Here are two experiences of pieces that have influenced me at various stages in my life. Having re read and re watched both I think how we are influenced very much depends where we are in our lives. But the truly great works let us take different things from them at different times.
The well of loneliness:
The well of loneliness by Radclyffe Hall is a 1928 lesbian novel which was banned on publication and not released in Britain until 1949 after Hall’s death. It was given to me ten years ago when I was an acting student in London. During the first year of my degree I met a wonderful woman who has since become a very good friend; she introduced me to it. I was in a very open, creative place and I devoured the book. I could relate to certain parts of the story but mainly I was excited that these stories existed, they certainly didn’t sell books like this in WHSmiths in Llanelli!
Several years later I became part of a book club with a different group of friends and we each took turn to recommend an influential book. This was my choice. I proudly shared the book and eagerly awaited everyone’s response. Naively at the time I expected everyone to be as instantly won over and inspired as I was. However the reality was they all hated it. They tore it apart labelling it depressing and too long. I was distraught. I opened a bottle of wine and spent a long evening passionately debating with them. I re read it again a few years later with many more years of life experience behind me and I could see their points more objectively. It is a long book, it is descriptive and it certainly isn’t a happy story but in my opinion it is a piece of beautiful and brave literature. It’s an honest story and it inspired me at an important time in my life.
Angels in America:
Angels in America is a play by Tony Kushner which was made in to a film starring Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and Emma Thompson (among many other fantastic actors) in 2003. It’s set in 1985 and centres around several characters connected by the Aids epidemic. Both the play and film are split into two chapters and in total, it takes seven hours to watch. I have sat through the film many times and several years ago watched the play in London. It requires an open mind, stamina and lots of snacks. The National Theatre are currently working on a production that in a few months will be screened to hundreds of cinemas across the country.
In keeping with my wanting to share plays, books, films that have influenced me I bought the film for my wife a few years ago but made the mistake of telling her it’s seven hours long. We haven’t got round to it yet. I’m trying to find a fine balance between highly recommending she watch it and not putting too much pressure on it so that it becomes a chore! I have however bought us tickets for the National Theatre screening in July so she has a short window before I force her into a seven hour evening! Again, if you have the time I would recommend it. It truly is a fantastic piece of work.
Alys Einion February 27th, 2017
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