merely one facet of a complex character that I hope is gradually revealed as the play progresses.

With these thoughts in mind I have spent several hours yesterday and today emailing and posting notices to Catholic churches, organisations and publications across London, in the hope that they will come to the plays - and stay afterwards to debate with me the issues that arise. Will my efforts be successful? I'll let you know, but in the meantime, if you are of a religious bent, please pass on this post to others. I hope to see you, and them, there.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

HuffPo hypocrisy

I know, this is supposed to be a theatrical blog, but occasionally I opine on other matters. Today it's the turn of The Huffington Post. I dip into HuffPo every day or so to keep up with what's happening in the USofA. It's been almost a decade since I last visited and fifteen years since I last lived there (three and a half years in LA and nine months in the depths of Brooklyn before it became fashionable), but I still like to know what's going on. And no, I don't read the UK or any other version of the HuffPo - for reasons that will become clear later on.

Yesterday I clicked, by accident, on a piece by Kathleen Ann from New England: "I'm a Member of the American 'Used-to-Haves'". K A tells the story of  how after losing her comfortable job and consequently her home, she now lives a precarious existence based on uncertain freelance income. I'm sympathetic, and I'm sure there are many others in a similar situation in her country, mine and across the world who are not starving but whose once predictable lives have been upturned by economic and political circumstances beyond her control.

The piece made me wonder, given HuffPo's notorious reputation of giving its founder, Arianna Huffington, hundreds of millions of dollars while paying its contributors nothing or damn-near-nothing, how much Kathleen had been paid for her time and effort in contributing to Ms H's well-being. So, I attempted to post a comment making that very point. Having registered on the site some time ago, I expected no problem, but to my surprise I was asked to "verify" my status. I clicked the appropriate button, to discover that verification consisted of only one thing - connecting via Facebook.

Sorry, Ms H, but while I understand you may want to know a little more about me - and I would be happy to give you my name and country of residence, for the purposes of commenting on a piece on your website, you really do not need to know where I went to university, what friends I have, my birthdate and so on and so on. And so my comment remains unposted.

What does remain is a nasty smell in the air. Firstly it is the smell of hypocrisy, that HuffPo will make use of an individual's valuable capital (her time and intellectual input) to make money for itself, not for her. Secondly, there is the smell of - is it hypocrisy again? I'm not sure - HuffPo offering me choice between censorship (my comment will not be posted) or invasion of my electronic privacy (my comment will be posted only if I allow it to invade my privacy. Oh, I know that HuffPo would not be able to hack into my bank accounts and I seriously doubt that they want to use the information posted on Facebook to harm me - I presume they need the data for commercial purposes to raise more money through advertising - but I grew up in a world where a letter to a newspaper editor would be published merely on the strength of  giving one's name and address and was not dependent on also providing one's history and personal preferences in music, film and politics. And strangely enough, that is a world I still want to live in.

I have always been wary of large organisations, media or otherwise and I dislike giving more power to people who are already powerful. I never read the British HuffPo because I can get enough information about what is happening in the UK without contributing to Ms Huffington's overblown ego (the number of countries where she has set up partnerships is now, I believe, heading towards baker's dozen). I will continue to dip into the US version, but with increasing unwillingness. As for Kathleen Ann, I hope she finds an employer worthy of her hire, who rewards her appropriately. In an ideal world, it might be me.