31/01/2011

JO MARCH & THE HEROINE LOVE

Who's your favourite heroine? Have you got one? The first I've ever admired was Jo March from Little Women. I admired her greatly when I was only 9. No other has ever taken her special place,  though I've had other favourites later on.

The main character of Little Women, Jo is an outspoken tomboy with a passion for writing. Her character is based in large part on Louisa May Alcott herself. Jo refuses Laurie’s offer of marriage, despite the fact that everyone assumes they will end up together. In the end, Jo gives up her writing and marries Professor Bhaer, which can be seen either as a domestic triumph or as a professional loss, since Jo loses her headstrong independence.
Click here to find out more!
Because she displays good and bad traits in equal measure, Jo is a very unusual character for nineteenth-century fiction. Jo’s bad traits—her rebelliousness, anger, and outspoken ways—do not make her unappealing; rather, they suggest her humanity.
I've spent my  childhood reading about her (my favourite one was Little Men, 1871,  in which she's a teacher and runs Plumfield School with her husband , Professor Bhaer) and  I dreamt of being  like her. I was a tomboy too loving reading and writing very much. Dreaming of writing and publishing the story of my large family during the war (grandparents, great-uncles and great-ants). 
I've learnt much from Jo, as I learnt from any  great woman I met in the pages of a great book. But  you can't become Jo March, you must be born Jo March. You must be smart, independent, strong-willed, you must love what you do and do it thoroughly, you must be ready to love others till the sacrifice of your own beautiful long hair, of your lifelong dream even. You may think Jo is someone who tends to be unambitious and rather conventional in her final choice, someone who is contented with little, a bit of a quitter. But I'm convinced she's a very successful woman because she understood something I truly believe in and learnt from her as a child: happiness is not in getting what you dream of, happiness is to be happy with what you have and especially to love everything you do.

Celebrate your love of literature’s greatest heroines along with Erin Blakemore and 12 incredible bloggers as they write love letters to the women who changed their reading lives.


 Join The Heroine’s Bookshelf for Heroine Love Feb 1-18
Celebrate literary heroines with guest posts from 12 amazing book bloggers
Win audiobooks, autographed copies, and more every week day
Qualify for a Grand Prize Pack on Feb 18…just enter a weekday giveaway!*
To know more about this great event  just click here

29/01/2011

AT THE CINEMA - IL DISCORSO DEL RE (THE KING'S SPEECH)


When there's so much fuss about something I am usually disappointed in the end. Not this time. I saw  "The King's Speech", just released in Italy as "Il discorso del re" and nothing disappointed me. Colin Firth even succeeded in touching my heart with his sober but forceful performance, he was the most human king I've ever seen on screen. Excellent! What do you think? Did  Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth,  check how Tom Hooper represented her father in this film and, above all,  did she like it? I'm so curious to know her reaction to the movie. I'm sure she wanted to see it. She is lovely represented in it , as a sweet  little girl with her sister Margaret.

28/01/2011

RA-NDOM THOUGHTS : BLAMING & PRAISING MR LOVELINESS


Few days ago I was reading this article following  one Ali's (www.richardarmitagenet.com) updates :  "Casting The Hobbit" on www.TheNational.ae. Well, I got furious, I couldn't stand reading the following claims from a senior staff member  of The Tolkien fansite:
"So far, the biggest controversy among fans with the casting of The Hobbit has to be the casting of Richard Armitage as Thorin," says Pat Dawson, a senior staff member of the Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.net. Armitage, best known for a major role in the BBC spy drama Spooks, is considered by many to be a somewhat handsome gentleman, and certainly not "grim-faced" as Tolkien described his dwarfs. And it's this that is causing the upset.
"It would, quite frankly, ruin the movie if the dwarfs are portrayed as anything more or less than what they are: short, strong, muscular, slightly over-weight, bearded and 'grim-faced'," one commenter on the site exclaimed. "Authenticity is very important."

26/01/2011

WHAT I'VE BEEN WATCHING - THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH


I read the book and...

