Monday, 27 January 2014

Musical Monday #45

Today’s Musical Monday is arbitrarily dedicated to all The Friends

I have more friends than this (at least ONE more)

Because there is nothing like a friend.  Nothing in the whole wide world.

Nothing Like A Friend from The Return Of Jafar
Performed by Brad Kane, Dan Castellaneta and Liz Callaway
Written by Mark Watters (maybe)

What's your favourite Disney sequel?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Top Shelf Books #8 – The Story Of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson

The next book to reach The Top Shelf is

The Story Of Tracy Beaker by Jacqueline Wilson, 1991

‘My name is Tracy Beaker’

I first came across this book in the library (where I spent a lot of time as a child).  It was a landscape hardback edition.  I’m not sure how much attention I was actually paying to it because I thought for a long time that the title character was called ‘Tracy Baker’. 

I also spent a lot more time playing around with the questionnaire-style opening and looking at the doodle-style illustrations of Nick Sharratt than I did actually reading the story.  I did eventually get my own copy of the book, an ex-library copy but this one a paperback and normal novel shape (which I was slightly put-out about, mainly because some of the drawings were missing in this edition). 

As I got older I spent more time reading the story as a whole, and although it is extremely brief, it is a sublime example of the unreliable narrator (as I mentioned in The Books That Shaped My Youth), very funny and moving.

Tracy is a ten-year-old living in care.  All the children in the home (dumping ground) are given a book in which to write about themselves.  This sparks Tracy’s interest and talent for writing and soon she is telling her life story.  We are reading Tracy’s book.  It’s filled with her skewed perspective, where her deadbeat mother is always about to arrive and whisk her away to a rich and glamorous life, and where she tries to hide how she really feels about previous failed foster families and friends who don’t want to talk to her any more, which creates a heart-breaking pathos.  As heartless and naughty as Tracy tries to appear, she is a lonely vulnerable child, and that makes a beguiling narrator. 

‘It was great.  Yes, I had the most amazing time.  First I went to McDonald’s and had a Big Mac and french fries with a strawberry milk shake and then I went to the pictures and saw this really funny film and I laughed so much I fell out of my seat and then I went off with this whole crowd of friends to an amusement arcade and I kept winning the jackpot on the fruit machines and then we all went off to this party and I drank a whole bottle of wine and it was great, it just tasted like lemonade, and this girl there, we made friends and she asked me if I’d like to stay the night, sharing her twin beds in this fantastic pink and white room, in fact she said I could stay there permanently if I really wanted and so I said…
I said: ‘No thanks, I’d sooner go back to my crummy children’s home.’ ?
Of course I didn’t say that.  Well, she didn’t say it either.  I sort of made her up.  And her party.  I didn’t go down the amusement arcade.  Or to the pictures.  Or McDonald’s.  I would have done, but I couldn’t, on account of the fact I ran off with no cash whatsoever.
I said I tell fibs sometimes.  It makes things more interesting.  I mean, what’s the point of writing what I really did?  Which was loaf about the town feeling more and more fed up.  The only thing I could think of to do was sit in the bus shelter.  It got a bit boring.  I pretended I was waiting for a bus and I tried to think of all the places I’d like to go to.  But that began to depress me because I started thinking about Watford, where my mum said she lived.  And last year I got all the right money together (which created a few problems afterwards as I sort of borrowed it without asking) and sussed out the journey and got all these trains and buses and all the rest of it, so that I could pay my mum a visit and give her a lovely surprise.  Only it was me that got the surprise because she wasn’t there, and the people who lived in that house said she’d moved on about six months ago and they didn’t have a clue where she’d gone now.’

Although there’s not much plot, it’s the progression of Tracy’s attitudes towards certain characters that makes the story.  What really works about the book is Tracy isn’t a person you’d want to meet; she lies, she fights, she picks on others, never accepts responsibility for her actions and is completely self-centred, but seeing the world from her point of view turns all that on its head.  Yes, she is all those things, but she has to be tough to protect herself from being hurt again and you’re rooting one hundred per cent for this kid.  A sympathetic unreliable first person narrator is one of the most enjoyable things to read, done well, and in The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Wilson does it brilliantly.

