Innocence and Experience

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I wonder if it’s true that ‘every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being’. Camus seems to think so, at any rate and who am I to disagree? The paradoxical duo of innocence and experience – in the context of the play of course – has been weighing rather heavily on our minds this week.

On a slightly more practical note, preparations are also underway to film the trailer for Brideshead. Trailers seem to be all the rage at the moment on the Oxford Drama Scene and – to use a biblical metaphor – where the shepherd leads, the flock will surely follow. Our trailer will be shot in 4th week at three characteristically Oxonian locations: Christ Church, the Botanical Gardens and, if the meteorological gods are sufficiently appeased by our offerings, on a punt.

In fact, the ‘trailer’ will actually comprise of three short films, each one a character study on Charles, Sebastian and Julia respectively. I am surreptitiously hoping that this will ultimately turn out to be some sort of avant-garde cinematic masterpiece. However, I am holding off from writing my Oscar acceptance speech just yet, as I am tormented by memories of how the filming task on the Apprentice inevitably results in failure of apocalyptic proportions. Perhaps it is because most people think that the minute they start using specialist lingo like ‘frame’ and ‘arc shot’, or put on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, they instantly become a Fellini or a Visconti. Well, that was my plan anyway.

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To come back to the issue of innocence, it reared its head whilst we were rehearsing one of the early scenes in the play, where a naïve and very green Charles first meets Sebastian. The problem lies in the fact that the traditional Dorian Gray-esque set up of the young innocent (Charles) corrupted by a knowing, decadent hedonist (Sebastian) doesn’t really work when the hedonist in question is a nineteen year old with a teddy bear, desperately clinging to the trappings of childhood. The doomed relationship between Charles, Sebastian and Julia reminded me of a similarly ill-fated ménage a trois in Bertolucci’s film The Dreamers, where the protagonists’ self-constructed, inverted Eden cannot survive in an adult world. As Charles says ‘I was given a brief spell of a happy childhood, and though its toys were silk shirts and cigars and its naughtiness high in the catalogue of grave sins, there was something of nursery freshness about us that fell little short of the joy of innocence’.

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Perhaps Charles, Sebastian and Julia, are all innocents, cruelly manipulated by fate and bound together by a doomed love. This would imbue the whole story with a wonderful sense of tragic futility. Or perhaps Charles, far from being an innocent, is actually the aggressor, even if he doesn’t know it himself. He simply absorbs all their love, without ever being able to return it fully. In fact, he sometimes seems to have no fixed personality of his own, which is why Sebastian and Julia do not fall in love with Charles as he actually is, but as they would like him to be.

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Before performing a short preview of Brideshead at the Union ball on Friday night, it was necessary to acquire a critical piece of set dressing: plover’s eggs, nestled in a basket of moss. We ended up using quail’s eggs, which are easier to find than you might think. I just shouted ‘does anyone know a good purveyor of quail’s eggs nearby?’ on the High et voilà. Someone has to keep those Oxford stereotypes alive, after all.

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