The Woman in the Moon, Rose Bankside 21 September

September 21, 2014


Nature (picture from event's FB page)

Nature (picture from event’s FB page)

Before this play, my knowledge of author John Lyly as derived from some forgotten Eng Lit handbook was confined to him writing something called Euphues and it being very boring.  But I was curious anyway.

Sol/Apollo prologues to the effect that what we are about to see is the poet’s dream, about a woman in the moon.  Then we are in mythical times (on earth, not the moon–it took me some time to work that out).  Nature has created lots of nice things, including four shepherds.  They feel the need for a woman so that they can perpetuate their species.  So Nature kindly creates Pandora, who is lovely in every respect.

But then the planets, annoyed at having been overlooked, turn up and decide to exert their influence on her in turn.  So for instance Mars makes her martial and she fights very convincingly with the four swains when she is under his influence.  And the thing goes along in this way–Pandora is (as it were, in this prelapsarian time) betrothed to Stesias but his compeers Melos, Learchus and Iphicles would also like to get to know the only woman in the universe.  This intrigue tangles itself up anew each time Pandora’s character is influenced a different way.

That sounds as though it could be Lyly pedantically demonstrating his classical learning and proving some theorem along the lines of ‘Every Man In His Humour’, and there were indeed times at the beginning when I looked at my watch not infrequently.  It also sounds as though it might be an extended audition piece for Bella Heesom, the actress playing Pandora, but she was very very very very good, so we didn’t care.  All of the performances were more securely-delineated than is often this case, pointing to the fact that this show had been aired before in various guises (at Glastonbury and as a reading at the Globe).

There were quite a few entirely genuine laughs from the audience as well as some real poetry in Pandora’s little mad scene.  The production was both economical and attractive, and made good use of the space behind the Rose’s playing area.

At the end, the swains have grown tired of Pandora, and she can decide which of the planets’ spheres she wants to be transported to.  She chooses Cynthia/Luna/the Moon as being fickle, foolish, fanciful, slothful and generally female.  (Of course, we sense some contradiction here since the main characters are Fortune and Pandora, both female, and Pandora gets a very high proportion of the lines–and the female characters would have been played by boys…)

Apart from the programmes having run out so that I don’t know who was who, my only reservation would be that I don’t really think this is a piece of ‘legitimate’ theatre as presented here–it could usefully have had more and better music, dancing and singing, and I think it’s really something in the nature of a masque or a musical comedy.

But enough!–This blog urges you to go and see the show–it’s lovely!


The pastor of profit (Anton Nechaev)

September 20, 2014

People come, people go, but their faces are coins
One is a kopeck, another is a cherished euro.
I am selling lingerie and ensembles.
In myself I’m quite calm, but I stammer even so.

A rich lady comes, in a coat of her husband’s hide.
She points with her little finger–put those ones by.
I say: Madam, perhaps you need an admirer?
But earn myself nothing by way of reply.

Time does not pass quickly, neither does it dawdle,
the accounting period is ended, the reports have all been done.
I’m buying a dacha, some furniture, a flat
and going on leave to roast my legs in the sun.

My firm’s building doesn’t rise very high,
but it’s more horizontal, like a painting of war.
I smile–the flashbulbs explode,
I’m teaching my flock the payer once more:

oh my animate, deranged, gigantic gain
so cherished, so valuable, so aureate
my life so ornamented, generous, unbounded…
Welcome to you, eternally smiling fate!

Антон Нечаев

Антон Нечаев

Пастор прибытка

Люди приходят, люди уходят, но лица у них – монеты.
Кто-то копейка, а кто закадычный евро.
Я продаю бюстгальтеры, туалеты.
Сам по себе спокоен, но заикаюсь нервно.

Дама приходит богатая, в шубе из шкуры мужа.
Кажет мизинцем – это, это, еще вот это.
Я говорю: мадам, вам ухажер не нужен?
Не зарабатываю ответа.

Время идет не быстро, но и не слишком медлит,
кончен отчетный год, подметены итоги.
я покупаю дачу, квартиру, мебель
и уезжаю в отпуск жарить на солнце ноги.

Здание возвышается фирмы моей не слишком,
а в ширину оно, как панорама битвы.
Я улыбаюсь – цокают фотовспышки,
я обучаю паству свою молитве:

прибыль моя живая, бешеная, большая,
вещь моя дорогая, ценная, золотая,
жизнь моя расписная, щедрая, бесконечная…
Здравствуй, удача вечная!

Price of Money, The Albany 18 September

September 18, 2014


This devised show about…err…money contained the following elements:

i) scenes from ‘Plutus’ by Aristophanes;

ii)  Belarusian folk songs;

iii)  stories improvised by cast members;

iv)  musical numbers not being Belarusian folk songs:

v)  human rights abuse in Belarus;

vi)  testimony from Stéphane Hessel.

