Thursday, 2 April 2015

Crown of Shadows

On a train between Cambridge and London Kings Cross, I sat next to a man who was thumbing-through a typescript. It was entitled The Great Charter - a play, set in England between the years 1214-1216 (Fourth Revision, July 2014), by Stephen Hawes.

As an observation, I thought that the man wasn't an actor. Actors cultivate an intensity that extends to the smallest detail in the most mundane circumstances. This chap flicked over the pages randomly, a pencil in his right hand. The pencil was never used, however. It was more an extension of the man's nervous or otherwise agitated state: page 57, a touch of the lead point at a character's line, page 124, the pencil used like a ruler, marking the page in a downward sweep of equal measures as though testing the distribution of words on the page against the weight assigned to the lines.

Apart from these nervous tics, the fact that the typescript was tagged "Fourth Revision" and that this revision was dated some ten months earlier, made me wonder if "Stephen" (We shall assume it was he.) had spent the time considering the remarks made to him by a London producer in respect of required revisions. It might be that the revision requests were made, and completed, but that the producer then lost interest for a time. A further scenario might be that the revisions were made, but the author then decided that they weren't to his liking, and he in turn postponed a further meeting.

For my part, when preparing a book of poems for publication, it was with a combination of excitement and dread - the former because you knew that within the next year a book of  poetry would be published, and the latter because you wondered if the poetry therein was 'enough', and whether the poems were correctly 'weighted' for a reader.

As a title,The Great Charter, obviously a reference to the Magna Carta, seems a dry old stick, and more suitable as a secondary leader. As a reference to those troubled times, rebellion, a distraught king slogging up and down the land, dragging his army, his retinue, his treasure, with him, perhaps something more personal might be in order - Crown of Shadows, or,The Broken Realm: Magna Carta and After - a journey, perhaps, not unlike Stephen's own.

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