 
When I read it, not long ago, I liked this story very much  because of  my love for historical fiction, but also and above all,  because it is the story of  men who dreamt to achieve something extraordinary, something sublime, something which would let them beat Time. I know there have been plenty of  literary heroes whose deeds went through and beyond Time, but,  in this special case the heroes are humble people,  poor-but - talented creatures achieving very high goals. A master builder and his step son, Tom and Jack, dream of getting high, as high as the top of a gothic cathedral. The  older of them will not see his dream come true, but the younger one will. What a great epic story!
The key idea of literally building a new church has its symbolical correspondence in Prior Philip's dream of building a new higher Church at a spiritual level. His complex character, with a strong , not-flawless,  personality, is so humane and touching.
 After many years from the huge success of Ken Follet's book, The Pillars of the Earth was made into  an eight-part  TV miniseries.

25/01/2011

CLAUDE & CAMILLE. A NOVEL OF MONET


You know how much I love Monet's art and also his own personal history - his and his friends' , the other well-known Impressionists. I wrote about that on various occasions (HERE and HERE, for instance) . This is why I'm so happy and honoured to have Stephanie Cowell as my guest. She loves Monet at least as much as I do and has dedicated to him her latest book, "Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet". 
 

23/01/2011

THE 2011 BOOK DRUM TOURNAMENT


If you particularly love a book and would like to bring it to life online, this project is just for you! Read carefully what follows and  click on the links to know more about it.  
www.bookdrum.com is a community website that aims to be the perfect companion to the books we love, bringing them to life with immersive pictures, videos, maps and music. So far this project has assembled comprehensive illustrated profiles of over 100 important books, including several school set texts that are already proving very useful to teachers and students alike.  Book Drum’s unique approach has been praised by authors as distinguished as Sarah Waters, John Banville, Khaled Hosseini, Anne Rice, Paulo Coelho and Peter Godwin.


They are now launching the 2011 Book Drum Tournament, with US$3,500 in cash prizes on offer.  This follows the highly successful 2010 Tournament, won by Victoria Hooper.  Book Drum was able to give writing commissions to eight talented Contributors on the strength of their 2010 Tournament entries. 

As a teacher, reviewer and blogger, I like this  project very much and  I decided to  bring Book Drum and the Tournament to your attention. And of course I’d be delighted to enter myself!  If only days were 48 hours long!

More information can be found at  

22/01/2011

ANN SWINFEN, THE TESTAMENT OF MARIAM - MY REVIEW

This book is both very gripping and moving, both very  familiar and extremely new, both poetic and definitely credible. Ann Swinfen was very brave at making up her mind to write Yeshua's story from a new point of view. Yeshua (Jesus) is a very human figure, a young man who deeply changed the world,  a rebel, a dreamer, whose revolutionary message  started a new era for mankind.
Yeshua's compelling story is told from his sister's point of view, Mariam. Her first-person account turns the New Testament events  into an amazingly involving novel. 
Mariam is quite a modern character. She grows up in a hard-working peasant community, mutinous, impatient, unwilling to accept the traditional role of women in her society. Running away from home, against all conventions and propriety, to follow her charismatic brother Yeshua and his best friend Yehuda, Mariam shares in the excitement, the fear and mystery, but at last witnesses the apparent betrayal of the one and the tragic and brutal death of the other. The bond that connects Mariam with the two men from childhood till beyond death is the heart of the story which begins in Roman Gaul where old Mariam is a refugee from far-off Judah. She has turned her back on the past and lives there with her family. For more than thirty years she has kept her secret but now news from her native country and her illness start weakening her strength and her past comes back to haunt her.
Mariam is an admirable strong woman who follows her heart with no fear nor regret, who risks everything she has-  her dignity and respectability- to follow and support the two people she most love in her life, her brother and her betrothed.

21/01/2011

SCHOOL CAN BE FUN . AT LEAST, FOR THE TEACHER.

(I've been so busy with my job these days I couldn't read, watch or get informed about other topics much. This is why I decided to blog about my school activities. I hope you don't find it too boring!)

