Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Good-bye, Sir Arnold Wesker

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

One of the hardest things about being away from home is when you find out news entirely by accident, especially sad news.

I was right in the middle of organising the promotional blurbs given to me by fellow authors for my upcoming book Oysters and Pearls: Collected Stories when I decided to check something on the Internet. Well, I received quite a shock when this Telegraph article about Sir Arnold Wesker came up at the top of my search:

(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/04/13/sir-arnold-wesker-playwright—obituary/)

I suppose we always think people will remain exactly the same as they were when we last saw them. If they were young and vibrant, they will forever remain young and vibrant (or older and vibrant) until the next time we’re with them and can see the changes wrought by time. Alas, on the last occasion I’d chatted with Arnold, he’d told me that his health had deteriorated significantly. And he hadn’t sounded encouraged about any potential for improvement. I can only hope he found some enjoyment in his remaining days.

It’s quite curious how we came to meet. I’d just released an anthology of short stories (Erotic Travel Tales 2). One of my contributors was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Somewhere in the promotional material it said that this was the first anthology of erotica to feature a FRSL. I’m not entirely sure how Arnold came to hear of the book, but I had an email from him not long afterward, telling me that he (also a FRSL) had written his own collection of erotic short stories. His book The King’s Daughters, which he’d signed for me, holds pride of place on my bookshelf and has done since he’d first given it to me during our visit to his charming thatched cottage in Wales. Perhaps it was our shared genre or perhaps it was our shared Hungarian blood or perhaps it was plain old serendipity—something had prompted him to reach out a hand in friendship.

Arnold Wesker's book

When Arnold first invited me to visit him, I’d told a poet and academic friend of mine about the invite. She immediately issued a foreboding warning that Sir Arnold was considered “difficult” and one of the “angry young men”—and on my head be it! I had to wonder why someone so difficult and “angry” would bother to invite me (and Teddy Tedaloo) to come stay with him, let alone cook us dinner! Not knowing what to expect, I threw caution to the wind (as I so often do) and got the train to Abergavenny, where he was to pick us up. Well, Arnold was there as promised, and in true British style, the first thing we did was head down the pub!

During our stay, Teddy was on his best behaviour (as one might expect), though I’m afraid I can’t say the same thing about Arnold or myself. We started on the wine in the garden—it was a lovely sunny late afternoon, and  the bees were having a fabulous time terrorising me. This was followed by lively conversation in the kitchen, where Arnold began preparing us a delicious meal. We scarfed it down in no time, because after desert we had a date with the Scrabble board. Now let me tell you, there’s nothing quite so amusing as two authors engaging in a game of Scrabble with a bottle of wine. We quickly became annoyed with our pathetic collection of letters—none of which seemed to add up to any word that followed the rules. By mutual agreement, we decided to relax the rules a bit and allow words that didn’t exactly conform to what the game’s inventors had in mind. We even threw in some proper nouns while we were at it. How we both laughed at the hilarity of the situation—two authors cheating at Scrabble. Can it get any better than that?

It was probably a good thing I was sleeping over, because at some point during the night we had a bit of a downpour and if I hadn’t been upstairs, the leak in the roof might not have been discovered until some serious damage had been done. We were running around like proverbial headless chickens, moving things out of harm’s way and trying to wedge cloths along the wall to soak up the water that was trickling down. After all that wine, the situation was the stuff of slapstick comedy. Though I suspect the bill Arnold eventually received from his roofer probably wasn’t a laughing matter. Those thatched roofs are an absolute bitch to maintain.

The next morning after breakfast, I sobered up by watching one of his “kitchen sink” dramas—a televised play that had been done for Welsh television. Then it was time for us to get the train. Arnold got us packed into his car to take us to the station, though not without first giving me an introduction to living in the Welsh countryside. I was assigned the task of opening and closing of gate, which provided me with my first encounter with stinging nettles. How he managed to deal with that gate every time he came and went I’ve no idea, but a gauntlet would have definitely come in handy.

I found this man to be warm, funny and truly delightful company—and he genuinely liked Teddy! I will always remember our visit with fondness.

RIP, Sir Arnold Wesker.

 

Dorian Gray Strikes Again: Riding the Wave of Decadence with Penny Dreadful

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Last November saw the publication of my sexually explicit Gothic novel The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray, a sequel to Oscar Wilde’s classic work about a man whose fateful wish to remain forever young and beautiful yields a bit more than he bargained for. The story moves through time from Victorian London on up to the present day, taking Dorian on a rollercoaster ride of unrepressed hedonism that’s not only sexual in the extreme, but fatal to many whose lives intersect with his.

