Painter, musician, bibliophile...
Meet Charles James Harrington Fitzroy Yellowplush, the perfect footman. In "The Yellowplush Papers" we follow his story from obscurity to the heights of British society in five mini-plays.
In MY FIRST EMPLOYER, Frederick Altamont takes on Yellowplush as his servant. But who is this secretive Altamont, and why does he refuse to disclose his profession?
CAPTAIN ROOK, Yellowplush's next employer, is a flattering, name-dropping rogue who dwells in the Temple and makes his way as a cardsharp. Here our hero learns all about the finer points of plucking pigeons.
Yellowplush's next employer is Algernon Percy DEUCEACE, an aristocratic ex-pat living in Paris. Deuceace is ready to marry his way into the level of life to which he'd like to become accustomed when horror strikes: his father shows up with a few home truths.
MY NOVEL finds Yellowplush in the service of the Duke and Duchess of Diddlesex and their obnoxious family. The Duke is a bit of a bore, the Duchess what we might call a late Georgian cougar. And our Yellowplush, as he frequently reminds us, has quite a fine figure, with the well-turned calves so admired in a footman.
After meeting up with dodgy society novelist Augustus Modicum during his stay at Diddlesex Towers, Yellowplush decides to write a novel of his own. The working title is "Aristocrats Behaving Badly," but after bringing it to the attention of the literary agent Scavenger, it becomes the best-selling "Besmirched Escutcheon."
Yellowplush, having wisely invested the proceeds of his just-short-of-libelous "novel," finds himself in the possession of 30,000 pounds sterling and ready for his DEBUT IN SOCIETY. It's all oak paneling, Axminster carpets, and brocade from now on! But will success change our hero for the worse?
Overall, this was a fun couple of hours. Like a kid with deep suspicions of mushrooms, just knowing he wouldn't like them despite never having tasted one, I suspected I wouldn't like Thackeray. But I liked him in adaptation. Maybe I'll tackle Vanity Fair next. Whatever the case, "The Yellowplush Papers" was great British fun, and made a holiday baking blitz merry and bright.
In each of these monologues humor is mixed with the sadness of each character's life. The sadness may come from a dramatic tragedy, or from a failure to connect, or from the inability to break free.
Patricia Routledge amazed me as the title character of "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet." She's always a treat, and of course I'll never look at chiropodists the same way after this little story.
Eileen Atkins' realistic portrayal of Celia in "The Hand of God" was the pure distillation of the characters of many antiques dealers I've known. If you're a collector, you'll know her at once. Something like what occurs in the story does happen from time to time, which makes it all the better.
Penelope Wilton's quiet, elegant voice makes her story, "Nights in the Gardens of Spain" all the more chilling.
So perfectly did these three actresses perform their stories that I cannot imagine anyone else in the roles.
Bennett provokes, prods, and cajoles us into facing the truth. But even when it's uncomfortable, we end up better for having heard him, for he speaks for those who are not heard, but keep on going nonetheless.
"The Wild Duck" centers on the Ekdahl and Werle families.
The patriarch of the former, called "Old Ekdahl," has fallen from grace due to his previous imprisonment for a crime he may not have committed. He does copying for Håkon Werle, but isn't quite all there: at home he wears his uniform and shoots rabbits he keeps in the attic.
Hjalmar Ekdahl, his son, is a photographer. He is married to Gina, a former servant in the household of Håkon Werle. They have a teenage daughter, Hedwig, who is going blind.
Håkon Werle's son Gregers has just returned from exile, and is enraged to find Gina married to Hjalmar. Gregers' mother died believing her husband had an affair with Gina, and he suspects Hjalmar doesn't know. Gregers rents a room from the Ekdahls with a single purpose: "I intend to open his eyes."
Hjalmar Ekdahl is a dreamer who does not allow anyone to discuss "unpleasant matters" (like reality) with him. He tells everyone he's working on a magnificent invention; this apparently requires hours of solitude, quiet, and lying on sofas. Sadly for his wife and daughter, "within his own little circle he's always been mistaken for a shining light."
The tangled interactions between these characters (and a few more) culminate in the heart-breaking events of the last scene.
Overall, "The Wild Duck" is a well-acted and produced masterwork of psychological realism.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, and while I love to read, I typically consume more books via audio thanks to a job that lets me listen while I work. As an aspiring writer, I try to read a great deal of non-fiction in addition to a variety of fictional genres. I especially love history, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and old-style gothic horror.
I'm developing a healthy respect for the Colonial Radio Theatre players. Rafael Sabatini's works are already amongst my favorites just because they're swashbuckling fun, and I'm a sucker for that. I'm also a sucker for a quality full-cast radio drama, and these actors bring the melodrama up to full. It actually feels a lot like they stripped the audio track from an Errol Flynn movie. I'd love to hear this group do a version of Scaramouche.