 I know most of  my students won't agree with me (see first part of the title). They all think school is stressing, boring, the worst experience in their lives. I'm sure they will change their minds but, for now, I must accept their "verdict". I didn't use to like school either,  when I was a teenage student . I started enjoying studying at university, actually.

Now, even after teaching for 20 years, I find school can be great fun, especially if you teach something you deeply love. As a teacher of the English language I am free to choose among the infinite materials  existing among the so-called realia: I can find them on magazines, DVDs, music CDs, films and videos, and especially, the Net. One of my most involving (and successful ) recent lessons has been about ...unrequited love: who in his/her life has not experienced that piercing sorrow?  All of us, I guess.

      Once I announced the topic of our conversation class in the lab, my students were surprised and amazed but  ... so interested! Shy, at first, but soon after , so into it that they even forgot they were talking to me, their teacher. My warm-up questions were  "Unrequited love is  a painful situation each of us has experienced at least once in his/her life. How do you usually cope with it? Does it make you feel very sad? How do you try to distract yourself, to overcome the pain?      Many poets have written touching lines about this theme. Do you remember/know any?"

 
Afterwards , we watched two music videos and discussed how differently the two protagonists reacted to being unwanted by the girl they loved. One gets drunk with his mate but his pain doesn't stop, the situation is even worse (Nothing, The Script)

19/01/2011

STRIKE BACK: GREAT NEWS !

Yes,  you are right ... first news about Strike Back 2  have started spreading about and here we have the new protagonist, an American actor, Sullivan Stapleton. The article introducing him as the new lead in the upcoming  series states:
Excuse me,  do you know where John Porter is ? New Zealand? Under cover?

" Strike Back, co-produced with Sky in Britain, is based on the action novel by former soldier Chris Ryan. The first series, which starred Brit Richard Armitage, was received well by critics and fans, but Armitage had to drop out to accept the role of Thorin in The Hobbit". 
 He had to? Well , he wanted to ... he'd rather  to ... But we also read he would be in some episodes . Not as the protagonist , but  of course as a link to the previous series,  he will appear as John Porter also in this second series.   At least these were the rumours some time ago.


Leaving for New Zealand but ... I'll be back. Watch your back, man!
 What is great news then, you must be wondering. None of the above. Not to me at least. "My great piece of  news" is that after months of insistent but kind suggestions, my husband accepted to see Strike Back! He has got the flu, actually,  and has been at home for a few days now. He was looking for something to watch to pass his idle time in bed ...and I moved in to attack! Well, he surrendered. He had strenuously resisted for months but the flu must have weakened his will and... Antonio saw his first whole work with Richard Armitage. Do you remember my interview with him about Richard? How he played the tolerant, not very jealous, understanding husband ? He is indeed tolerant and understanding but ... jealous HE IS too!!!
Read among the lines and beyond the words of the short review he accepted to write for FLY HIGH!


ANTONIO SAW STRIKE BACK WITH ... RICHARD ARMITAGE


MG (and not only she!) insisted and insisted until I had to give in : today I've seen Strike Back! It was not that I was prejudiced against this TV series or its protagonist , ehm ... but I didn't feel like watching it, not at all. I can't explain exactly why.
However, I put the DVD on and I had to put up with
darling good Richard for about 6 hours.
I'm not going to write about the plot or the cast ( I bet MG already did that and you all are better informed than me). 
I'll just say: beautiful the 3 different locations for the 6 episodes, good quick pace in the narration, high-level performances and fairly good scripts. No boring moments in the plots, I followed the whole of it with interest. There were even surprises, unexpected twists and ... imaginative solutions to hide a pocketknife  you may need in danger.
I can't deny the protagonist, you know who I mean, has got a great figure and skills, though his character does speak very little! Very few words for the tough action hero. He never speaks for more then 10 seconds.
My impression on the whole is positive, then.
Only I've got a personal message for RA and I'm going to use Masuku's words: "It'll be better once I'm in heaven,  I won't discover you are not yet there!
"
Gosh, Anto! What do you mean by that? Poor RA! Do you want him die? 
"No, I don't want him still around for you once I'm no longer here ... OK... don't get angry ...  Just joking!"

