I must be growing up as I was invited to a dinner party tonight. My RHMOL guest and near neighbour Virginia Ironside had us over. Even though it was a bit cold out I didn’t bother putting on my coat. We had maybe only 100 paces to go.
If only all night out were so close to my bed then I might be a more sociable person.
One of the guest was Frances Welch, the aunty of Florence from Florence and the Machine and more excitingly for me the author of the excellent Rasputin: A Short Life (it's the only real decent short book on the Mad Monk) which had provided some of the material for “I Killed Rasputin” (most notably the detail that both Felix Yusupov and Oswald Rayner (a British spy who some think might have carried out the dirty deed) had rings with bullets in them. I am still a little blue about the failure of the play: the mixed reviews and poor sales mean that there is no real prospect of it being put on anywhere else. I am less upset about the substantial financial loss than about the fact something I worked so hard on and which meant so much to me and which I think had value has gone up in smoke. I think scriptwriting is probably the thing that I am best at and yet it’s the hardest discipline to make a success of and I am probably doing the worst at it out of all the various jobs I do. I’ve written about five or six TV pilots since I last got one on and am finding it pretty much impossible to build up the necessary enthusiasm to write the next one. And maybe it’s a good idea to mourn the last project before I move on. I felt that the play had a lot of worth and it certainly had its fans. Was it unfairly treated by critics or am I just not as good at writing as I would hope? There are so many factors at play that it’s hard to judge, but it’s important to at least let yourself consider the fact that the fault may rest with you.
Other aspects of my job are easier and more profitable, so maybe in the short term, it will be better to focus on them. I get knocked down and I get up again. But there comes a point where surely it’s sensible to stay down. Only a bloody idiot keeps getting up when he knows he’s going to get knocked down. I am going to wait a bit and hope that the people who keep me knocking me down have assumed I am dead and have left me alone. Then maybe I will get up again. But if I keep getting up while they’re knocking me down I risk brain damage at best.
But I ended up talking about the play and Rasputin a lot tonight and it was really interesting to discuss Rasputin’s life with someone who knows an awful lot about it. And although nobody picked up on it at the time, the play does include a piece of evidence that I don’t think anyone else has considered (not that I have read anyway) and funnily enough it’s something that had recently struck Frances (but only after she’s finished her book). Why were Rasputin’s hands tied? He famously supposedly slipped his bonds and made the sign of the cross after he’d been thrown into the river (though that is clearly fanciful as he had been shot in the brain and was definitely dead). But why were his hands tied at all? His murderers had bundled his body into a carpet in order to make disposal easier, but why tie a dead man’s hands? Even if you believe the ridiculous story that he kept on coming back to life (which I don’t), it doesn’t make any sense. The tied up carpet will keep his limbs restricted. You only tie someone’s hands if they are still alive and if you are planning on keeping them alive for a little bit at least. I think the tied hands are strong evidence for the fact that Rasputin was not poisoned and shot and then shot again and then beaten and then drowned. He was lured to the palace, ambushed, tied up, interrogated and tortured (hence his many nasty extra wounds - including crushed testicles) and then shot. Maybe he slipped his bonds whilst alive and made a mini run for it and maybe was dispatched outside (or maybe he just showed signs of life as they dragged him to the car so they shot him again), but I am pretty certain that he was tied up whilst alive. Which puts paid to the official supernatural version of the story and heavily suggests some kind of outside involvement. It is at least mildly impressive in a subject that has been so well covered to have considered the crime from an angle that has been possibly overlooked.
Perhaps I should have pointed up this fact and tried to make publicity from this new theory. Perhaps I should have pointed up the subtle themes of the play a bit more, but then how was I to know that reviewers would come prejudging the thing as the frivolous work of a comedian and only comment on the its that seemed to support their prejudice. I know the play was far from perfect and that I was trying to squeeze a lot of content in. But as I discussed it tonight I felt aggrieved that it hadn’t got a bit more recognition, but also quite proud of it. For my own sanity and ego I perhaps have to conclude that I am a good writer who is not getting the credit I deserve, rather than a mediocre one who is justly being overlooked (whilst jammily getting paid for writing scripts that never make it to the screen). Maybe one day I will be able to give the Yusupov story another go and get the balance right. When I can face going back to the script and updating it to be the finalish version I will put it up on the site. So many bits ended up being cut for time (or because of the opinions of the cast) that it's hard to work out what my definitive draft would be.
There are still some tickets left for next week's RHLSTP with Josh Widdecombe and now added Andy Zaltzman. Join the party and book here.
And Brighton knobs, I am doing Lord of the Dance Settee at the Old Market on Friday at 7.30pm. Buy your tickets here.