Recurrent Magic

A Recurrence of Magic Jewellery.

I have written a number of books. For children; The Dreamstealers Trilogy, which was published in Wales by Y Lolfa. Then historical novels; A Court in Splendour and The Bardic Monk, published by Llanerch Press, a small press in Somerset who happened to like my work. I have never had any success with mainstream publishers but I can acknowledge that my subject matter is maybe a bit obscure. Whether it is or not, one of the things I have noticed, looking back at my published and unpublished work is a noticeable recurrence that intrigues me because I did not actually see it at the time.

The presence of jewellery as a means of performing magic appeared in my first attempt at a novel. The thing I have about jewellery is more complex perhaps than I myself understand. I do wear it, and I do like it, and I do own a lot of worthless tat in the jewellery line. I have never ever yearned for gold or diamonds or any other precious stones. The real McCoy, as seen on aristos and celebs past and present, leaves me cold. It all looks rather boring and stiff, added to which I might lose it. My tat, on the other hand, which is made of tin and gilt, glass, plastic and leather,is eminently loseable, and in terms of accessories offers some genuinely varied embellishment. Neck chains, ear-rings, brooches, pendants, bracelets; I wear them all. Why I would write about them having strangely active properties, is however, something of an enigma to me. Perhaps it is merely that I have a paucity of imaginative ideas, and the jewellery has been handy once so maybe it will be again. Except that it does not happen like that.

In The White Tower, a historical/fantasy/novel originally written during the 1970s, the heroine is gifted a charm bracelet, which she discovers conceals magic properties. When she rubs the charms they act to alert members of a spell-circle to come together. In Shapeshifters of Cilgerran, part 2 of the Dreamstealers, a brooch from the cloak of Manawyddan, one of the demi-gods from the Mabinogion, reveals itself, to contain all the spells in his Defnydd Hud or Materia Magica. He only has to finger the brooch and rub it lightly to find the spell he wishes to perform. In my latest novel Arianne Lexicon, Teenage Detective : The Case of  the Matching Charms, a charm bracelet appears again. In this story (forty years after The White Tower) it is both the mystery and the solution, magic realism not magic occultism, antique silver, found behind the radiator in the maths room which contains hidden clues. What it is important to stress is that in none of these instances have I thought back to the previous occasion. Every one of them has suggested itself at the time of writing, and each time arisen as something original, how can I not know I have done it before? But genuinely, there has been no awareness of repetition at the time. Only in retrospect, and only this time, since finishing Arianne, and going back to do a rewrite on another unfinished work, rediscovering the never published manuscript of The White Tower, soon to be completed as The Girl Merlin. It’s all very odd. I wonder if, as with dreams, other people will see connections here which elude me.

For Lovers of Dusty

At Theatr Mwldan recently  ‘Call Me Dusty’ a new play about the seventies diva, was performed. The theatre was crowded, evidence of how many people found her interesting enough to discover more about her life. Unfortunately, as the play showed, it was not her life that many fell in love with.It was her voice. Her life was not a happy tale of success and creative joy. It was a sad journey through manic-depression, and a lack of confidence in herself which meant she never trusted in her success and popularity. The review that went in the Tivyside follows, and includes the couple of sentences which were edited out because of the length. 

Call Me Dusty

Call me Dusty, a drama based on Dusty Springfield’s career years, performed at Theatr Mwldan and written by local playwright Derek Webb, was well received by the capacity audience.  Jessica Sandry who took the role of Dusty, gave life to the immense likeability of Dusty from an early age. Her eagerness to please, her charming smile, and her masked shyness, were all apparent from the beginning; as indeed was her ambition. She knew from an early age that she had a ‘voice’, and was very much swayed in the long term by  her love of American music, Tamla Motown, soul and the blues. Alongside Jessica Sandry, two other extremely talented and proficient actors, Jayne Stillman and James Scannell, created between them a host of characters, including parents, management team, the press, and others who were important at different points in her career. Their capacity to bring in a new voice, and a new face were a real testament to their abilities.With the development of the play, the sweet young girl began to display her other less attractive qualities. These were again captured extremely well and with the kind of conviction necessary to carry the audience along with her and bring some understanding to the fact that she was almost certainly seriously bipolar, a condition referred to as ‘manic-depressive’ in those days, and something which we know today afflicts many creative people, performers among them.

There was a lot to love about Dusty, and about the play itself. The stage was cleverly used to present a variety of locations, and the use of archive footage of Dusty herself on the high rear screen, provided some of the most electrifying moments in the play. Hearing again those songs from the sixties and seventies; from Island of Dreams, whilst she was in the Springfields, and later right up to the work with the Pet Shop Boys, her voice still has a quality which is right up to date.

From the charming young girl to the over the top, gorgeous blonde diva with the great bank of blond beehive, and her eyes thickly blackened with liner, shaders and mascaras, it was Dusty Springfield’s voice that everyone loved, and no doubt it was that which brought out such a large and enthusiastic audience at Mwldan, and wherever the play has been produced. The saddest part of Dusty’s life made up the content of the second half of the play and somehow there it lost the momentum built up in the earlier part. Essentially there was more of a ‘telling’ of her life, rather than the action of the earlier scenes. The description of her illness, and her sensitivities was told by others, and somehow rather drawn out. A pity that the wonder of her voice was not the image the audience came away with, but the sad image of a woman in distress struggling to come to terms with losing her fame. Otherwise this was a really successful drama about one of the great singers of our times.

Cardigan Town Bardathon

So, what is a bardathon? It is a week-long celebration of Shakespeare, read by anyone who wants to be sponsored to take part from whatever bit of WS’s work they are most keen on. From 8am-8pm daily, an empty shop in the town has hosted the attendance of people of all ages, to read in either Welsh or English from the Greatest of the Bards. The sponsorship is  to raise money toward refurbishing the gym, in the local school Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, or Cardigan Senior School. That the town should respond in such a positive and successful way, has taken some by surprise. After all, how many people get round to reading a bit of Shakespeare in their spare time?  Well, all week, every day, they have come and read. Single readers had the benefit of a lectern and if they did not feel confident to do it aloud, they could in fact read sotto voce  because the point of it was not that there should always be an audience, but that the bard should be read continually throughout the week. Yesterday the whole of Macbeth was read, during the early evening, by members of Cardigan Theatre,  the local amateur dramatic society, all experienced readers, who gave an impressive turn. Today some of them were in again joining together with friends,  to read King Lear. I was there, in the small part of Cordelia. Jeffrey Summers, who read both Macbeth himself, and Lear,  was brilliant, and an inspiration to some who had never read aloud before, encouraging them to have a go, and bringing a feeling of confidence to the occasions. Many of those who read entered into the feeling of the readings, and this made it really interesting and exciting. The entire week’s readings have been overlooked by the presence of a school governor, or other volunteer and with their commitment, the whole thing has gone without a hitch. Everyone who has been in any way involved in it has found it to be an inspiring experience. The money raised has been beyond expectation and the potential for giving is not over, contributions will doubtless still be arriving  during the next week or two. The school need to have a gym in which the pupils feel good about enjoying physical pursuits, and this has been what the whole week has been toward. What a unique fund-raising opportunity, and how surprisingly popular it turned out to be. Serious congratulations are due to those who came up with the idea.