16/01/2011

RA-NDOM THOUGHTS - ANY SUGGESTIONS?


I've noticed that  many of you , RA ladies and girls , are re-watching old stuff: North and  South, Vicar of Dibley, Inspector Linley (In Divine Proportion), Robin Hood (Guy is Guy!) , Strike Back and don’t know what else. 
Then I've also seen that  the RA chatting club on twitter ( the adoRAbles) is always very active and the same happens on facebook.  Other RA bloggers are planning great events.
I'm here,  instead,  rather apart, watching the others'  enthusiasm and waiting for ... what exactly, I can't say. I feel in an "expectation  mood" . 

What am I expecting at this point? Some very good RA news.  The Rover? Richard as Dickon? A new  hero in costume? Those are my dreams actually together with ..."Something all about love" , as Richard  said in his interview while filming Spooks 9. Many of his fans like him as a baddie or a tough guy, I prefer him mild: Harry, Lucas, Alec Track, John Standring. However, I can't resist his Guy's undeniable charm. The only happy event in the RA fandom which gives me new "fuel" is Prue Batten's "Gisborne",  (previously, The Sheriff's Collector) her story in weekly instalments at Mesmered's Blog.
I know Richard has  disappeared somewhere in New Zealand  and is very busy making his fortune as an international star, but that gives me great anxiety. Please, send us some pics from the set, news about your health, a short message  ... 2012 is really too far! 

Captain America in July? I don't think there's enough RA in it to  live on till the release of “The Hobbit” . Strike Back 2? I fear there won't be enough Richard there either and ... please don't  kill John Porter too! I said: PLEASE!
How can I improve my awkward mood? I need something RA-related but new, since re-watching seems not the cure for me.
Maybe... I should listen to the only thing I haven't listened to yet : The Lords of the North
Maybe ... I should  start reading The Rover and The Hobbit 
Maybe … I should start a course on creative writing and invent my own stories with RA or his characters (I'd be a terrible pupil, I'm not very good at writing stories,... I'm not very good at writing, full stop)
Maybe
Any suggestions?
Someone is whispering “Become a Colin Firth fan. There’s plenty of him on the press and on screen these days!”
A betrayal? 
Never.
Give me another, please.
"Look at your RA fav pics and stay positive, stay positive, stay positive"
This is better.
Any other?

15/01/2011

DOWNTON ABBEY - YOU CAN'T MISS IT!


I've heard few dismissing comments like "it is not ITV Upstairs, Downstairs  nor Gosford Park and neither an Austen adaptation" (The last claim puzzled me a bit) . I've read  that it is full of clich├ęs and nothing original. But now that I HAVE SEEN IT,  though partly agreeing with the previous statements,  may I say  that this  is a  really pleasurable drama, the wittiest and most intriguing I've recently watched? It made me so eager to see what happened next,  episode after episode. I very much enjoyed watching the 7 episodes,  it was  some time  since something I saw made me so enthusiastic. DOWNTON ABBEY is a must see for period drama lovers. It was broadcast on British ITV 1 in October/November 2010, it is being aired on US PBS Masterpiece Classic at the moment, but it can also be bought as a DVD  ( HERE  or HERE ). Second series coming in 2011. I can't wait! And, again, if you love period drama, you can't miss it!
The story begins in April 1912 when the heir to the title of Earl of Grantham, long time inhabitants of Downton Abbey, perishes on the 'Titanic'. The benevolent current Earl (Hugh Bonneville) has three daughters, Mary, Edith and Sybil,  but the property is entailed and can be inherited only by a male heir. This P&P-like beginning shows the Crawley family at risk of losing their richness and their privileged rank. (If you want to understand properly the complex legal question  on which the fate of the protagonists depend, read this absolutely interesting and enlightening post at Austenprose : Downton Abbey Entailed? Understanding the Complicated Legal Issues in the new Masterpiece Classic Series).