Of these, Aristophanes certainly came off best (you can’t beat a pro!), followed by the folk songs.  Certainly whoever was playing the Old Woman (as above) gave an excellent performance, though I’m not sure why Poverty was well-dressed, well-made-up, well-coiffed and generally rather attractive.  At the beginning, a lot of lines (in subtitled Russian) were shouted staccato so that I couldn’t make them out, while later on there was a chorus (in English) that seemed to be about ‘the gap’, but I couldn’t make that out either.  If you want to hear what’s going on it’s best to sit at the sides, while taking sensible precautions to avoid audience participation.

Apart from the devised show format and the weakness of much of the material, I had problems with the underlying premise.  It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but that was then and this is now.  Take Belarus, for instance.  Minsk is prominent at present as the site of negotiations between Russia and what is left of Ukraine.  Now, annexing parts of Ukraine is not going to make Russia rich–in the best case it will impoverish the country not too badly, and in the worst case it will turn it into a colony of China.  Money is not the issue.

I didn’t see any sign of the promised contribution from Ben Jonson’s The Staple Of News.

But it was all right if you like that kind of thing…


Long black dress (Olesya Nikolaeva)

September 17, 2014

Mother brought me this long black dress from Warsaw once.
For seven years I went to the monatery in it.
At Lent I knelt in it,
Dropped wax on it,
Inhaled the incense,
Slept while I waited for the nocturmal liturgy,
Took communion in the heat and the cold
Even dragged logs round in the monastery’s back yard.
And finally I used it as a doormat
It lay spread-out at the threshold
And people who came to see me carefully wiped their feet on it.
And for some reason that caused me pain.


Это длинное черное платье мама мне некогда привезла из Варшавы.
Я в нем лет семь ездила потом в монастырь.
Великим Постом стояла в нем на коленях,
Капала на него воском,
Вбирала кадильный дым,
Спала, дожидаясь ночной литургии,
Причащалась в жару и в холод
Да на монастырском заднем дворе таскала поленья.
И, наконец, пустила его на тряпку:
Оно лежало, распластанное, у порога,
И те, кто приходили ко мне, тщательно вытирали об него ноги.
И мне от этого было почему-то больно.

Half of ‘Agamemnon’ at Madingley Hall (12-14 September)

September 16, 2014
A refractory passage from the 'Agamemnon'

A refractory passage from the ‘Agamemnon’

To start off with, Tony Verity emailed us:

A message for you in preparation for tackling Aeschylus at his most baffling.

To the brave Aeschylus group:

I’d forgotten how tough the Greek is in Agamemnon, especially the parodos and choruses. I must have read the play a dozen times, but I’m still finding it hard here and there to puzzle out the language, much to my annoyance. It’s not helped by the text being dodgy in places.

We were in fact due to go as far as line 809 this time, with the remainder to come in November.  The six brave souls assembled were keen to tackle every last knotty problem in the Greek text, though some may have suffered more than others in the attempt.  As I explained to more than one person over dinner, the format was to go round the group in order with each student reading aloud then translating, and the tutor helping and commenting.  We did in fact manage the to achieve the scheduled 809 lines by means of a spirited joint attack on the chorus at the end.

I think this was about the most rewarding Greek reading group I’ve been to,  probably due to having a small group and a text that forced itself in people’s attention, as well as a very inspiring tutor.  The other candidate would be doing Aristotle with the great and good Barbara Goward, where once again the text made claims that a rather small group could not dismiss as that’s all very lovely.

We had a talk from Malcolm Schofield, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge, and he also called the Agamemnon the most formidable text in surviving Greek literature.  Apart from that, he was talking about love and the Symposium, where Aristophanes had defined love as the desire for wholeness, Agathon as the desire for beauty, and Diotima as the desire for immortal goodness.  After that, Alcibiades had rather muddied the waters.  One was not meant to understand the character of Socrates, and there was a lot about him that was unappealing.

We also had a meeting to discuss future texts for the Advanced groups, and I discovered (what I had not noticed) a set pattern:  Homer for both groups in February, a shorter text for both the poetry and prose groups in May, and one longer piece of poetry/prose occupying both September and November.

In giving general suggestions for courses on my feedback form, I suggested that on the one hand Madingley could do life skills courses aimed at their specific demographic (to be based on research evidence of course):  Preparing for retirement, Managing your investments, while on the other hand recidivist readers of classical texts might benefit from some systematic instruction in linguistics, a course in Proto-Indo-European/historical linguistics, a course on the Ancient Economy (especially demography).

You can see the Madingley course listing here.  Do feel free to  write to me  if you have a query about all this I might be able to help with!





