Archive for October, 2013

‘I was reading Chekhov by my mother’s bed…’ (Andrei Gritsman)

October 30, 2013

I was reading Chekhov by my mother’s bed in the geriatric hospital.
Short tales. Timorous evening light
seeped through a window–the frame was resting on a volume of Kuprin.
At the patients’ cries they minced along, the nurses–Filipinas, coloured.
Mountainous places hung in the sunset, out of her reach. It was Spring.

I finished reading, checked the open windows, touched the chalk of her forehead
and went out, ruminating how time flowed differently for us.
For me a week, for her, a minute, maybe a month, years,
and muttering, the precursor of speech, also becomes the protolanguage
of another silence. What else to recall? In such weather

at a distance the Jewish Home on a hill
seems to be Nabokov’s or Bunin’s estate,
that is, almost my native speech,
transferred to a mysterious Red Indian valley.
And the further the building shows itself beyond the boundary,
the more and more the tissue of being,
colour, smell, pain–for you,
and also indeed for me,
steadily becomes
wind in the crowns of trees
and chalk in a ravine.


Андрей Грицман

Я читал Чехова у постели матери в больнице для престарелых.
Короткие рассказы. Поздний свет несмелый
сочился сквозь окно – рама стояла на томике Куприна.
На крики болезных семенили медсестры, филиппинки, цветные.
Места нагорные висели в закате, ей недоступном. Была весна.

Я дочитал, проверил растворы, тронул мел лба
и вышел, размышляя о том, что время течет для нас по-разному.
Для меня неделя, для нее – минута, месяц ли, годы,
и бормотанье, слов предтеча, становится также праязыком
другого молчания. Что еще вспомнить? В такие погоды

на расстоянии “Еврейский дом” на холме
кажется усадьбой Набокова или Бунина,
то есть почти родной речью,
перенесенной в таинственную индейскую долину.
И чем дальше маячит тот дом за пределом,
тем все более и более ткань бытия,
цвета, запаха, боли – для тебя,
да и для меня
постепенно становится
ветром в кронах,
в овраге мелом.

‘Do not be ill…’ (Leta Yugai)

October 30, 2013

You do not be ill, do not be ill, do not be ill
Endure the frost and fire and winter’s raids
Amidst the fields there stands a mill
And grapes are thick upon the blades.
Behind you the mountains, and a brook ahead
Above–the clouds, and beneath your feet the earth
Beat them all, all of them, I said
And all you fields, you streams–disperse.
You, mountain of ice, split away
Swallow all the carrion, sickness, waste
So you’re young and well all day
So there’s no resentment against the race.
There will be a sea–it will call away the vine
The brook will nourish grain so taut and fine
Greetings, greetings to hundreds of suns in line
–the warmest ones of them, like bread and wine.

Лета Югай

Лета Югай

Не болей ты, не болей, не болей,
продержись огонь и стужу и град.
Бела мельница стоит средь полей,
а на лопастях густой виноград.
Сзади – горы, а ручей – впереди,
сверху – тучи, под ногами – земля.
Победи их, этих всех, победи.
Расходитесь, все ручьи, все поля,
расколися, ледяная гора,
поглоти всю падаль, хворь, лебеду,
чтобы стала молоденька с утра,
чтобы не было обид на роду.
Будет море – отзовёт виноград,
а ручей взрастит тугое зерно.
Здравствуй, здравствуй сотни
солнец подряд,самых тёплых, словно хлеб и вино.

Books in Some Charity Shops of South London: Human Relief Foundation, New Cross

October 27, 2013


The Human Relief Foundation at 291 New Cross Road turned out to have quite a few books.  There were about 450 of them you could see, but they seemed to be arranged in a double line so there was probably the same number behind that you couldn’t see.  In the event, I bought a hardback, mint condition, signed copy of Alistair Darling’s Back from the Brink for £1-60, but what really struck me was Jonathan Strange & pan Norrell by Susanna Clarková–they had quite a few interesting-looking foreign language books.

And here’s a picture of the opening times:



Procol Harum. Fires (Which Burn Brightly) (Vadim Muratkhanov)

October 27, 2013

It was from there, from the old Horizon cinema,
that on a sunny day let furniture, a carpet, a window
and a breathing curtain into the aquarium of film.
One of those Practical Jokes, black-and-white Valentinas
and Blame my death on Klava K.
But how did my hermetically sealed time
filter through the Iron Curtain?
Tunes work in mysterious ways.
I bought it from a grey-haired black marketeer
with a hairy chest, bad breath
and a tattoo on his left hand
that he used to sell me the record.
Strange that I didn’t hit him.


Вадим Муратханов

Procol Harum. Fires (Which Burn Brightly)
Она была оттуда, из старого “Горизонта”,
солнечным днем впускавшего в аквариум фильма
мебель, ковер, окно и вздыхающую занавеску.
Из этих “Розыгрышей”, черно-белых “Валентин”
и “В моей смерти прошу винить…”.
Но как просочилось за железный занавес
мое герметично хранившееся время?
Неисповедимы пути мелодий.
Я купил ее у седого фарцовщика
с волосатой грудью, запахом изо рта
и татуировкой на левой руке,
которой он продавал мне пластинку.
Странно, что я его не ударил.