The Crawleys of Downton are going to lose not only their grand manor house but the Countess of Grantham's (Elizabeth MacGovern)  huge patrimony. She is,  in fact , a very wealthy American heiress the Earl had married for convenience: her money had been indispensable to manage his wide estate. However, now, they love and respect each other deeply, though their married life, as in many other cases, had started more as a business agreement. This is what Mary, their eldest daughter, was supposed to do, too. A marriage of  convenience with the younger  heir  of Downton, now drowned with his father in the Titanic tragedy. What now?
There is only one proper solution: to marry their daughters to someone rich, especially,  her, Mary. And who's better candidate than the new heir of Downton Abbey, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) , a distant cousin and a lawyer? Distant he is, in every sense, from the Crawleys living at Downton Abbey. He has always worked, he's sensitive but very practical-minded, intelligent and stubbornly modern, he refuses the aristocracy's stiff old manners, their formality,  and  hates the idea of becoming one of them, one of the privileged. He is a self-made man.

However, he and his mother move in from Manchester and starts being interested in the estate and its inhabitants. Matthew  goes on with his job and starts a friendly relationship with Lord Grantham. His mother volunteers in the local hospital and competes with Lady Violet (Maggie Smith), the Earl's mother, on many an occasion. Matthew falls in love with  Mary at first sight, but she doesn't like him at all. Above all , he represents what she doesn't want,  a marriage of convenience, what she doesn't accept, to sacrifice her freedom for the future of her family. So, you see, again something very P&P-like : first impressions!

The batallion of servants living downstairs and running the house, cleaning the place, taking care of the family offer other gripping plots which are interwoven with those involving the ones living upstairs.


 I loved the characters downstairs and their stories. Mr Bates's (Brendan Coyle) mysterious past and his newly-born, still timid, relationship with kind Anna (Joanne Froggatt); Mr  Carson's (Jim Carter) generous and authoritative managing the staff and connecting the upstairs to the downstairs world; Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) discreet and efficient presence as well as her unexpected past romance; the envious, ambitious and wicked pair , Miss O'Brien  (Siobhan Finneran ) and Thomas (Rob James-Collier),  and their plots to hurt whom they don't like; then Mrs Patmore's (Leslie Nicol) , the cook,  story ,  which is sad and funny at the same time;
Gwen 's dream (Rose Leslie) of improving her education who is  looking for a new position as a secretary with the secret sympathy and help of one of the young ladies of the house, Sybil; William Mason (Thomas Howes), the second footman having a crush on Daisy (Sophie McShera),the scullery maid, who is instead in love with Thomas,  the first footman, she has kind of idolized without realising his real nature; finally  the chauffeur,Tom Branson (Allen Leech) who introduces Sybil Crawley, the Earl's younger daughter's,  to his own socialist ideals .

All these incredible stories remain open to new developments. The series ends  with a cliffhanger: England is at war with Germany,  the First World War has broken out.

The location.  Highclere Castle  , in Hampshire,  is a stunningly majestic country residence in the Elizabethan style.   (Read about it and visit the official site) It has been already used as a location for films and TV series: the saloon appeared in the film The Four Feathers starring Heath Ledger;  the exterior appeared as Lord Graves's house in the film King Ralph; it was Totleigh Towers, in the TV version of Jeeves and Wooster. Shots from both the interior and exterior are used as the imposing Mistlethwaite Manor in the 1987 version of The Secret Garden.

If you live in the US and missed the first episode, PBS will be making each episode available for a few weeks after its initial airing.  Downton Abbey is available for online viewing from  January 10 – February 22, 2011.

11/01/2011

AFTER LONDON, ROME!

