Occasional jottings on Clarissa’s journey as we prepare for rehearsals.

Clarissa! tells the story of one strong woman across nine decades, from August 2011 to October 1927, from the 21stCentury and into the 20th, bookended by two resonant moments of folk history.

The times are linked by Clarissa’s corrosive celebrity (she is fictional: you will recognise her) but might there be parallels between the events that echo down the years? Come to that, are Clarissa’s memories true? Is there some kind of cosmic logic that might be brought into the rehearsal room, or are significant events no more than the random chances that rules our life? The possibilities coexist.

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New York, October 1927.

The Jazz Singer opens on Broadway. Starring Al Jolson as Jakie Rabinowitz, this movie is best remembered as the first ‘talking picture’ – because that’s how it was marketed.  The plot on the screen can be précised as one man’s need to entertain and his struggle with a conservative requirement to serve his religion. It’s a celebrity versus humility face off. Celebrity wins but the message is mixed, and more than a little uncomfortable to modern sensibilities: Jakie Rabinowitz changes his name to the less obviously Jewish and more showbiz-friendly Jack Robin and achieves fame as a black-face jazz singer. There may be something more for Clarissa in the mother’s presence in the songs, in the wings and the front row of the audience. Maybe not. In Clarissa! what really matters is the actual fact that the motion picture opened and changed the world.

If you don’t know The Jazz Singer here’s a short You Tube introduction

and a review in Variety on 12th October 1927.

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England, August 2011.

14,000 people riot in city streets, looting and burning, resisting law and order. Easily dismissed as ‘violent shopping’ and linked to inequality and distrust of the police. However, can the riots be viewed as an expression of the need of the people to be considered, to be entertained, against the requirement to serve a secular state? The riots were so widely broadcast that they conferred a form of celebrity on some participants. An ephemeral celebrity, true, but as this was not the movies the 2011 riots were without the benefit of marketing; celebrity versus servility. But in Clarissa! it’s the fact that the rioting happens, and not the reason why that matters.

Here’s some BBC coverage of the riots

The Jazz Singer and the 2011 riots are events viewed on a screen.

For us they stand as symbols of a changing world.

For Clarissa it is the end of something.

Clarissa! premieres on December 13th 2018 at the Seligman Theatre in Chapter, Cardiff.




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