Yes, it’s true. I am a shameless huckster of my own wares. When asked to appear at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Literary Arts, what could I do but put on my pantaloons, doublet and ruff, snatch up my backsword and buckler, and burst from behind the arras, swashing my buckle?
I had a horrible head cold actually. But in English theatre we have a thing called ‘Dr Footlights’. Usually applied to body crippling hangovers, the moment you step into the light, a miraculous recovery takes place. Alas, it only lasts as long as the on stage acting and stage managers are advised to keep buckets at the ready in the wings. But, as yesterday, I was fine for my entire performance.
I love talking about the book, the forces that shaped its creation, my journeys in research. I also love reading and adapt for the audience. Yesterday I gave them a little farcical humour and action in a street fight; a touch of romance in a garden; and then took them where I would take my time machine should I possess one. The Globe Theatre, London, in April 1601, the very first time that the Lord Chamberlain’s Men played The Tragedy of Hamlet.
What I also love about a presentation such as this is the improvisational quality: I bullet point ahead, then rarely stay with the script, just riff around the points. New things always come up, new jokes, new pov’s. Yesterday I found myself focusing on that last point: that what historical fiction writers do is time travel. And then they take a reader in the spaceship with them, and time travel again.
One joyous bonus of the day: when I was autographing copies later, one buyer asked me if the production where I’d played Hamlet in Calgary was the modern one with screens etc. I told her it was – and she said she’d been taken by her school to see it. She’d seen me play Hamlet 19 years ago! (That made two in the audience. My wife had been there to, in our courting days.)
So pantaloons were donned and books were sold, and I forgot my cold for a while. A good day indeed! The ruff is carefully stored away – no doubt I will get to wear it again.