I know, I  live at one-hour-drive distance from Rome. What's so special in being there, then? To me it is very special. Each time. And each time I discover more. Each time I realize I have still so much to learn .
I love being in Rome as a tourist (because more often it happens I'm there on errands which are job related)  and it has happened again in these latest days, thanks to my very special friend, K./V . who lives  there and hosts me each time I need a brief escape from ... my hermitage in the mountains.
I stayed there for a couple of days and we had a "bellyfull of art, sightseeing, wandering about the centre alleys and the picturesque landmarks, museums and exhibitions. Do you want to have a look at some of my  photos? Not work of arts,  but my own shots of breathtaking emotions.

ST PETER'S FROM CASTEL SANT' ANGELO 




The Mole Adriana, now called Castel Sant'Angelo, was originally built between 123 and 139 AD as the monumental grave of the Roman Emperor Adrianoand was used as a tomb by the imperial families up until the death of the Emperor Caracalla (217 AD). From what remains it is possilbe to imagine the original aspect of the "Mole", which became, later on, a  true fortress. The name Castel Sant'Angelo dates back to the late 6th century when under Pope Gregory the Great it was renamed because of the legendary miracolous apparition of the Archangel atop the Mausoleum, putting an end to the terrible epidemy of plague.

In 1527 Rome was invaded and occupied by troops led by Charles V (Sack of Rome) and, on that occasion, Pope Clement VII fled in safetyf, from the Vatican to the fortress, through the famous "Passetto", a passageway which starts from Saint Mark's bastion and runs on top of the wall that encircles the Vatican). Castel Sant'Angelo has been used as one of the impressive locations in  Dan Brown 's novel "Angels and Demons" as well as in  the movie based on it, but it was also one of the settings of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini. By the way, I saw all the settings of Tosca in my Roman errands these days: The Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle (act 1), Palazzo Farnese (act 2) and, of course, Castel Sant'Angelo (act 3) where Cavaradossi, imprisoned by Scarpia and overwhelmed by memories of Tosca,  sings "E lucevan le stelle".  

Can you see? Once in Rome you can't avoid a bellyfull of art! But thinking of more profane bellyfulls, I ate delicious food, too. We had lunch in a  famous trattoria near Via del Corso and,  at night, K./V. prepared  a very  exotic meal just for me, one of  Jamie Olivier's recipes, cous-cous and salmon. Have you ever heard about it? Maybe. Ehm... anyhow, it was tasty! It was my first try but ... I want to make it myself. soon It is rapid and delicious.

Among my firsts, I went walking along Via Margutta for the first time: iti s a small street looking southward toward The Spanish Steps  which in the 1950s, after the film Roman Holiday ,  became an exclusive road, and a residence of many famous people, like film director Federico Fellini and which is now a place with many art galleries and fashionable restaurants.  I visited Galleria Borghese for the first time, which I had longed to see for so long and never had been able to before, and which hosts one of the most stunning collections of the world (have a look at the link!) and, only until 13th February, an exhibition of Lucas Cranach's works, Cranach, The Other Renaissance

Finally I saw the Trevi Fountain from the inside for the first time, have you ever tried? It's curious to see the always crowded square and the fountain from the windows at its back. As evocative as observing someone you know very well from a hidden corner and a completely new perspective. Curious, indeed.


That's all from my latest Roman Holiday!
Till next one, hope it'll be soon. Thanks, V. xxx MG






07/01/2011

WHAT WILL FRIDAY BE LIKE?


Ehm...Let me go straight out with it. I've thought about it a lot, I've talked about it a lot and, finally, I  decided I must follow my heart!
It's one of those days, you know, one of those big days. Are you wondering what kind of big days? Those in which you make big decisions. 
Ah!  I love Geraldine and Harry J. Kennedy! Will they ever be back on screen together? Fingers crossed, stop kidding and ... to the point!
 
 Don't look at me like that  ... I won't change my mind. (Lord, give me strength!)

I'm terribly sad at giving this announcement but I've actually been thinking about it much.
It's time to change. And,  honestly, not only that. This is my post n. 97 tagged Richard Armitage.  I posted RA Fridays from January 1st till December 31st in 2010. But it has really become hard for me,  it has started to give me terrible anxiety. What? The idea of Friday approaching and me having nothing to say about RA , it has started to give me troubles. Mind you, I've got plenty to say about Richard, but nothing you haven't  already heard or  read thousands of times. So I made up my mind:  it's been very satisfying, rewarding, exciting, stimulating but only till I had plenty of new things to write about. Now, it's time to change. So, sadly to admit it, I have to say good-bye to our RA Fridays and start thinking of something new.