Who are your favourite unreliable narrators?

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Why I Never Became An Actor #4

Up until the end of the century all The Forays into acting had been through school.  They had been varying degrees of disastrous.  Big school productions with scripts, singing and a paying audience meant paltry cameo roles for me.  Tiny improvised often-unfinished plays in classrooms saw me taking the lead in roles that expanded with The Ego, but the best I could hope for audience-wise was the occasional open evening.

But then came The Big Opportunity to break away from school and prove myself among strangers.

After two nights of auditions, The Director (who we dubbed Chipstick because I accidentally spat a chipstick on him) told us:

I ascended the steps to the stage and felt along the curtain.  Where was the gap?  I was stuck in billowing curtain and there was no gap.  I was trapped.  I span round, arms flailing.  Someone inside pulled back the corner and I stumbled through.

“You’re not supposed to come through the middle,” said The Assistant Director (who we dubbed Sidekick) (we were SO witty).  “It’s weighted down.”

I walked unsteadily to the seat indicated.  I’d have rather stood.  Hover from foot to foot, breathing.  It was dark back there.  I sat down.

Of course it was.  I was first.  It probably wasn’t even a role.  I probably just had to turn up.

I stared at him as he rambled on.  Why did he have to bullshit me?  Did he have that little respect for me?  I had a lame part.  Just tell me.  It wasn’t the end of the world.  I was new here.  I didn’t expect better.

After I was told The Role, I was sent to the dressing room to wait for everyone else.  I picked up a copy of the script.  Four lines.  The First Non-School Production and I had four lines.  I was going to invite everyone I knew to this, for four lines.  I was going to travel into the city three times a week.  But what did I expect?  This was The First Step on The Career.  Obviously the big roles would go to long-time members.  Newbies like us didn’t stand a chance.

Slowly others joined me.  No sign of The Friends yet.  That was odd.

The Prune came in.  He only had a small role.

Two small roles. 

Two entire scenes to himself. 

He was pivotal.

The Butler came in.  

He had The Lead Role.

All the lead roles went to new members.

I own the video of the show.  My four lines?  They aren’t even caught on screen.

Have you ever dabbled in am dram?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Musical Monday #44

I’m not still grumpy about it though, because I have indulged in several sure fire cheer-up tactics this evening, including flicking through my ever-increasingly-battered copy of Jane Eyre, burning my eyes out playing The Sims 3 and, oh, yes, enjoying a musical number.

On with Musical Monday then…

We’re Off To See The Wizard from The Wizard Of Oz
Performed by Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley (visually), Buddy Ebsen (singing) and Bert Lahr (as well as the Munchkins...)
Written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. 'Yip' Harburg.

and yes, I needed to say 'giant' twice.

What annoying thing happened to you today?

Monday, 13 January 2014

Musical Monday #43

I was on my way to bed after a long day at work when it suddenly dawned* on me…

* because dawns are always terribly sudden.

Happy Musical Monday!

I Can Do Without You from Calamity Jane
Performed by Doris Day and Howard Keel, written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster.

What are you always forgetting to do?

Monday, 6 January 2014

Musical Monday #41 and #42

If you have been playing close attention,

You will have noticed that last week there was no Musical Monday.

This is because I had a mysterious illness that I won’t go into too much, by which I mean

other than to say it involved for half a day a) unpleasant toilet experience, b) desperate need to vomit, c) learning the fact that my body can’t vomit unless it is warm, and then for three days after this d) unhappy stomach and intestines that were no longer interested in actually digesting food and therefore e) being exhausted from no nutrients.

So today, to make up for last week, it’s a Musical Monday double bill.  I usually try to go for something themed, but I’m not picking musical numbers about being sick.  So instead the theme will be… drag (well, sort of).  Coz, y’know, drag, baby.

Musical Monday #41
 Le Jazz Hot from Victor/Victoria
Performed by Julie Andrews, written by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse 

Musical Monday #42

Men In Tights from Robin Hood: Men In Tights
written by Mel Brooks

What musical numbers have you seen recently?