Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Bonnie Greer- absolutely magnetic

Afternoon Tea with Bonnie Greer and the Brontës

Richard Wilcocks writes:
This event was sold out soon after it was announced: the audience walked past a group of hopefuls sitting beside the ticket desk, but all seats in St Margaret’s Hall were filled. This was one of the most popular events at this year’s Ilkley Literature Festival. On each seat was a pamphlet for people who might have felt an urge to sign up for the Society.

It is likely that the urge came upon more than a few, because Parsonage Director Andrew Macarthy was pretty convincing as he talked about substantial improvements to the Museum and the many artists and authors who have participated in its Contemporary Arts programme. He was followed by the eloquent Liz Henry, who spoke on behalf of Brontë Society Council, welcoming Bonnie Greer and delivering a potted version of her résumé. Chair of Council Sally McDonald began the interview, and soon we were into Wuthering Heights.

“I saw the Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon version at age thirteen... when she said ‘I am Heathcliff’ I understood immediately... the novel brings a realization that we are the only species which knows we are going to come to an end, and it has a woman in it who talks directly about how she feels, about love...

This book doesn’t settle... we are taught that we have to ‘settle down’ when we are young... Emily was restless...”

Bonnie Greer related Emily’s condition to herself and her own writing, mentioning Obama Music and the restlessness of Chicago and explaining that when she wrote her novel Entropy, her dominant thoughts were of synaesthesia. “This is where you smell a word, or see a colour when you read a number...it’s the primitive mind which links everything up... Emily’s state of being was musicality.

All my work is synaesthetically created... Emily heard the music of her environment and it is captured in the words of Wuthering Heights.” Sally McDonald mentioned that the novel had been compared to an overture with a break in the middle.

“The Brontës have been prettified in the movie versions I have seen.... but these are Northern women! And it was appropriate that this man (Heathcliff) was black. Look at history, and Liverpool... this part of the world was tied up with slavery... Wilberforce and Douglass spoke at meetings in Yorkshire where abolitionists predominated... but there was support in the government for a secret deal with the Confederacy... Emily would have heard the abolitionist arguments...she was born in the same year as Frederick Douglass.”

In Jane Eyre I recognize that refusal not to look down when your betters are speaking to you – from my own childhood. It’s in Obama Music.”

Tea, scones and cakes followed, all supplied by volunteers from Council and Parsonage staff, and served to a background of music from the Canzona String Quartet, which visited the Parsonage Library to look at music belonging to and played by the Brontës. They found the original versions of some string quartet movements, which included Locke's overture to Macbeth and Worthy is the Lamb from Handel's Messiah

Everybody was deeply impressed by the whole event. Liz Henry (pictured below) told the Blog: “Bonnie Greer has an amazing ability to hold an audience. She is absolutely magnetic.”

From the publicity department of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden:

ROH 2  in the Linbury Studio Theatre
Yes opens on  22 November

In 2009 the writer and cultural commentator Bonnie Greer was invited to appear on the BBC’s flagship political discussion programme Question Time alongside the leader of a right-wing nationalist political party. The BBC’s decision to transmit the programme, and Bonnie Greer’s decision to appear in it, provoked a storm of discussion. Bonnie has written the libretto for this brand-new 'docu-opera' by award-winning composer Errollyn Wallen, which is made from Bonnie’s own experiences and from the many public and private responses to the situation.  An ensemble of six musicians, including an electronic soundscape with the recorded voice of Errollyn Wallen,  will accompany a cast of eight singers, and Bonnie herself, to play out the emotional and political turmoil of a wide range of individual British citizens, each with their own personal and cultural perspective.


Anonymous said...

I agree. She was magnetic. Good to have her as president.

Anonymous said...

A great advert for the Brontes.
Andrew talked about all the improvements at the Parsonage; I really hope the Council will support him in his plans.

Anonymous said...

The size of words in this blog are somewhat small that even I make an effort but still hard to read.Sigh!

Paul Daniggelis said...

If Emily Brontë had meant for Heathcliff to be black, she would have had all the racist language in her novel that Ms Arnold seems to think is important in her retelling of a classic. Heathcliff is not black. That doesn't mean that a black shouldn't be cast in the role. Ms Arnold has done so. What it means, however, is consistent with the rewriting of history. By "rewriting" I mean distortion. Ms Arnold has distorted Emily's intent. She has the legal right to do so. But the vast majority of classical lit readers are going to resent and reject it.
Does that mean that Japan, India, Mexico cannot recreate Wuthering Heights/Jane Eyre in their own image? Not at all. They have done so. But it is not what their authors had in mind. Mexico's Abismos de Pasion is as far removed from Wuthering Heights as you can imagine without the moors. How about France's Hurlevant? Do you get the same emotional reaction when Cathy exclaims "Je suis Roc" instead of "I am Heathcliff". The word Heathcliff is so original, so English, so integral to Emily's tale, how can the word "Roc" ever replace it?
What is needed here is not rewriting the classics but to create new classics. Instead of writing miscast actors into literature not intended for them, write literature that IS meant for them. Where are the writers who can create a black Heathcliff, a Hispanic Horatio Hornblower, an Oriental Jane Eyre? Where writers of color are on solid ground is when Hollywood casts white actors as Charlie Chan, etc. I wonder how long it will take for the industry to cast a black, Hispanic, oriental actor as Tarzan, one of the most successful characters in fiction? Hard to do when you consider that the word "Tarzan" means "white skin" in the lexicon of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
If I understand the multicultural elite correctly, they will not hesitate to do so.