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Arguments with England: A Memoir Hardcover – 16 Sep 2004
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'Anyone who has read Michael Blakemore's classic novel Next Season knows he is one of the best writers we have about how life on-stage may feed into life off. His beautiful new memoir,Arguments with England, is perhaps better still - a pitch-perfect account of dreaming youth, driven, frustrated and eventually deepened by a realistic love of the theatre.' David Hare
Arguments with England by Michael Blakemore, described by Simon Callow in the Guardian as 'Some of the most exhilarating writing about the theatre ever committed to paper'. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
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Michael Blakemore, who he? Perhaps the most overlooked of the Aussie influx who helped transform Britain (see my review of Richard Neville's Hippie Hippie Shake), that's who. There's much social history, much psychological acuity and not a little wisdom among these recollections put together over twenty years - the word authenticity comes to mind. The early pages fail to convince (one sees with retrospect their necessity) but once we're set down in the fifties England of class, hanging, pea-soupers, rationing (one egg per week) and rep at the Theatre Royal, Huddersfield (now inevitably a car park) we're away. In London Blakemore's compatriots 'dressed very correctly in clothes of so little style it was a style in itself.' At RADA 'Miss ***'s interminable costume parades.. in feeling were more like a police line-up.' On digs, 'all landladies [insist] on fifteen minutes a day of one-way conversation' - I can vouch for this. Television? 'A milky eye on the point of hypnotising the nation.' And so, irresistibly, on. Brecht's importance to his generation is conveyed in a single page-length paragraph and his formidable (read impossible) widow captured in fifteen words. Blakemore's language is always to the purpose and sometimes delectable. 'After ten days the snow started melting and big, brown patches began to appear here and there, as if the mountain was soiling itself in disgust at its infestation by humanity.' We see the young actor getting an object-lesson in directing from the great Tyrone Guthrie. But beguiling as the anecdotes are, it's the moral underpinning that compels
Some reviewers have called this book 'funny', as if it's The Moon's a Balloon Mark II. It's so much more, and on page 142 Blakemore spells it out: 'moral seriousness'. When he talks of his own 'lacerated resolve' and says of his girlfriend 'perhaps she felt the raft we were on could carry the weight of only one load of one ambition without breaking up' there's a rawness and an honesty Niven never knew. Jocelyn Rickards' The Painted Garden' (p38), by the way, which I've just ordered (thanks, Michael!) is actually The Painted Banquet
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