My verse (Gleb Shul’pyakov)

September 7, 2014

blind as a bird wind-blown
plumed over with names
of others–like the taste unknown
in the mouth that remains–
in eternal search, along the seams
seeking the edge of the days
how much of the future–it seems
to me so cold there always



мой стих

слепой как птица на ветру,

облепленный пером

чужих имен – как вкус во рту,

который незнаком –

на вечном обыске, по швам

все ищет край времен,

как много будущего – там

как холодно мне в нем

‘That which comes apart…’ (Valery Shubinsky)

September 3, 2014

That which comes apart you can’t sew up again
the needle can’t be threaded, the stitch will not be made.

He who’s called such a way, that becomes his name
he’s called that way wrongly, but it’s just the same.

Pink-coloured with full lips, well grown and toothy too
I do not recall myself, nor would I desire to.

He who volunteers  runs into that very fight
the atmosphere swells up and soils the candlelight.

Life leads you past the blades, keeps you from the falls,
whether for love or from shyness, I do not know the cause.

But that which comes undone won’t heal up anew
it merges with the twilight, flows into the darkness too.

Валерий Шубинский

Валерий Шубинский


То, что разрывается, назад не зашивается,
нитка не вдевается, не делает стежка.

Тот, кто обзывается, тот так и называется,
только называется неправильно пока.

Розовым и губчатым, росленьким и зубчатым
я себя не помню, да и помнить не хочу.

Тот, кто вызывается, на то и нарывается:
воздух раздувается и лапает свечу.

Жизнь ведет сквозь лопасти, не подпускает к пропасти:
из любви, от робости, не знаю почему.

Но что расшивается, уже не заживается:
с полутьмой сливается, сливается во тьму.

‘life is forcing them to become men…’ (Sergei Kruglov)

September 3, 2014

life is forcing them to become men
the raw recruits of the twenty-first century
raised by single mothers

to tie responsibility around themselves like hand grenades
to get up from the trench and climb out
to go into battle lie on the earth and timber emplacement
under the measured clanking
of indifferent tracks

you see: the army of deserters is thronging
it advances on its own rear

having crushed the merciless blocking detachment
of the categorical imperative
and its machine-guns made from stars

Сергей Круглов

Сергей Круглов

маленьких новобранцев двадцать первого века
воспитанных матерями-одиночками
жизнь вынуждает стать мужчинами

обвязаться ответственностью как гранатами
встать из окопа выбраться
идти в бой лечь на дзот
под лязгающие мерно
равнодушные траки

видишь: армия дезертиров валит
наступает в собственный тыл

смяв беспощадный заградотряд
категорического императива
с его звёздными пулемётами


Morning reflection in the church of Santa Maria deil Miracoli in Rome (Gleb Shul’pyakov)

August 31, 2014

during the catholic mass
a person makes the act of worship
kneeling on a
wooden bench–
and thus he seems to say
o creator and master of the world
i am not your lowest creation

during the orthodox mass
a person makes the act of worship
kneeling on the
church’s stone floor–
and thus he seems to say
o creator and master of the world
i am your lowest slave

when they talk about europe and asia
about what divides us
i think it’s not a question of language
of history or geography
but of a bench–
of one small step
which one cannot get over


Глеб Шульпяков

Глеб Шульпяков


во время католической мессы
человек совершает поклонение,
преклоняя колени на
деревянную скамейку —
тем самым он как будто говорит:
о создатель и владыка мира,
я — не последнее твое творенье

во время православной службы
человек совершает поклонение,
преклоняя колени на
каменный пол храма —
тем самым он как будто говорит:
о создатель и владыка мира,
я — твой последний раб

когда говорят о европе и азии,
о том, что нас разделяет,
я думаю, дело не в языке,
истории или географии,
а в одной скамейке —
в одной маленькой ступеньке,
преодолеть которую невозможно

Mongolian azalea (Aleksandr Timofeevsky)

August 30, 2014

January strolled like a king
And froze up the town
Like hermits in their cells
We were locked down.
And like one scoffing at kings,
One who could daily err
Flowering in a bottle on our table
A Mongolian azalea.
Contradicting the calendar,
As though it was summer time
Flowering it left January
Reduced to a pantomime.
An it asserts with all of its shape,
It is so bright-eyed,
That нobody has ever broken it
And it was never tied.
That it’s alive! That it despised
The counters all around
That it’s never known
A florist’s underground;
It was never locked up there
Waiting vainly for release
And they never dared to sell it
At one rouble the piece.

Александр Тимофеевский

Александр Тимофеевский


Январь прошелся королем,
И город замер,
И мы затворниками в нем
Тюремных камер.
Но как насмешник королей,
Как богохульник,
У нас в бутылке на столе
Расцвел багульник.
Наперекор календарю,
Как будто летом,
Расцвел в насмешку январю
Лиловым цветом.
И утверждает видом всем,
Веселым глазом,
Что не был сломан он никем,
Веревкой связан.
Что он живой! Что он плевал
На все прилавки,
Что незнаком ему подвал
Цветочной лавки;
Что не был заперт на крючок
Он в том подвале,
И что его за рупь пучок
Не продавали.


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