Tuesday 2 April 2013

Elysian Fields

John Mackay - a humorous Richard III

Just back from Bristol for an enjoyable weekend, no less so for encountering a series of Memento Mori moments...

(1) The most dramatic of these was the Tobacco Factory's excellent production of Richard III in which the wily Plantagenet sees no less than eleven ghosts calling on him to "Despair and die!" on the night before Bosworth - so not the best night's sleep he might have hoped for.

Up until that point the king had played for laughs through much of the play. I knew it had funny bits but John Mackay's brilliant performance had the audience laughing along with his cruel sarcasm and playful brutality - somehow you could identify with an anarchic Elizabethan audience enjoying the discomfort of their superiors - even the Princes in the Tower - as they get the chop.

Incidentally this Blog's favourite King Henry VII is quite two-dimensional - if not a little priggish - in this play which entirely belongs to the Yorkist usurper.

After the performance I go to fetch the car and get back to find Mrs Blog chatting to Richard III in the bar about him being found under a car-park in Leicester: it appears that the recent discovery of his bones, complete with the evidence of his twisted back and the blow from Rhys ap Thomas' pole-axe, has done ticket sales no harm.

(2) A barber's shop in a back street (click on the picture for a better view)...

(3) Who or what is this sad and pensive mummy wrapped in bandages perched atop the porch of the house where the poet Thomas Chatterton was born? Is it the melancholy poet himself - or, as I suspect, a bit of pointless and unconnected urban art? Poor Chatterton took his own life aged just 17 while literally starving in a garret, his fake mediaeval verses as yet unrecognised (personally I still find them unreadable but apparently they have a following).

(4) Walking in Clifton we feed the squirrels among the 18c and 19c graves of St Andrew's Churchyard which are lined up either side of a picturesque bird-cage walk, a bit like the Roman necropolis in Arles famous for Vincent van Gogh's pictures. And where is the Church? Blame the Luftwaffe who flattened it in November 1940.

St Andrew's Churchyard, Clifton, Bristol

Vincent's picture of the necropolis in Arles known as the "Alyscamps" - Proven├žal for the "Elysian Fields"