[identity profile] lilliburlero.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] trennels

I relish Miranda's reflections on the Christians' seeming irreligion and Lawrie's thoughts on acting which open this chapter, and Nicola's resultant 'chilly sense of inadequacy' is a great development of that. Nicola dimly quoting Peter quoting Macbeth is rather touching.

The conversation with Bunty lightens the mood: Nicola discovers she may have become an object of admiration among the Seconds. Does anyone go in for Nicola's reassuring 'This time tomorrow...' routine? I've always felt like Lawrie (and like Nicola does here.)

More of Esther's mother's ghastly manipulative correspondence. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you really want your readers to loathe a character's mother, then she must be made to do something beastly to a dog, but here it really works, I think. Nicola and Miranda's plan is splendidly crackpot, especially the notion of involving Mr Merrick. I enjoy the way the friendship between Nicola and Miranda is shown to deepen as they discuss their parents: 'Mr West and Mrs Marlow had quite a lot in common, Captain Marlow and Mrs West were absolutely different'--quite an interesting way to put it.

The conversation with Anthony Merrick interests me: he only really becomes serious and convinced when Nicola relates the situation to Patrick and his loss of Regina.

Miranda's account of anti-Semitism is painful, and Nicola’s ‘muddled feeling that she should apologize for the stupidity and bad manners of her countrymen’, only to realise they are Miranda’s too: a very plausible reaction by someone who’s had the privilege of never really having to think about it before.

The Copper Kettle reminds me of a café of the same name on Kings Parade in Cambridge, now, I think, defunct. The coffee was ghastly and it served a perfectly gruesome sticky article called a Rum Baba, though not Special Chocolate Cake. Happy days.

Anyone wonder why Nicola hates Dickens?

I wonder that there aren’t more questions about Nicola receiving phone calls from an MP about a dog, but perhaps I don’t run in quite the same circles as the inmates of Kingscote.

The patient development of the circumstances making Lawrie and Nicola’s swap possible pays off wonderfully, I think in, the ‘explosion’ in Nicola’s mind as it occurs to her and--especially--her manoeuvring Tim into actually making the suggestion.

Own up: who else of you tosses a coin and then does what you secretly wanted to do anyway?

The sketch of the Marlow sisters’ nerves is nice, especially Lawrie’s blazing intensity, though I can’t quite hear Ann being ‘staccato and over-funny’ somehow.

The confrontation with Miss Kempe and Miss Cromwell is full of lovely detail: the repeated ‘A pause. someone else tried.’; Lois being ‘too patently on their side’; Tim ‘proceeding under tow to the Falklands for repair’; Val’s officious usurpation of prerogative; Lawrie’s ‘hunted, uncertain voice’ leading into her confession of the match swap; Miss Cromwell’s fury over Lawrie’s pagan bargain with (apparently) pagan gods; Nicola miserable enough to find Ann’s sympathy comforting. I love it.

Dr Herrick’s apparent exasperation with the play’s rapid personnel turnover turns out to be very fortunate: after having Nicola snatched out of the Choir, he’s seems to have given up on providing understudies. I do, however, wonder how Helen Bagshaw feels about all this? (This has been your regularly scheduled fic prompt).

Kempe’s interrogation of Nicola as to Lawrie’s suitability for the part seems rather desperate. (Staff pov fic of the play would also be very entertaining, I think.) Jan’s defence of Miranda as suitable for the role of angel always amuses me, as perhaps the only moment in the series when we see her lose her cool a bit.

I’m also immensely touched by Lawrie the trouper, and Jan’s startled reaction to her professionalism. It’s a nice detail that Nicola remembers to tell an angry Miranda that Jan supported her, and the calming, decisive effect that has upon her.

The final pages of this chapter both come full circle to its opening discussion of inducing religious feeling in an audience, and set the scene beautifully for the account of the play in the following chapter.

Again, Catholicism is associated with unselfconscious behaviour in church, as Patrick suggests taking Daks into the Minster. For some reason I always think of Helena as a convert upon marriage: though Patrick's reminder not to genuflect suggests the cradle.

I'm amused by Patrick and Mme Orly's shared scepticism, and Patrick's surprised that the latter is not 'maudlin' over her grandchildren. Patrick seems to be projecting his own introversion here: 'it was always embarrassing, seeing people you liked make fools of themselves', which he didn't do when he asked Nick to sing in the Minster at half-term, a much more 'hot-making' thing to do, to my mind, than sing as part of a scheduled performance.

Mme Orly's incredulity at Nicola being able to sing--ouch! I find Patrick's dismissal of Coleridge rather painful (I like Coleridge as a personality as well as the poetry, though flawed is an understatement) but I suppose the Merrick boy would think him a bit of an ass.

The gallery-ex-machina, with its excellent view and acoustics, which nobody seems to have thought of as an audience overflow space, is rather improbable. Perhaps it's actually practically crumbling and Patrick and Rowan are risking a very nasty accident going up there at all. Anyway, at this point I start enjoying myself so much I don't care any more.

