Four in the morning here. In five hours a van-driving friend will help me ship my possessions to another friend’s house, then tomorrow morning i’m off to the Reich.

Yesterday i met Helen, one of the other TEFL trainees. She insisted on taking me to see BFG at the Palace Theatre, with her 3 -year-old nephew. A  novel and pleasing experience. Her nephew was transfixed with wonder throughout, quite silent and amazed. i wondered how much he understood, since, for example, the dream sequences might have challenged a 3-year-old’s mind; but he was nonetheless rapt & delighted.

i haven’t been to the theatre since 2001, when i played Elbow (one of Shakespeare’s idiot constables) in a student production of Measure for Measure. i’d forgotten the wonder of it, the magic when it works – this magic emphasised by the bare means: a little wooden stage, some painted props, the players with their ridiculous costumes & manners, some playing double or triple parts. No one, watching the theatre, would immediately take it for real, as audiences are said to have taken the first film (screaming at an apparently oncoming train) – its sleight-of-hand is too cheap for that, too stagey and makeshift. And yet there is the story of the man in an 18th Century (?) audience screaming “hang the dog!” at Iago: there is a magic, and it works on you. It’s not the magic of cinema; it seems closer to real magic – unlike cinema, this power comes from the bareness of artifice, the nakedness of the human presence. There isn’t anywhere for a player to hide, except behind his own skill – no second takes, no editing, no airbrushing. When it falls flat it really falls flat; when it works, you can see why Shakespeare, in The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, seems to be writing both of theatre and of magic:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

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