Hazel McHaffie

Drama

Xanadu

Phew! That’s it over for another year.

Thinking up a viable storyline, writing it (11,000 words plus), that’s the easy bit of the annual McHaffie Christmas story/play. Putting it into dramatic effect is a far harder task, and this year involved more hours pouring over the detail than ever before. Several weeks went into hand-drawing scenery representing Victorian streets to cover the walls of the hallway, stairs and landing alone!

With no single theatre stage to work with, no stagehands, furniture had to be moved around in six rooms to create Victorian shops, a banqueting hall and a rambling attic in a mansion house.

But the dim light of rows of lanterns and a liberal helping of ivy, saved the day, successfully muting imperfections sufficiently to achieve the desired atmosphere. (Photos have been lightened for this blog.)

The storyline itself involved three youngsters from vastly different backgrounds learning from each other and the experiences they encountered, how to value and respect difference.

Weird gadgets, special boxes, changes of costume, cryptic messages, all added challenge and laughter to the mix.

The three friends discovered a remarkable doll in the attic of the local mansion house, a doll that took them to a magical place called Xanadu,

and underwent a dramatic transformation when danger threatened.

There, with the help of four colourful characters loosely based on Mr Pickwick,

Rumpelstiltskin,

Little Dorrit,

and Rafiki from The Lion King,

they learned about transforming their own and others’ well-being by their attitudes and approach to life.

The four very different candle-lit shops offered paper/wood; gems and gold;

buttons and ribbons; and chocolates.

The names of the characters and their shops had to be worked out.

Only then were the premises thrown open to the time-travellers, allowing them to create ornaments of varying kinds,

with which they decorated all the trees in the town, bringing sparkle and joy to its dark streets.

I rather think it might take a few weeks for dodgy backs and creaking joints to recover from the contortions they’ve undergone, but it’s well worth all the effort to see – and hear! – the family’s enjoyment.

And this year I had the added delight of my eldest granddaughter helping with the behind-the-scenes production of the event to mark her milestone birthday as an adult.

It only remains for me to wish you all peace, joy and health for 2019. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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Literary drama

Time once again for my annual sortie into the world of play-writing and producing a little drama for my grandchildren – our nineteenth would you believe! The youngsters, as ever, rose to the occasion magnificently, applying themselves to all the activities – from deportment lessons to tasting potions, from sewing bookmarks to deciphering Cockney slang, from picking pockets to exploring archaic texts – with their usual aplomb, and that in spite of half the assembled company still recovering from this really nasty respiratory bug that’s rife just now.

(The stage is a book-filled house and no shots are posed, so what you see is the play as it happens.)

In a nutshell, the story centres on a Johanna Spyri Heidi-lookalike, who is an avid reader.

On this occasion as Heidi loses herself in each book, characters emerge from the shadows and take her into their worlds. Enter The Artful Dodger (Oliver Twist).

… the Black Witch (Hansel and Gretel) and Morgana Pendragon (Merlin).

Titania, Queen of the Fairies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) works her magic and leads the cast to new adventures,

… exercising a softening effect.

Marmee March (Little Women) lulls everyone into a false sense of security with her homespun wisdom and American notions.

But things then start to really hot up. Enter a fabulously rich and imposing Mr Boldwood (Far from the Madding Crowd) who soon falls prey to the Artful Dogder’s pickpocketing skills.

But even Mr Boldwood can only bow in the face of the whirlwind that is Lady Denny, distinction and breeding oozing from the tip of her bonnet to the toe of her boot.

… who sets about improving the marital stakes for all the young ladies.

It’s left to Little John (Robin Hood) to risk the Lady’s wrath, and rescue The Dodger, making his day with some man-to-man gutsy banter, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of flaming arrows.

We happily spanned centuries, social milieu, and fictional genres, and everyone went away with an armful of precious books, quite a number of them collectors’ items.

And the moral of the tale?
What terrific advantages these young people have over children from all those earlier periods; not to be taken for granted or squandered. Not least their literary inheritance: books and stories which can open up times and experiences and worlds in wonderful ways.
Treasures indeed.

PS. If you’re a fully paid up member of the anachronism police please don’t bother listing the errors; we already know we took untold liberties. This was a private members only production; the rules of engagement are fully understood.

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