Miranda's stillness, and Patrick's fascination with it, ties in nicely to the theme of artifice which governs this chapter: it might be attributable merely to the feeling of 'having bitten off more the than she could chew' at the the end of chapter 8, but the effect is compelling.

Rowan's casting as Gabriel gives a nice insight into what the play cast-by-worthy-character might have been like. It also suggests that Miss Keith approved of her rather more than Rowan has previously indicated. I love Rowan and Patrick's sectarian exchange--Patrick's preference for the Authorized Version over the Douay-Rheims is predictable, but nice nonetheless--turning to Rowan's embarrassment as the question of actual belief is raised.

The livelier, more irreverent Crowd, meanwhile, seems to represent the idea of belief 'without reservation'. Amid all Forest's commentary on transmitting religious feeling and artifice, Ann stands as a rare example of someone who has both genuine faith and the stage presence to convey a sense of it.

I don't know the carol that Patrick doesn't, either, and nor does Google (at least my algorithmic iteration of it doesn't). Anyone care to enlighten us? It sounds like a good 'un, given that it gives the Merrick Boy a visionary moment (I feel he might be prone to those).

Celia Frant is surely worth a drabble or two, isn't she?

I think Forest does a good job of suggesting Lawrie's talent: for me, the most telling detail is that she has the gift of eliciting better performances from the others; given Lawrie's self-conceit and self-centredness, this must be a pure function of her gift: I've worked with actors like that, though, and it is a real thing. And making Rowan's face 'stiff and set'! A fine thing! I also enjoy the audience's 'rather sickening' amusement at what does sound like a slightly saccharine moment between Gabriel and the Boy.

Lawrie's bumptious vanity is beautifully contrasted to her unselfconscious persona as the Boy. Rowan, in true Marlow family tradition, is not about to encourage it, but her "Ghastly child" has some pride in it, I think. Trust the Merrick Boy to spot the reference to St Stephen, and subject it to critique. I always smile at that, thinking of Celia Frant being rather pleased with her own cleverness.

The appearance of Sprog, Patrick's moved incredulity and Nicola's worry (I adore the detail of it being like Pam Marlow's worry at her children's appearances, which suggests she has an opinion of their talents not quite so far removed from her own mother's as she might like to think...) is a great moment.

Forest handles the potential sentimentality of the Shepherd Boy's final appearance with great aplomb; a softy myself, I always feel a bit misty about it, like Mrs Bertie reading Misunderstood or the old ladies in the audience (it can't be sentimental if it makes Rowan shiver, can it?), by following it with Patrick's realisation that Lawrie can never have heard of St Stephen. The added Flight into Egypt sounds pretty effective too.

The last few pages of the chapter are gorgeous, I think. The audience standing (gulp); the moment when Nicola sees her grandmother looking surprised, the nostalgia of Dr Herrick's reading of 'Once in Royal David's City' (for some reason on this readthrough, I have been thinking a lot about Dr Herrick: how incredulously relieved he must be that it all went off so well!); Patrick's embarrassed dislike of the Victorian admonitions in the third verse (I can never hear it without thinking of him; as a child I thought the presumption of 'Christian children all must be / Mild, obedient, good as he' positively blasphemous); Patrick's interest in people 'out of context' and their 'chameleon blood'(Forest seems to have thought back to this attraction when she wrote the exchange in Cricket Term between Nicola and Ann about Ginty's opalescent changeability; clearly it's one of the Merrick Boy's kinks).

And the last sentence of the chapter...no words.

This does anti-climax brilliantly, I think, with the parental natter: Pam's embarrassment at the Marlows 'swarming rather', as it's later put; the faintly ominous mention of Ginty's good looks by Mrs Merrick, juxtaposed to both mothers' assumption that the real friendship is between Nicola and Patrick; Mrs Marlow worrying about Lawrie in 'ghastly lodgings and tenth-rate reps' (this has been your regularly scheduled &c.; I always think a crossover with An Awfully Big Adventure); the glimpse of Mr Merrick's visit to Esther (this has been &c.) which seems to have perhaps prompted Mrs Thorne's conscience.

I'm intrigued by Nicola's attribution of Lawrie's successful performance to her being 'afraid of lots of things', especially since there is such an emphasis in the previous chapter on Lawrie's ability to transform herself, to become someone else. On the other hand, Lawrie does draw from life in her acting: viz. the irony of using the moment when she found out that Nicola had been cast instead of her to portray disappointment at being left behind. And Nicola listening to Lawrie but paying little attention otherwise: I wonder how Nicola feels about Lawrie's triumph, given that Nicola prefers acting to singing, but has been repeatedly told she was never quite right as the Shepherd Boy and so on.

I also like Miranda's puzzled response to the improbability of the Christian story: 'so unlikely, it would have to be true' is in some ways not a bad approximation to certain understandings of the way faith works.

It is typically Forestian to end not with exhilaration, but with the apprehension of blood for breakfast, and I love it.

Right, quite enough from me. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and thanks for all your contributions so far.

[personal profile] legionseagle (to whom, grateful thanks) has kindly offered to take over posting on Peter's Room, which we'll begin with Chapters 1-3 next week. That post will go up on Thursday 25th rather than Friday 26th.
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