Full of Mirth and Delight
Blurb: Dale is proud of how his acting career is progressing. Tonight, for instance, is the last night (at the beautiful Sam Wanamaker Playhouse) of a well-received run of Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, in which he plays Rafe. But his colleague Topher, who plays Jasper, seems to think something is missing in Dale’s life. They’re not really friends, and Dale sees little point in reprising the one night on which they were not-really-friends with benefits.
However! Despite the distractions of performing this chaotic two-plays-within-a-play, Dale is plagued by the niggling doubts prompted by Topher. Dale might be better off paying attention, though – because maybe Francis Beaumont, writing over 400 years ago, already provided the answers to Dale’s dilemma.
Genre: gay fiction; lesbian fiction; contemporary; theatre; mash-up; novel
Click here for an excerpt of text.
Word count: 38,500
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This is the opening scene of my novella, which takes place in the dressing room about thirty minutes before the play is due to begin.
“Did we ever work out what this play is about?” asked Topher.
“You’re asking me now?” Dale retorted with a mild sense of outrage that was mostly feigned. “It’s our last show!”
“Better late than never.”
“We’re going on in a minute.”
“In thirty minutes,” Topher quietly replied.
They were sitting in their corner of the men’s dressing room, each at his own table – at right angles and far too often at cross purposes. Dale leant in to shoot Topher a fiery look via the reflections in their mirrors. Not that Dale would let Topher rattle him, of course. The friendly repartee they shared was generally for real, and the less good-natured niggling was usually for display purposes only. Dale knew that Topher knew that for Dale the work came first, and if Topher went too far, Dale would simply shut him out.
Continue reading excerpt: A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle
The story of A Night with the Knight of the Burning Pestle takes place one evening – 21 December 2016, to be precise – during and around a performance of Francis Beaumont’s play The Knight of the Burning Pestle. The play itself has many layers, being actually two plays within a play. I took it all one step further by wrapping another story around the original, about a romance between two of the actors during this modern-day production, and following them backstage.
If that sounds confusing, it probably is! But the sheer sense of chaos, the exuberant feeling that anything might happen and probably will, is one of the joys of Beaumont’s play.
As a way of helping with the potential confusion, I’ve created a mock theatre programme for the production I’m writing about. It includes short articles on Beaumont and his play, along with information about the characters, and the structure and locations of the scenes. You might care to keep it nearby while reading, just in case (like any actor on any given night) you would like a little prompt now and then.
The programme is free to download, and I’ll have printed copies (also free!) with me if you come find me at various events.
Here is that link again, for the 8-page PDF mock theatre programme!
Image credits, with thanks:
I had fun with finding portraits to serve as the actors’ headshots – which, in real theatre programmes, often look little like the present-day actor let alone the character they’re playing. But please do feel free to imagine the characters’ appearance in any way you wish!
You will often find a Poet for Hire on the banks of the Thames near Shakespeare’s Globe. You provide a prompt, they type out a short impromptu poem, and you pay what you like for it. I love the whole idea, greatly admire their creative derring-do, and have indulged a couple of times.
This time, my prompt to poet Edmund Davie was “The Knight of the Burning Pestle” – and while he didn’t already know the play, he produced something that is so very perfect for Rafe.
sweet kitchen-maid, how can you
practice cookery with mortar only?
by my troth i’ll scour the kingdom
to find another for such a damsel
as are you, fair maiden.
chivalry demands it,
and i am the knight of this realm
sworn to courtly love and service.
Isn’t that awesome…?