Friday, 25 April 2014

A Writer's Diary of His Journey with The Libertine

From a curious introduction to the Earl of Rochester, Stephen Jeffreys has lived with this larger-than-life character for nearly 40 years. The Libertine first swaggered on to stage in 1994 and since then he has been to the New World, been played by Johnny Depp, and has finally arrived at the Citizens Theatre in a re-write that Jeffreys is calling 'The definitive version'.

Read Stephen's 'intermittent' diary below, and see the Earl on stage here.




1975  
A visit to my dentist Gerald Lightman provides me with a surprise present. Gerald, a cultivated chap with interests in music and literature, is clearing his bookshelves of any matter unsuitable for his inquisitive thirteen year old daughter. One item up for relocation is a green Olympia press edition of Sodom, a play by John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester. Working through his list of patients, Gerald concludes that I would be the most appropriate recipient for the book and hands it over. On reading Sodom, I realise that, despite an early exposure to the work of the Pip Simmons Theatre Company and Michael McClure, this is quite the filthiest play I have ever read, featuring extensive bouts of buggery, fornication and other practices (including, at one point, some pornographic topiary). The volume features a skeletal biography of Rochester which gives an account of the Earl’s short, restless life, his poetry and his battles with Charles II. I add Wilmot to my mental inventory of approved people and resume my life as a supply teacher in Hackney.