No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, September 21, 2006

#81: The Astronomer's Garden -- Kevin Hood

(Playscript, published with Beached, which I didn't read)

The year is 1717: the setting, observatory at Greenwich. Dramatis personae include Halley, Flamsteed (the Astronomer with the Garden), Mrs Flamsteed, Sir Philip Anstey, a manservant-cum-astronomer named Abrahams, and Lizzie the maid. Flamsteed is embittered at Halley's success; Mrs Flamsteed embittered at her husband's detachment; Ansty, apparently after anything in a skirt but revealing more dimension as the play proceeds; Abrahams, a good man wasted ...

The dialogue's witty and irreverent (Mrs Flamsteed to Halley, as her husband lies dying on New Year's Eve: "His last reference to you was, and I quote, 'Halley, the laptop that licks Newton's ...' the precise anatomical detail escapes me"). Mrs Flamsteed's first kiss is utterly and wholly unexpected, and rather more pleasant than her second: her happy ending neither traditionally happy nor an ending. Ansty accomplishes his transformation from libertine to scientist -- "merely a shift of emphasis" -- and Flamsteed's memory lives on, poisoning them all. It's not a very nice tale, really.

I would have liked to see The Astronomer's Garden staged: unlike some plays I've read, it didn't quite come to life on the page.

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