Saturday, June 10, 2006

Blow Your Own Trumpet

I first read Jackie Kay's book, Trumpet, in 2000 and later met Jackie at an Arvon Writing Course. I love how Jackie Kay has managed to be so versatile in her prose and her poetry. She has produced award-winning poetry collections, and Trumpet won the1988 Guardian Fiction Prize and the Author's Club First Novel Award. In the Big Gay Read's reader's poll, Trumpet was in the top 5 books, proving that it's still very much in the hearts of readers. I'm off to see the stage version of Trumpet at the Drill Hall in London (10-25 June) and was hoping, as part of Chroma's plan to set up an online reading community, to get a discussion going. These are some of the questions I'll be taking along in my head to the new stage play: When should the private life of an artist become public? Is Joss Moody's sexual identity anyone else's business? If you read the novel before the play, what expectations did you take with you to the theatre? How do personal narratives translate from the page to the stage? Feel free to add your comments and responses. Jackie may well join in herself.


Poetry Editor


At 3:33 PM, Blogger EricKarlAnderson said...

Hi Saradha

I went to see the play yesterday. I was so happy that I happened to look in TimeOut last week and saw that this was on. I read Trumpet a few years ago and loved it, alongside Jackie Kay's other writing (especially Why Don't you Stop Talking?) I can't wait to read her new collection of stories.

Since I had read Trumpet a while ago, a lot of the details about it were fuzzy so I didn't have any particular expectations about what I was going to see. It was certainly a challenging piece to adapt and I think they did a very good job at it, travelling back and forth between scenes with Joss interacting with other characters and in the present after his death. What the play got me thinking about though, was not so much the distinction between an artist's private and public life, but about the lengths to which we can escape/recreate our identities. Seeing the play brought this question back to me. It's something which the novel raises so brilliantly. Over the course of the text you have to keep asking it as you discover the more things Joss concealed because he felt he had to. He seems so certain of himself a lot of the time, but there are points when he seems to ask himself if he’s doing the right thing by focusing only on the way things are now and forgetting about the past. It questions whether by disassociating himself from the past, he is destroying himself or if he is actually working towards a state of self-actualisation. With the way it is composed, I feel it slowly helps you to understand that Joss was actually living his life in a truer way than if he had lived it as a woman. It showed how when looking through the warped eye of society his actions are judged as perverse or deceptive, but actually how he lived was only natural and right.
As a play opposed to the book, it does make an impact in a different way. The actors did a great job. It was a powerful moment when Joss removes his top to reveal that he’s actually a woman. It made that instantaneous transformation from a man to a woman which the man in the mortuary spoke about feel much more real. (Side note: the man who played the son is incredibly handsome!)
It was encouraging to see it with such a lively (predominantly lesbian) audience as well. When there was the line “No one wants a lesbian for a mother” a woman sitting next to me nodded emphatically and sorrowfully. It was very touching. The play felt like a really powerful community event.

Chroma is a great journal, by the way, and I wish you all continuing success with it.

(Associate editor of the Blithe House Quarterly)


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