(Start at the very beginning.) A tale to end all tails from Sheena McDonald.
= ()r feather in the cap. literally almost. The only trouble with this revolutionary resolution is that I haven‘t left myself room to expound any argument at all. Maybe ancient Iigyptian pragmatism isn't the answer to baseless 20th-century paranoia after all. Ah well. Next time.
NOW read on. . . I've got a bit missing (and how on earth — I digress reprehensiny early — do you explain that construction to a foreign student of English?) and it's not one of the usual bits that get mislaid along the way— toes. tonsils. fingertips. appendices. kneecaps. . . Northe kind of bit that filmstars lose — yeah. tummies. bottoms. chins. kneeflaps. ...\'o it's a bit that I’m told I haven't actually had for millennia — ifever. Miss it'.’ Yes. I do. And I’ve discovered — well. nothing‘s new — that the ancient Egyptians identified the same lack. and— this is where the oldster low-tech civilisations so often had the upper hand — found a remedy. 'I‘here I was. strolling round the (‘airo Museum of Antiquities (a radical attempt to dodge the 'l'utankhamun (iold ofthc Pharaohs queues. I warrant you. but an effective one) when I came upon them. The fundamental solution. ‘(‘cremonial gold tails”.
Dot matrix to papyrus
This is the point at which echt Iigyptologists (do we. incidentally. recognise Celtologists. Pictologists or Scotologists— and if not. why not?) leap to put dot matrix to papyrus and disillusion me. Don‘t. Please. Don't tell me it‘s a misprint. or a misinterpretation. I am happy to believe that on high days and holidays. no self-respecting Pharaoh would be seen dead (ha) without a carefully lashed-on tail. Forget hats. nail-varnish. black matte buttonholes — a tail is the nonpareil ofdesigner accessories. being the only true 'falsie‘. It‘s the one item which the creative divinity unwisely skimped on.
To have a tail is to be properly
body-literate. It adds a dimension to body-language which we poor naked apes are forced to compensate for by the most ambiguous and inappropriate waggling of eyebrows. lips. wineglasscs and cigarettes. Gods know how many social diseases might have been pre-empted by the simple addition to the human form of an eloquent. articulatetd) tail!
Tail is non-pareil
()h. I know— you’ll tell me that tail-possession would simply prompt a new range of prejudices and products: ‘wow. hasn't she got a bushy one'.". ‘does he or doesn‘t he use tail—spray".". ‘you can always tell a real liar by his tail — twitches. doesn't it'." — well. maybe you‘re right.
But. for myself. I could use one.
And the odd thing is that life has mirrored this personal sense of having arrived in this world. as it were. docked. For instance. in two recent columns which have studded this (‘entral Belt. the published prose has appeared without its tail — its mitigating or explanatory final paragraph. designed to set the hectic invective back onto its rocker. to present a balanced review of'I‘he Issue to the innocent world.
My fault. I know. I repeatedly dare to challenge the editors' generous and specific word-allocation. I should count myself lucky that when exigency forces them to lop. it is my tail they sacrifice rather than my head. which would (I hope) render the bulk of my argument even less sensible than I intend it to be. But I live and learn. To avoid future misunderstanding. I have decided to wear my tail on my head. The key and solution to all forthcoming peregrinations around my peculiar interpretation ofthe human condition will now appear at the top ofthe column. Starting today.
Sheena M (Donald presents Scottish Women on Monday evenings
( I 0.35 pm) and Votes For Women on Wednesday a fternoons (2. 30pm ) on Scottish Television.
I l l
Actor Michel Pennington and co founder. director Michael Bogdanov. thought itwould take three yearstor theirnewtouring company. the English Shakespeare Companyto complete the Wars of the Roses. Intact the hundred year cycle has takenthem onlytwo. Staging Shakespeare's histories in theirentirily (from Richard II through the Henrys to Richard lll. seven plays in all) hasn’tbeen donetor twenty years and neverbefore outside Stratford. Aftera successfultirst season touring with a mere fourofthe plays. ‘in a titof lolly one day last yearwe decidedto gotorbroke'. It'sa marathon experiencetoractors—and audiences-culminating each Saturday with the two parts ofllenryVllollowed by Richard III in a daythal starts at10.30am and doesn'tend till 9.30pm. " ‘You'dthinkitwouldbe shatteringtoraudiences and actors alike but it isn‘t. Actuallyit's a most invigorating experience. There's an atmosphere in the house ofgreatelation
from having gonethrough such a lottogether. The kind of reception we getatthe end is what makes it worthwhile‘. says Michael Pennington. who himself playsthe demanding roles otBuckingham in Richard Ill and Mortimer in Henry VI as well asthe rebel Jack Cade. ‘We flew a kite onthese
GUEST HST —
Saturday things. thinking maybe itwill work. maybe it won't. but it has turned out to be the mostsuccesslul feature ofthe whole programme.‘
Bythetime the company reaches Saturday in its run atthe Theatre Royal in Glasgow. Pennington will have also putunderhisbelt more performances asthe ill-fated Richard II. and the happy-go-lucky but maturing heirtothethrone. Hal in Henrylv Parts One and Two. seeingthe characterthroughtothe throne as Henryv (notto mention anotherstab at Buckingham in the matinee of Richard III). ‘It does pose the question how much Shakespeare you can hold in yourhead' says Pennington. “But it's surprising how well allthe plays do hangtogelher considering Shakespeare wrotethem wildly outof sequence. It‘s very much the poinlthatthis isa chance to watch awhole lite. and at the end you do feel you have knownthat persontrom cradleto grave.‘
This season‘stourwhich afterGlasgow will take them to Tokyo and Chicago before returning to Britain forthe York Festival. has seen nearcapacify audiences in Chicester. Nottingham and most recently Birmingham. But Glasgow will be thefirst timethey have played Scotland. Pennington is hopingthat neitherthe name ofthe company nor the Wars of the Roses
subject matterwill putott Scots from participating in an remarkable theatrical experience-which amountsto something rather more importantthan trainingforthe Mahabharata.
‘These are just aboutthe most national plays we have and the Scots are pretty well represented. Fundamentally. the plays are about how the rest olthe country responds to central rule from Westminster. They are about the sort of issues we are confronting now— a divided nation‘.
The direction by Michael Bogdanov. well known for his radical contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare tacklesthese themes in the staging. mixing modern dress with appropriate costume from different historical periods. 'lt'sthe thinking that's modern' says Pennington. ‘a modern mind being appliedto the plays. making them as accessible as possible without betraying or letting down the text'. (Nigel Billen) The English Shakespeare Company opens atthe Theatre Royal. Glasgow on Tue 22 March with Richard It. See Theatre lordetails.
Making a return visit to his native city this month is Martin Smith. who starsin the New Sadlers Wells Opera production ofNoel Coward‘s ‘Bitter Sweet' at the Theatre Royal.
Starting off in Possil Park. singing and acting in school plays before graduating to George Mitchell's Minstrels to pick up an Equity card. Martin Smith moved onto London's West End and. most recently. great critical acclaim in ‘Les Miserables‘. Talking about his latest role. he says. 'I play Carl Linden. an impoverished music
Michael Penningto_n_, co-founderofthe Engliih Shakespeare Compgy;
2'I‘he List 18— 31 March 1988