Friday, August 03, 2007

avenge me!

Last year I got all into Jack the Ripper. I took the tour and read all these books about him, and then I got all into killing prostitutes in the East End. Well, you know what I mean. It was a phase! Anyway, this year I'm all into the Princes in the Tower.

If you have read Richard III you know that Dickie, in his quest to become the king, had his two nephews imprisoned in the Tower of London and, according to widespread legend, smothered there. Or that's how the story goes. They did disappear in the tower, in fact, and the skeletons of two young boys were found under the stairs hundreds of years later. And then Billy Shakespeare writes a play all about this hunchback with a withered arm who murders his way to the top.

Turns out, Richard III was nothing like that. He didn't have a hunchback - in fact, he wasn't deformed at all. He was no 'bottled spider' or 'elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog' as he's politely described in the play. In fact, he was a pretty nice guy. A good king, who was exceptionally nice to the poor. But as Queen Elizabeth was not a direct descendant of Richard, and her family line was at odds with his, it was in Shakespeare's best political and financial interest to revision the character into something villanous, wretched and brutal. And the the story stuck. That, my friends, is how history is written.

If you go to the Tower of London, and you visit the Bloody Tower, there is a counter machine where you can vote on who you think killed the princes. Option A is Richard III. Option B is Henry VI. Option C is that they were never murdered; they just disappeared. Please choose option C. It's really your best bet, and it may help to clear a slandered man's name.

Speaking of clearing up past crimes, Alex, Liz, and I saw a terrific play tonight at the Old Vic called Gaslight. It was a Victorian thriller, which means it all happens in one drawing room, with lighting, music, and costumes doing all the visual work. It also stars Rosamund Pike, which helped a great deal. Now the most beautiful woman in the world is my wife, Lisa. Everyone knows it, and there's no reason to debate it. The second most beautiful woman in the world is Rosamund Pike. You may remember her from Pride and Prejudice. She played Keira Knightley's older sister, Jane. This play was all about poor, timid Rosamund being slowly driven crazy by her murderous, controlling husband. Until she turns the tables on him. Ha-ha! You bastard! It was so Victorian - the plot, the style, even the Old Vic itself. But the most Victorian element of the production, surprisingly enough, was added by the audience. We gasped, we booed, we clapped, and sat on the edge of our seats as if it were the most natural thing in the world to act that way at the theatre. At one point a character accidentally left his hat on the table, which would have had disastrous results for Rosamund if the husband had discovered it sitting there. Alex and I both clenched our armrests and whispered in panic "The hat. The hat!"

I guess certain plays are like time machines, and if they are done pitch perfect, we go where they want to take us.