Monday, 2 November 2015

game of stones*

block & tackle
blokes & tackle

hear Philip Lee read
"game of stones"
on YouTube


game of stones

thy mouldering shrines removed

By British hands, which it had best behoved

To guard
- Byron, “Childe Harold”, Canto II.

say what you doing in London
Godot at the Criterion
Superman at the Odeon
an actor's life eh all who what
when where how long the feeble plot
to settle in then off you trot
no job for Thespian is carved in stone
on the South Bank one false step & you're gawn

I hear that Kevin Spacey plans
to take over at the National
nothing but a bag of marbles
to him he's got the bloody Gaul
still summer's due the festival
season a fortnight's day release
of shifting scenery for strutting fools
in stand-up tragedies from drama schools

so Tuesday lunchtime still at home
in breaking news the telephone
is hanging off the kitchen wall
the agent of my dreams has called
to offer me a vindaloo
down The Cut behind Waterloo
can't help hoping this is it the Old Vic
Dynamo Kev has dived & broke his neck

I'm hardly joking there of course
would sooner end up on my arse
driving a bus or horse-drawn hearse
than shun some other player's purse
with actors honour it's a farce
they'd do their mums with deadly force
to chant two poxy lines on a chorus
never trust us as dreamboats we're porous

at the café I play it cool
order before asking what's new
talk pork pies through mouthfuls of food
we actors know how to be rude
& feigning hungry's no big do
when all you've had for weeks is gruel
to which the hennaed one leans on elbows
points riveting eyes out of the windows

yes careless when I'm good & fed
I size things up like what's next bed
bit early she's shaking her head
so out we trot to smoke the weed
drink pavement coffees I don't need
& then she shows her hand now read
'fraid I can't offer you the Dominion
but have you played the British Museum

well here's a potty history less
on the subject of temple thieves
than a saga of derring don'ts
it's Lord Elgin's tour with the stones
from swiping them under the eaves
to losing them in a tempest
of Britons that toff was not our finest
strike me who's producing this Rudolph Hess

the play if I may call it so
is a more a series of tableaux
where visitors prepared to queue
will pass along the hall & view
enacted scenes of peace & war
in which Lord Elgin breaks no law
but saves the marble effigies from harm
a loyal view that chokes me with its charm

I say Lord Byron bless his socks
summed up the peer who snatched those rocks
cursing the hour the wastrel Jock
bribed their keepers then swung from block
& tackle rope & ox in yoke
to load a British heart of oak
with half the panoply of ancient Gods
carved by Phidias & his sculptor bods

she turns & looks at me askance
how is it that a proper dunce
like you a poxy mime can trounce
poor Elgin's ghost in tuppence rhymes
don't you go looking up those stones
no reading between given lines
she curses the world & questions the times
you'd think 'twas me had done the dirty crime

aren't you keen to earn some money
two shows a day your evenings off
play the world's greatest gallery
she twists me round her little stiff
after this you'll be on telly
Downton Abbey the sky's your roof
she's got a point there knows her stuff gawd 'strewth
but can't an actor have a conscience Ruth

look Phil she says you fit the bill
tall & thick with a turned up nose
the accent I'm supposing will
be Lowland Scots with half a dose
of Scarlet Pimpernel I'll kill
you if you turn this down & Rose
referring to her cunning friend below
will never ever see again her Joe

oh no not that she's got me there
who else but Ruth would brave my lair
who else admire this thinning hair
but think of Stravros what of Saph
oh would my Elgin make them laugh
or would they deem it simply naff
that I should play a character so far
removed from all the boy's ever stood for

Ruth takes another swipe at me
probing my face with fiery eyes
I turn away in fear she'll see
the brittle bones my cheeks disguise
I'd turn to stone as soon as be
the villain of her enterprise
& since she's staring at these knocking knees
I do affect a kind of wobbly freeze

& then a smile breaks up her mouth
the fair Medusa's wicked pout
she's had a second thought no doubt
I wait a moment catch my breath
you never know with Ruth it's life
or death she'll choose like old Queen Beth
to have your head brought in on a platter
or guide your teeth to the royal garter

dead right she says those Greeks deserve
some bod to speak on their behalf
you mentioned Byron now a perv
like him should make it half'n'half
I'll call the writer who's a lurve
the number's tattooed on my calf
just be a darling & pass the Prada
an old pal of yours he went to RADA1

so this one's for Stavros & Saph
oh in hopes they get the end laugh
I'm playing Lord Byron at last
& chasing a girl in the cast
if our producer's told the truth
or the good fairy's found my tooth
in a year we'll have transferred to Athens
toodle-pip till I tell you what happens

1. the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England

Lord Elgin's Tour with The Stones
Lord Elgin's Tour with The Stones
*Ekphrastik note: Although not strictly an ekphrastik piece, the structure of "game of stones" with its 17 verses of 8 lines each represents the 17x8 columns of the Parthenon in Athens, from which Lord Elgin took the stones.

Sock Puppeteer