I was making plans for this post as I walked home from work yesterday evening; it was going to be a Five Things That Made Me Happy This Week theme. Then I logged onto the internet to find that Death had visited yet another one of my "safe" places, a story world which shaped my very being, this time taking Canadian actor Jonathan Crombie, who was best known as Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables. It seems Mr Crombie passed away this week from a brain haemorrhage at the age of 48. (Younger, I could not help observing, than Gilbert was in Rilla of Ingleside. That's not right.)
It's not easy for someone to satisfy me as the romantic love interest of a story which has had my heart since I was eight years old, but as soon as I saw Crombie as Gilbert, there could be no other. ** I only knew of Mr Crombie from that one role, but what a role it was, and how well he fitted it! I had fantasies of bringing him and Megan Follows back to the world of Anne if ever I was to finish my screenplay of Rilla of Ingleside and get it turned into a miniseries. And of course, my condolences go out to his family and loved ones.
But onto happier subjects. Despite the best efforts of Royal Mail, my Ninja Book Swap parcel finally turned up this week, and in fact its sender was the same person I'd sent my parcel to: Sarah in Ottawa. I have to say Bex and Hanna did a wonderful job of pairing us up; Sarah is brilliant; I follow her on Tumblr, and she is one of my favourite posters on there. *waves fangirl flag.* She sent me two books: The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane, and The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I can't wait to read them, and because they came from overseas, they are different editions to the ones I've seen in this country and very pretty! Also included in the parcel were a postcard, a cardboard Bookmobile - she's studying to be a library technician - which is on my bookshelf, a Book Nerd badge (which I've added to the collection on my favourite customised bag) and an Anne of Green Gables poster! (Have I mentioned how much I love Anne? Maybe once or twice? A week? Since I was eight?) Thank you so much, Sarah!
On Friday I went over to Southsea to see a touring production of Return to the Forbidden Planet, which is a rock'n'roll musical loosely based on Shakespeare's The Tempest and set in space! In 1999, when I was thirteen and in my last year of middle school (because we used to have middle schools on the Isle of Wight) this was our school play, and it has so much nostalgia for me. If I looked back at my diaries (which I have long since destroyed) I suspect that I'd find it was a difficult time of teenage angst, the pains of unrequited crushes and being a relatively unpopular kid, but my abiding memories of that summer are of long sunny days, an innocent time, and not being quite so lonely as I would be in high school, when my little group of friends ended up going our separate ways. Ours was far from being a perfect production. We had a parent in to play Prospero, the lead, and adult musicians (including my dad on the guitar.) One of the leads could not sing, could not act, and could not even be heard, and was probably cast in a prominent role entirely due to being the biggest boy in the school. But it was the most fun I've had in a school play, even just being in the chorus, shoved off to one side of the stage, and I was madly in love with a boy called Sam, who had long eyelashes and danced with me once out of pity at a school disco. Even now, if I hear most of the songs on the radio, they automatically make me smile: "Teenager in Love," "Great Balls of Fire," "Good Vibrations" or "She's Not There," to name but a few.
But none of this could compare to sitting in the King's Theatre and hearing the songs combined with mangled Shakespeare, dreadful puns, ...enthusiastic... accents. This felt like the proper context for these songs. The cast were magnificent, especially those playing Cookie, the ship's cook with an unrequited crush on Miranda (daughter of mad scientist Prospero) and the robot Ariel (a combination of Ariel and Caliban from the original Tempest). The music was played by the cast, a very multi-talented group. And the casting of "Chorus" - the pre-recorded narrator - was a stroke of genius in the context of a rock musical about space: Brian May from Queen.
Watching Return to the Forbidden Planet from the audience, I realised how much I hadn't quite appreciated as a chorus member. I still knew the songs inside out (although this [production had a couple of substitutions, as well as reinstating one or two that had been on the soundtrack cassette I have since, regrettably, lost, but which we had not used. But the plot still managed to surprise me in some places, where I had not been present for the acting rehearsals, or our cast had played things differently (and, I suspect, slightly bowdlerised) or the things I'd simply forgotten. And now I have sixteen years' extra Shakespeare knowledge and two of Star Trek fandom. I played a mental game of "identify the original quote" throughout the show, and was astonished that the "Live long and Prospero" line I'd thought was an ad-lib in the school play, was in fact in the script. I suppose you couldn't not put it in. All in all, I had an evening of tremendous fun and nostalgia, boogieing away to my heart's content in my chair by the end. I can recommend going to see Forbidden Planet if it comes to your town.
* and, if you insist, also in "The Continuing Story," if you wish to acknowledge that one's existence. As far as I'm concerned, it occupies the Pit of Oblivion alongside Star Trek Generations and the live-action Thunderbirds movie. Or would, if any of these things existed!
**The webseries Green Gables Fables, which is a modern-day vlog adaptation of Anne does a pretty good job with its casting too. I was slow to be won over to GGF, but somewhere along the line I came to love it, and to love the new generation of fangirls to discuss the Anne books and adaptations with in the sort of minute detail that I love. This was, after all, why I started this blog in the first place.