 Don't stare at me like that! I won't neglect you, Richard,  promise!

Don't worry,  my friends. I won't resist long without posting somehing about RA ...  only it'll be out  of a weekly or periodical event, just any time I feel like doing it. Well, think that...  I could even post about him more frequently now! I hope to be overwhelmed by new things to write about. It'll be soon, knowing the man. And thinking of him right now ... I hope he's having or going to have a great time in New Zealand training for The Hobbit. Most difficult tasks for him? To bear wearing a fake beard (and a wig too? I can't imagine what  torture it can be!) and try to look like a dwarf . Yes, I know, CGI...but he will try to imagine he really is one to fully fit the role. Tough job for a giant!

 At last, he smiles!

Don't be sad! Stay tuned. Plenty of RA on Fly High very soon.
Have an incredible weekend. MG

05/01/2011

AT THE OLD VIC: A FLEA IN HER EAR. MEET ONE OF THE YOUNG PROTAGONISTS ON STAGE: GREG BALDOCK

As I told in one of my latest posts from London, I was at the Old Vic on 29th December to see  A Flea in Her Ear by G. Feydeau. I was so excited to be there on my own! I was quite proud of myself  for the first time in that prestigious theatre and going to attend a performance of two actors I had admired in  some of my beloved costume dramas: Tom Hollander,  I had seen in Wives and Daughters, Cambridge Spies and, of course, Pride and Prejudice 2005 , as well as Lisa Dillon,  who was one of the lovely protagonists in Cranford. But my enthusiasm was soon cooled down by the announcement of Mr Hollander's absence for a sudden indisposition that night.
If the start was so disappointing the end of it was total enthusiasm. If the success of a farce is based on how much the audience laugh, that performance of Feydeau's play was definitely and hugely successful. I couldn't stop laughing and neither the rest of of the audience! 


The pace of the performance was really  fast,  the cast brilliant, the rythm and timing almost perfect: each  door was slammed just at the right moment, each gag and paradoxical situation were manifactured with convincing energy, the sequence of misunderstandings were escalatingly hilarious, though stereotypical the characters were all extremely involving. My favourite ones were the jealous manic Carlos Homenides de Histangua, interpreted by volcanic John Marquez; Camille, the protagonist's nephew, whose speech impediment (being unable to pronounce consonants) leads people to lose their patience with him , played by  a sparkling blond talent, Freddie Fox; and,  last but not least, the young excellent understudy who substituted Mr Hollander  and carried out the hard task so stunningly well that I forgot my initial disappointment, Greg Baldock, who was  both Victor Immanuel Chandebise and his look-alike drunken hotel porter, Poche. Young Mr Baldock substituted a great name with great talent,  so I wanted to congratulate him but first I had  to get to know his name, which I hadn't caught during the announcement of Mr Hollander's substitution. Now I know his name and even something more about him, since he was so kind to accept to answer some questions of mine about himself, that evening, his career and dreams. Yes, I interviewed him!





MG: Hi Greg! Glad to make your acquaintance, though only via the Net.  First of all, I must congratulate you for your performance as Chandebise/Poche in  “A Flea in Her Ear”.  I was there at the Old Vic few days ago, in the audience, and I was one of those who booed a little  when Mr Hollander’s sudden indisposition was announced. Honestly,  I was disappointed. Then, you appeared on stage after some minutes from the beginning and I thought “O my God, he’s so young!  It won’t work”. Well, after  a while  I had completely forgotten you were the understudy.  You were so self-confident and … brilliant! I enjoyed myself so much.  I couldn’t stop laughing, I think I’ve never laughed so much at the theatre. 
Now, it’s your turn, Greg. Can you describe your emotions on that evening? Was it your first great occasion or had you already worked on an important stage like the Old Vic?
GREG: Firstly, thank you for your compliments. This is my first, as I only graduated from Rose Bruford College Of Theatre And Performance in September 2010, so this is all very much exciting and amazing work for me to have achieved in such a short space of time. The emotions for that evening were a very heavy combination of adrenaline and an incredible amount of reaction to the great performers on stage. 
  