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szereto

Now it seems as if we’re seeing Dorian everywhere we turn – from actor/director Samuel Orange’s audience-friendly 2013 London stage performance set in Dorian’s “townhouse” (in reality Orange’s residence) to Britain’s royal family of thespians the Redgraves and the Foxes joining forces in a 2014 stage interpretation replete with all the sordidness Wilde could only hint at. And just this week we have the debut of the Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful, which features our dear decadent Dorian in a starring role courtesy of actor Reeve Carney, along with several other famous Victorian-era literary characters woven into the Gothic plotlines.

Do I sense a trend or perhaps more so the simple desire by creative artists to take inspiration from one of literature’s most fascinating and iconic characters, creating something new from the old?

Judging from the unmistakably adult content in these various works, it appears that I’m not the only one to have picked up on the cloaked sexuality and homoeroticism in Oscar Wilde’s novel, which he was forced to revise and censor in order to even make it “publishable.” Indeed, I stirred up a fair bit of controversy for interpreting Wilde’s character as a man driven almost exclusively by the desire to sexually corrupt others (with all the sordid details included) – a modus operandi that should be obvious to anyone who’s read with any semblance of care the original novel, which portrays Dorian as a sexual profligate who dallied with both men and women. Having been granted the freedom to work without fear of censorship (or a prison term), contemporary writers such as myself have finally been able to portray Dorian Gray as Oscar Wilde no doubt intended.

Yet even before the advent of The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray and Penny Dreadful Dorian was already being given new life. Director and choreographer Matthew Bourne‘s passionate and gender-swapping 2008 London dance production Dorian Gray is still making its way around the world, giving audiences further insight into the Dorian Gray of Wilde’s wicked imagination. Bourne’s version even goes so far as to change the gender of Sibyl Vane to that of a male, thereby throwing open the door to a full-on homosexual liaison. And the 2009 film version starring Colin Firth as Dorian’s mentor Lord Henry Wotton takes things well over the top when it comes to Dorian’s extravagant sexual behaviour, which descends into a degeneracy that proves as shocking as it does titillating.

These stage and film productions are no shrinking violets when it comes to dishing out some steam, and it appears that Penny Dreadful isn’t doing much blushing either. Intense sexual situations and nudity with Dorian at their core abound – and series’ creator John Logan makes no apologies. And why should he? Dorian Gray is the ultimate bad boy – a bad boy who’s irresistible to everyone he meets. When you’ve been granted eternal life and beauty, you have the freedom to do anything you want and have nothing to lose. Perhaps this is the key to Dorian Gray’s perpetual appeal, particularly in contemporary times. He dares to do what most of us would hardly dare to imagine!

Which only goes to prove that great literature will always inspire writers and other creative artists. And if it arrives with a delicious helping of the Gothic, so much the better!

(Shameless plug since this is my blog and I’m allowed to do these things: If you can’t get enough Gothic – and let’s face it, none of us can! – my new anthology Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance is now available for pre-order worldwide from Amazon and other major booksellers. So get a jump on the neighbours! After all, you wouldn’t want to be left behind, would you?)

Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance

Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance

 

Who Be That Flying Over My Head? (How I Survived the Mosh Pit)

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Fun and Merriment in the Queue

Mitzi Szereto with some Staind homies

I guess they don’t call it a “mosh pit” for nothing…

…as I found out on Monday night.

My Massachusetts lads were back in town again. Now if you don’t know who my lads are, we’re talking Staind, who have become somewhat of a grand musical passion of mine. Seether was opening for them, and I happen to like them too, although not with the same fervour which I reserve for Aaron and the boys.

Luckily, my mate “Alexi” is mad enough to queue up at gigs hours in advance in order to secure a good spot at stagefront. When I arrived at The Forum in Kentish Town at half past 6, I heard my name being called out – and there they all were, my mates from the Staind Hard Rock charity gig last September, including Steve the Headbanging Glaswegian, who’d given me that drumstick Aaron Lewis signed for me.

The heavy steel barrier was swung open for royalty to step through (that royalty being me of course!). And there in the freezing London night, we stood waiting for the venue’s doors to open, having a gay old time snapping pics and engaging in lighthearted banter. I even found a fellow Hungarian in the queue whose smile, when he found out my surname (and knowing its meaning), grew ever bigger. Not sure if anything else grew bigger – that would be a topic for another blog post!