The Love Girl & the Innocent, Southwark Playhouse 12 October [Preview]

October 13, 2013



Picture from Facebook page

At the beginning, there was an announcement that Rebecca Oldfield (playing the heroine Lyuba)  would be on book, having taken over the role at the last minute.  There were no programmes.  The set looked far too clean and well-organised to be a Russian workplace, never mind a Soviet prison camp.

The play, of course, is by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and is set in a Gulag in 1945.

In theory, it follows Nemov (Nerzhin in the original), a captain newly sent to the camps and Lyuba (short for Lyubov’ = love, a perfectly normal first name for women in Russia).  Nemov loses his post as production supervisor to a more cunning rival; he and Lyuba fall in love and the question is whether she can bear to enjoy the protection of the camp doctor so that Nemov will not be sent to another camp.

In fact, a large proportion of the play involved scenes from camp life and establishing the fates of the multitudinous characters, and it worked rather well in this production; clearly a lot of theatrical intelligence had been applied by director Matthew Dunster to making it all work on stage.  Of course, none of it looked anything like what you can see at the Gulag Memorial in Perm, but I felt that someone had read the text carefully and made sensible decisions about how to present it on that basis.

The thing about Lyuba being on book meant that she had the text with her in the second half and referred to it with increasing frequency.  In fact, in her explanation with Nemov she was trying to explain that she was not free, the constraint she was under–and there it was  in her hand–I found that almost unbearably affecting.

I think the reason this play works better than you might think is that Solzhenitsyn had something to say, and knew how to say it, if not in the most polished theatrical language; and he had split himself between Nemov (captain arrested straight from the front) and Lyuba (sordid upbringing and unreasonable artistic gifts).  Of course that’s what’s so Russian about the whole thing–the stupid squalor of a sixth of the earth’s surface turned over to various grades of slavery and against that the spark of the divine.

As for the actors, I thought that Rebecca Oldfield did very well and Cian Barry as Nemov actually moved and held himself like a soldier, which is a rare and welcome thing on the stage.  Emily Dobbs also made a strong impression as Granya, the sniper who shoots her husband (you can more-or-less work out who was playing what part from an article here).

I should also point out that this was billed as a preview…see here for what I know about other Russian plays in London.

Jason, English Touring Opera/RCM 04 October

October 6, 2013


Picture from ETO's Facebook page

Picture from ETO’s Facebook page.  (That set makes it look as though everything is happening indoors…)

This blog and its pals thoroughly enjoyed their outing to the wilderness that is SW7 for this opera by Francisco Cavalli, dating from 1649.  The important thing is that the music is really very, very good.  Since Cavalli had moved some way towards giving important characters nice cantabile arias by comparison with Monteverdi, it’s also more accessible and immediately appealing than you might think.  The orchestra–identified as the Old Street Band, which seems to be ETO’s period instrument group–played divinely under conductor Joseph McHardy, and I have never seen an opera orchestra looking so happy either.  The singers were uniformly very good as well–there was a cast change announced, which I think came down to Demus/Apollo being sung by a student cover from RCM–it certainly didn’t detract from anything.

The story is that of Jason and Medea (obviously enough) turned into a tale of amorous entanglements and happy endings, which was the kind of thing that happened to Classical plots in those days.  My only criticism would be that the opera was surely aiming at a sharp contrast between knockabout farce and the romantic-tragical-dramatic, but the farce was not really in evidence here and many jokes went missing.  On the other hand, the full-on treatment of the Royal Academy of Music’s 2010 production with self-propelled stage props and the like would have been difficult for a touring production.

Go see!–that music really is extremely lovely.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Brockley Jack 02 October

October 2, 2013


This is a man-in-the-moon marigold.  It was produced in an attempt to breed a white marigold, so it's not brash & marigoldy in colour.

This is a man-in-the-moon marigold. It was produced in an attempt to breed a white marigold, so it’s not brash & marigoldy in colour.

In this play, dating from 1964, we follow the fortunes of Tillie Hunsdorfer as she tries to escape from the chaotic influence of her mother Beatrice and first of all go to school and then win the school’s science fair.  She also has an epileptic sister (Ruth) and a ‘$50 a week corpse’ of a lodger to contend with.

The good things about the text are the striking and beautiful images drawn from stellar nucleosynthesis and radioactivity; and the idea that is good for girls to go to school and study science.  It’s also rather funny.  The bad thing is the feeling that you’ve seen all the rest somewhere before, if not in something by Tennessee Williams then in an improving Young Adult book.  Yes we can work out that Tillie is the mutant or hopeful monster produced by the loathing radiation from her mother that will destroy her sister.

As presented by OutFox at the Brockley Jack, I thought we really needed a more over-the-top performance from Betty ‘the Loon’ Hunsdorfer to keep the audience interested, but then maybe she would have been the central character rather than Tillie.  I thought that both Evelyn Campbell as Tillie and Katherine Rodden as Ruth did very well, while the production was lucid and unpretentious.  In fact, if it had been me I would have been tempted to use the extraneous light projections from their Spring Awakening to illustrate the scientific processes and the other world separate   from beauty salons, real estate businesses and hopeless teashops.

Now, with slight modifications, beauty salons, estate agents and coffee shops does sound rather like Brockley in fact…