MG: How did you keep yourself ready to substitute Mr Hollander any time it was needed?
GREG: Really you just need to be on the ball all the time. As an understudy, I find it very important to keep watching the play every single night, and constantly make sure I’m updated with any new moves or changes to the structure of the performance. The real trick is to be off script when the play goes up in the preview nights, and then it’s just a roll of the dice if you have to go on at any point.

MG: The double role of Chandebise & Poche must be extremely exhausting both mentally and physically. You were very good at giving a different  posture, stride, speech to the two characters.  Was that the most difficult aspect of this performance?
GREG: Not at all, the script informs you of the characters with their different language rhythms and your physicality sort of develops from their speech patterns. I would actually say for me that the most difficult part of this job is to stay energized for the entire performance. I am a trained beach lifeguard, and that requires 16 lengths in under 8 minutes and a length and a half non-stop underwater, amongst other skills. In comparison, performing on stage for the most of the 2 hours in a farce is by far a lot more exhausting. I am usually drinking a pint of water between scenes, a banana before the play starts and one at the interval, and a whole host of multivitamins and isotonics wherever I squeeze them in. Because of cramping in my thighs, I’m also licking salt from the back of my hand just to get some into my system because I sweat it all out. 
  
MG: What is your relationship with the rest of the cast?
GREG: Pretty good actually. They are by the far best cast I have ever worked with and they are all very very supportive, not to mention utterly professional to a standard I have never seen before.
 
            MG:  In Feydeau ‘s farces the secret  of success is … ?
GREG: Tempo, tempo, tempo. You must never drop the rhythm. It’s  not quite like an English comedy, where you can afford to wait for laughs, but, instead, there is a ‘pressure cooker’ idea which builds and builds and builds, which is why by the time it gets to the third act, the speed is like lightning. 
  
      MG:  Have you substituted Mr Hollander again after 29th December?
GREG: Yes. In fact I substituted him on Tuesday, on the night before. I will be covering him all the way up to Saturday 8th January. Apparently he will be ready to go again on the following Monday.

      MG:  Now, Greg, can you tell us briefly something about yourself?
GREG: I’m only 23, I trained for 3 years at Rose Bruford College Of Theatre And Performance, and I’m originally from Merseyside. I’m a big fan of poetry, movies and music from the 1980s, and playing the electric bass guitar.

      MG: As a promising young actor I’ll keep an eye on you and your career. Sooner or later I’m sure I’ll see you on one of my favourite BBC dramas or in a new period movie. Why period, do you wonder? Because it’s my favourite genre. LOL!  However, would you like to work on TV or would you rather go on with  the theatre?
GREG: Hmmm. Well, I would like to do some more TV and possibly film, as I actually find them a little easier. If doing theatre is like running a marathon, then I would say TV is a bit more like sprinting. It’s great because you can sort of condense all your work into one brief moment. However , theatre is your art really, and it always gives an actor the opportunity to explore, play and constantly make new discoveries.

      MG:  What is your greatest dream as an actor?
GREG: For me? I’m pretty realistic, so for me, I would love to play a long term character on a long-running drama series for television. A lot of American television drama series can afford seasons with lots of hour long episodes. Either that, or a couple of stints at the Royal Court would do me just fine.

      MG: What’s next? I mean, after finishing at the Old Vic?
GREG: I have no idea. My agent is inviting as many casting directors as possible to the show this week, so I will have to see what crops up. I imagine I will get some understudy offers, but hopefully there will be a  chance to get to grips with a character of my very own.

MG: Good Luck, Greg, for anything in your private and professional life. Thanks for finding the time to answer my questions. 
GREG: Thank you!