Once inside, I managed to secure a place at the stage right in front of the barrier and right in front of the mike stand reserved for the lead singer – no one save for the security guys and the professional photographers could get any closer. This was going to be great. Or was it? To be honest, I nearly didn’t go to the gig at all, then pretty much decided to on my flight back to Blighty the other day. Having seen Staind back in September, I had misgivings about how I’d react and yes, I’ll admit that when they performed “Believe” I lost it and cried. The song has particular meaning to me, and when it was first released I really DID believe.

Still, it was worth it. I mean hey, when a bloke in the audience shouts out “I love you, Aaron!” you just gotta know these guys are good. Talking about love, I was certain I felt the little Scottish lad behind me pushing his erection into my bum (no it wasn’t Steve!). I figured he was just caught up in the excitement of the gig and the mosh pit (and having my fine self right there in front of him). I didn’t want to make a fuss, as he did seem like such a sweet lad, but enough was enough. It was then when I realised it was probably the box from my earplugs, which I’d stuck in my back jeans pocket. Guess that accounted for the wee laddie’s rather unimpressive… umm… stature?

When Seether first came out, I thought the mosh pit would be a breeze. Yes, I’d been warned by my mate who’d gone the night before that the Birmingham crowd had been a bit wild, but these spoiled Londoners shouldn’t be too bad. I felt confident I could stick it out – and stick it out reasonably unscathed. More fool me! Everything was fine until Seether launched into what lead singer and hair-dye afficionado Shaun Morgan referred to as “a love song.” Well, guess what that love song was? “Fuck Me Like You Hate Me.” This sentimental little ditty set off a near riot, and I had images of myself at A&E with broken ribs and a punctured lung. Talk about Dying For It

This hysteria continued off and on, and I began to hope Seether would finish their set and go back to South Africa on the first flight out. Having been to two Staind gigs already, I thought conditions would improve. I should have known – the lads always get into some of their heavier songs at live gigs (I’m dying to see Aaron do an acoustic show). The moshing began in earnest and, despite signs at The Forum warning that crowd surfers would be ejected, so did the crowd surfing. At one point I had to duck down so low I was nearly on the floor as the very same lad once again sailed over our heads, with the crowd control guy dragging him out of our way. I’m not sure who I wanted to get away from more – the surfer or the crotch of the crowd control geezer, which was right in my face. I can only imagine what this scenario looked like to those who couldn’t tell what was happening.

Of course there’s no greater climax to a good evening out then the commute home. As usual, I’d checked the National Rail website in advance to make sure I wouldn’t be stranded. The only glitch in the system from what I could see was that I’d have to change overground trains at Stratford. I left Kentish Town dying of hunger and in plenty of time to get home, only to arrive at Liverpool Street station to find it virtually empty of people, and no sign of anyone working there except for some bin men who were ready to go home. According to the electronic board, a train was about to depart within minutes to Stratford, but it didn’t say which platform. I ran up and down, seeing no such train. I realised I’d better get out of there and quick, so I raced back to the tube (where I’d just come from) and jumped on the Central Line to Stratford.

Fortunately, there was a train scheduled for when I arrived, but not only was it to be on the wrong platform, but I’d have to stand in the cold for another 30 minutes for it to turn up. I made friends with an irate journalist from the Times, who blamed all these transportation cock-ups on the London Olympics. (All I can say is that I’d better emigrate the hell back out of here before 2012!) We killed time by chatting on the journey home as our train kept stopping for no discernible reason outside nearly every station, with us sitting and sitting as the hour grew later and later. (I’d like someone to please explain to me how I could leave Kentish Town just after 11pm and not get home till half past one. This journey shouldn’t have taken too much more than an hour.) As I despaired of ever seeing my bear again, I heard the sound of angels. Some passengers seated nearby were listening on their camera to the exact same music I’d heard earlier – we’d all come from the same gig!

Anyway, at least I got to hear about the journalist’s night out in the West End, which consisted of seeing an updated version of Romeo and Juliet which, unbeknownst to her and several other members of the audience, was a hiphop hodgepodge of the old version. According to my new buddy, the original cast had walked out due to the musical’s financial woes, leaving the new cast to read from scripts. Apparently most of the audience had walked out too, save for three old ladies, one of whom finally hobbled out of the theatre on one crutch.

And people wonder why I’d rather go to a gig than go to the theatre.

Aaron

Aaron Lewis of Staind

Staind video I shot: http:/www.youtube.com

Seether video I shot: http://www.youtube.com