The Start Of My Christmas Elf Adventure

I am on my way to Leeds today to start rehearsals for The Christmas Elf.  It should be about a four-hour drive but often it can take an extra hour getting through London to the M1 Motorway. So I thought I would pre-empt the traffic and write my blog post this morning ready to launch when I arrive this evening.

This week I had the good fortune to be invited to two fantastic events. On Wednesday I went with friends to the Barbican to watch The Taming of the Shrew. . It was a Royal Shakespeare Company production which presented the audience with a really thought-provoking interpretation of this problematic Comedy. Director Justin Audibert switched the roles so that the play is gender-flipped by regendering all the pronouns. For example, the story’s protagonist Petruchio, (who is a fortune seeker who intends to marry the troublesome eldest daughter Katherine), becomes Petruchia. Claire Price presents a powerful interpretation of this role, hiding her venomous qualities behind charm and swagger.

Whilst the play unfolds, I suddenly realised how few lines the “female” roles of Bianco (Bianca) and Katherine have, despite me thinking that the play was about containing their wild spirits. It is only now that I realise that the center of the play focuses not on the prey but on the hunter. It became quickly uncomfortable, because even though the roles are now reversed to give the comedy a hint of female empowerment the general advocacy of dominance through psychological and physical manipulation is still present. Perhaps this is the message that the director was trying to put forward.

However there were many laughs had by all. A highlight for me was from Sophie Stanton’s giggle-inducing interpretation of a lovestruck Gremia who glides like a nymph in a Christmas ballet across the stage to swoon and salivate over a hair-flicking Bianco whose temperament was similar to a high school prom queen. It is interesting how through comedy we can shine a light on bitter truths and issues and how through laughter we can safely start an honest conversation.

On Friday I celebrated my friend’s birthday by attending a concert with him at the Wigmore Hall. There were three outstanding musicians Andrei Ioniţă cello; Stephen Hough piano and Michael Collins clarinet. The concert was part of the ‘Brahms series’ held at the Wigmore Hall to celebrate this composers prodigious amount of compositions specifically crafted for chamber music, song, and piano. I particularly enjoyed the 5 Stücke im Volkston Op. 102 by Schumann played masterfully by Ioniţă and Hough. It was also interesting to be exposed to a new composer, Carl Frühling and his exciting Clarinet Trio Op. 40. The music was very rich in melody, which was shared across the instruments. The harmony was very lush and late romantic in style but at times very non-intuitive which made it exciting for the listener. I have recently noticed a pattern of this whilst studying the Christmas Elf, which so happens to be composed by Pfitzner, who is a contemporary of Frühling. I found it really rewarding to hear this trio as it gave me inspiration and a better understanding of the German late Romantics, which I can use as I begin rehearsals tomorrow.

20 thoughts on “The Start Of My Christmas Elf Adventure

  1. As a Lancastrian, I shall refrain from comment about you now being in *their* ‘capital city’ and will look forward to more despatches about rehearsals and performance. But that’s a lovely photo, Charlotte, and you look very pleased with life there. Break the traditional leg!

  2. Best wishes on the rehersals. You have some interesting observations on the play regarding dominance. I suspect the director was in fact trying to point out the fact.

  3. That’s a lovely photo of you on the rocking horse. You had an interesting realization on the gender roles in the Taming of the Shrew. The concert sounds like it was wonderful. I wish you a great time in your rehearsals for The Christmas Elf.

  4. Wow, Great !!! Very nice blog “comme toujours” (as alway…. 🙂 ) Take care of you Charlotte. Wish you the best and a fabelous and happy Christmas time and end of Years ! Enjoy each hours my fabulous Miss Rainbow Voice !!!

  5. Awesome. Was wondering how this was going.
    The title got me thinking of something phonetically related, and possibly some etymological association… a Norse festival called Alfablot.
    The Arts link the dreaming across cultures and landscapes

  6. A lovely photo of you Charlotte, I see the horse is still going strong! Good luck in the Christmas Elf and if I don’t see you before, have a very Merry Christmas 😘😘

  7. Good luck with the rehearsals sounds a bit odd – I know you’ll ace it! Seeing familiar stories in a different light is pretty much like reality, isn’t it? All too often what you expect is never what actually happens

  8. What a lovely photo of you, Charlotte! My younger daughter will have nothing to do with The Taming of the Shrew after studying it at school. It makes her so angry! 😀 How interesting the gender swapping performance must be. The concert you attended sounds gorgeous and Michael Collins is such a fabulous clarinetist. Best of luck with the rehearsals!

  9. Hi Charlotte,

    Good luck with the Christmas Elf! I was jealous to hear you’d gone to see Taming–until I realized it was gender-swapped. I actually have a plan to write a gender-reversal version myself, to be sure, but it seems to me that when companies do that they are changing the real focus of the play. It’s my favourite, and I have only ever once seen a version that does it any justice! I liked that you noted the director was trying to get his own message across–I read all of Shakespeare’s plays before I saw any, so I tend to bring to a performance a pretty clear idea of what the author himself wanted to get across, and then I get annoyed because the director is changing it.

    I’ve always seen Taming as a story about how it is better to correct someone’s behaviour but praise their inner qualities and encourage them that they are better than their actions, rather than let them get away with everything and then abuse and look down on them for it, like everyone does to Katharina until Petruchio comes along. (I actually try to use his switch-around psychological methods with the naughtier students I teach all the time, and it sometimes works!) So I don’t see the story as about gender roles at all–that’s really what Shakespeare was exploring in Much Ado About Nothing, I think. Anyway, you just gave me an opportunity to go on about one of my favourite topics!

    The concert sounds lovely. There’s really nothing like German composers; whether vocal or instrumental, most of my favourite music is German–or Hungarian. Liszt is pretty hard to beat.

    Have a wonderful Christmas if we aren’t in touch before then,

    Best regards,


  10. Lovely photo of you. In modern days, Cersei of Game of Thrones achieved dominance in the very same way. Amazing RCS photos and RCS costumes.

    I wrote a poem about Avon and the Globe relatively recently.

    Safe journeys

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