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Writing in the Sunshine. Writing in the Shadows.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Leaving it to the Imagination

It was my turn to choose the Wednesday man on the Choc-lit blog today, another of my ambiguous heroes, if you want to hop over and have a look.  I’ve followed the career of the actor in question for quite a long time.  And when thinking about the post, I naturally reviewed my memories of his career.  The first time I saw him on stage the part involved nudity. The second time the part was an ambiguous one -- a charmer with evil under the surface.  Now, if you had asked me, I would have said that the nudity came second, but researching the two plays it was the other way around, which leads me to something I've been meaning to explore in a post--- memory and the tricks it plays.  So I had two possible posts today, nudity and memory.  Funnily enough, I decided to choose naked actors and to keep unreliable recollections for another day.

Everything goes in phases. At one time nudity on stage was very much the thing.  In fact, it got a bit boring.  ‘Oh yes, dear, I've seen all that. Now could we have a bit of acting please?’  Either that, or the audience was laying bets on how far into the play it would be before a member of the cast stripped off.  Mind you, I don't claim to be an angel and I have been known to purchase a front row seat on more than one occasions to see the same play, knowing that a particular favorite would be appearing, without barriers, as it were.  In my defense, I have seen plays multiple times when all the actors remained fully clothed at all times, so it's not my only reason for going. 
Absolutely the most memorable nude scene ever was a multi award winning play called Take Me Out at the Donmar Theatre.  Now that theatre is a very small space, and the play included a shower scene involving a whole baseball team.  That’s nine men, with only a bar of soap between them.  It was a brilliant scene from nine brave and talented American actors.  Strangely, when theatrical memories are being exchanged amongst my group of friends, that one is quite frequently mentioned.  Nudity on stage has rather gone out of fashion of late -- although I gather that in the National Theatre's recent production of Frankenstein the monster appeared in the buff, which does have certain logic to it.  I saw the performance on the cinema relay, where the assets were covered, and I can't say that the addition of a loincloth in any way detracted from my appreciation of the performance.  And that's what I'm getting to, in this lengthy excursion into nudes I have known and loved.  It is possible to leave some things to the imagination.  And that, I think, is one of the beauties of books.  The author tells a story, but the setting, characters and events are fleshed out in the reader's own mind.  And every book is different for every reader.  There is a lot of debate in writing circles about headless covers -- you know the ones, where you only get hero or heroine from the chin, or neck, down. While they look a bit strange, they do have the advantage of not imposing an image of that hero or heroine.  You can imagine what you like.  And that's the thing about writing books -- the writer can only do so much.  It’s a contract.  What the reader brings to the party is their own imagination.  And that's a powerful thing

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