Whenever I think to myself…time for further reflections, I am taken back to my childhood. We laughed at so many things, my parents, my sisters and I, and as often as I recall adolescent years of uncertainty and self-doubt, anger, even despair, I also recall the laughter, not to mention the love. We all loved Ogden Nash. His poem `Further Reflections on Parsley` goes like this: “Parsley, Is gharsely.” That`s it.
I am currently indulging in further reflections on several things, first of which is the book now out, Age of Confidence, The New Jewish Culture Wave. I can`t exactly explain how or why my particular article, published in Jewish Renaissance in 2007, title `So What is Jewish Theatre?` found its way into the book. But I can confirm it sits between an essay by theatre critic/journalist Judy Herman, and an article by Mike Leigh about Arnold Wesker.
Judy Herman`s essay covers theatre and Jewish culture for the last 20 years, and includes several plays or readings I attended and enjoyed. No reason why my work should have been mentioned in one particular essay. But I have been reflecting on the number of near misses that my two `Jewish` plays have experienced. In 1993 I was awarded an Arts Council Theatre Writing Bursary for 3 full length plays, one of which Candlesticks was absolutely on a Jewish theme, one of which The Song of Deborah, is derived from the biblical judge-prophetess Deborah (Judges caps 4 & 5) and therefore is entitled to be called Jewish – if it wants. All you need to do now, the drama officer of the arts council told me cheerfully in London, is to go back home to Manchester and set up your own theatre company. Then you will be in a great position to get real funding from the arts council for productions of your plays.
Other misses were: there was a play called Breakages, and one of the actors told me he had a brother, or was it a cousin who was a West End Producer, and he`d told him about the play, and it was virtually certain – it was heading for a West end production. Then, the `scout` who came to The Song of Deborah at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, and copied me in to the glowing report (heat rising from the paper..) he`d sent to The Really Useful Theatre Group. The West End needs plays like this one, he wrote – or words to that effect.
Not long after that, I was invited to talk with someone from the Literary Department of the National – we had spoken on the phone previously. He said, casually, that they couldn`t really do anything with Candlesticks, which had just had a very intelligent fringe production, directed by Rebecca Atkinson-Lord, because…they were currently doing Mike Leigh`s play, 2,000 Years. 2,000 years, as I recall, was about Jews. Candlesticks was about Jews and Christians.
All of this reflecting being because I have now handed over the story collection to Peter Gimpel of Red Heifer Press, and am completing the draft of a talk I have agreed to give some time in the spring. So – what to do next? Today I re-read some of Paper in the Cracks, my autobiographical novel, and now I am wondering whether to try one more play. Only this time, push it harder, believe in it more, trust in it. For relaxation and entertainment, I have been watching Call My Agent on Netflix, and enjoying it, sometimes laughing out loud. The business of getting a play on is such an obstacle in the road. Perhaps I`m best off just watching films about actors and directors. Or perhaps I`m not. I wonder whether Ogden Nash ever wrote plays. Back to google again, to find out.