Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Angela Carter play

There is an article in today's Guardian about a play by Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus, which is being staged at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Carter - one of the great writers of post-World War II Britian - was something of a "fan" of Louise Brooks, and she wrote about the actress on a couple of occassions. This article also discusses Brooks, femme fatales, Lulu and the Wedekind play - all of which interested Brooks.

"Carter was always intrigued by the femme fatale and the 'performance' of femininity - hardly for her a universal, but a construct made up of a time's assumptions and wishes. She translated the German playwright and cabaret artist Frank Wedekind's plays Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box, where Lulu, that original turn-of-the-20th-century fatal woman, is born. Fevvers' sensational journey, the clowns and strong men of Nights, the lesbian lover and the waif, not to mention Fevvers' ribald enactment of sexual wiles and the predatory grand duke who tries to turn her into a toy, owe something to Lulu.

Carter's winged aerialist is a bold late-20th-century woman's response to the myth of the femme fatale: the woman who is both mysterious and fatal because she is made the repository of the male's forbidden desires. Writing about Louise Brooks, the great silent film incarnation of Lulu, Carter notes: "Desire does not so much transcend its object as ignore it completely in favour of a fantastic re-creation of it. Which is the process by which the femme gets credited with fatality. Because she is perceived not as herself but as the projection of those libidinous cravings which, since they are forbidden, must always prove fatal."

Lulu may just be a good-hearted girl, whore or not, but Wedekind and her suitors would have her embody mystery and become the instrument of vice. The femme fatale's punishment for sex . . . . "

I would be interested in hearing from anyone in London who has the chance to see this stage play.

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