Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Am One of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About A Bit

While driving home from a full day of teaching Yanks to speak old-fashioned Victorian-era Cockney, coaching acts and rehearsing in preparation for the opening next week of the 30th Annual Dickens Christmas Fair, I composed a chatty and full blog entry in my head. I ran over the events of the day, things that made me chuckle, things that felt victorious, things that I thought may hold some interest for you anonymous readers. It helped to pass the time on the drive home and keep me alert after an exhausting 10 hours on my feet.

Two hours later I sit here shivering in the studio, a bit hungry and more than a little tired, all the amusing anecdotes of the day have fled my brain.

And then I remembered this. I feel it is important to learn as many new things as you can and today I expanded my acting repertoire. I play two of Charles Dickens characters at the Fair: the beloved Peggotty from David Copperfield and, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum, one of Dickens' great grotesques, Sairey Gamp, midwife, nurse and layer-out-of-the-dead from Martin Chuzzlewit.

Sairey Gamp is known (among other traits) as partaking liberally of snuff. I have never had the stuff, last year being content to go through the motions without ever having actually done it. As promised to me last weekend, one of my friends and fellow cast members Jon DeCles (an astounding Mr Micawber) presented me with two different varieties of snuff and a brief lesson on the ritual of inhaling tobacco. While not being something I will make a habit of, the ritual and experience was wonderful and gave me even more insight to properly portray her avid snuff use on the streets of the Fair.

I ramble on as my weary brain begins to long for sleep. Mostly I wanted to share with you a wonderful YouTube video recording of a song made famous by the Queen of the Music Halls, Marie Lloyd with the wonderful title, I Am One of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About a Bit. In this recording it is sung by her daughter, as sadly Marie never recorded this during her lifetime, but Marie Jr. manages to do her mother proud by infusing her rendition with the proper Cockney swagger in her voice. Of special note is the long patter in the middle of the song, a lovely display of Victorian Cockney pronunciation and slang that has been abandon by the contemporary denizens of London's East End over the last century.

This link will take you directly to hear the song. My gift to you. Sit back, have a pint and enjoy.

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