Friday, October 19, 2007

How is a cricket bat like a play?

When I was writing yesterday's post about Tom Stoppard I checked out his Wikipedia page, which, among other things, informed me that he is a participant in the One Million Masterpiece project. This is a charity effort that aims to be "the world's largest collaborative arts project," asking each person who signs up to create a square-shaped painting using a computer graphics program. This is Stoppard's artwork:

The One Million Masterpiece Arts Project

Simple, but effective graphic of a cricket bat and ball. I laughed out loud, though, when I saw it. You see, it's not just that Stoppard is a cricket fan. Instead, I'm almost certain that he's alluding to his famous "cricket bat" monologue from The Real Thing. In it, Henry, a playwright, uses a cricket bat as a metaphor to explain just why an amateurish play by a young political prisoner is so awful.
HENRY: This thing here, which looks like a wooden club, is actually several pieces of particular wood cunningly put together in a certain way so the whole thing is sprung, like a dance floor. It's for hitting cricket balls with. If you get it right, the cricket ball will travel two hundred yards in four seconds, and all you've done is give it a knock like knocking the top off a bottle of stout, and it makes a noise like a trout taking a fly... (He clucks his tongue to make the noise) What we're trying to do is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it (He clucks his tongue again and picks up the script) Now, what we've got here is a lump of wood of roughly the same shape trying to be a cricket bat, and if you hit a ball with it, the ball will travel about ten feet and you will drop the bat and dance about shouting "Ouch!" with your hands stuck into your armpits. (Indicates the cricket bat) This isn't better because someone says it's better, or because there's a conspiracy by the MCC to keep cudgels out of Lords. It's better because it's better. You don't believe me, so I suggest you go out to bat with this (the script) and see how you get on.
Yay for craftsmanship and uncompromising high standards! Yay for playwrights!

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