The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author JL Merrow today on the Played! blog tour. Enjoy JL’s guest post, then be sure to follow the instructions for your chance to win some great prizes.
A Dream of a Play
Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m thrilled to be here today as part of the Played! blog tour.
Is A Midsummer Night’s Dream the most performed play in Shakespeare’s opus?
Wait a minute. I’ll check that out.
Right, I’m back. Well, no, apparently Hamlet has that honour, but Dream is certainly one that comes around time and time again. It’s particularly suited to open-air performances, which are regularly scheduled in the UK summer months in total defiance of our traditionally dismal weather and general mild pessimism about the same. It’s a good introduction to the Bard, with its lovers’ shenanigans and broad comedy that’s stood the test of time, which is sadly not the case for all of Shakespeare’s “comic relief” sections. Dream’s feminist themes are still relevant today, and much more palatable to modern audiences than The Taming of the Shrew.
When I was writing Played!, my gay romantic comedy centred around amateur dramatics, it was an obvious choice to feature, with a character called Bottom who gets turned into an ass!
In the excellent gay musical fantasy film Were the World Mine (2008), the focus is on the love potion element of the plot. As Played! is not a fantasy and the use of rohypnol is generally not to be encouraged, there are no love potions in my story. Rather, I chose to focus on the amateur theatre group generally known as the rude mechanicals.
For anyone not familiar with the plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (because there must be someone out there who isn’t, surely?) there are several main storylines which twist and turn around each other like randy snakes on Viagra. The first concerns four young Athenian lovers. The second concerns the rude mechanicals who are preparing a play to entertain the local Duke and his new bride at their wedding. The third plotline concerns the king and queen of the fairies fighting over a boy (didn’t I say it was ideal for a gay romantic comedy?)
In Played!, visiting professional actor Tristan takes the part of the mischievous fairy, Puck, who causes all kinds of problems with the afore-mentioned love potions and also turns the head of lead rude mechanical Nick Bottom into that of an ass. Bottom is of course played by reluctant first-time actor Con, whom Tristan is coaching—and whose head he sets out to turn in a very different sense!
Question: I’ve seen Dream several times, and it’s definitely a favourite of mine because of the magical atmosphere and daft shenanigans. What’s your favourite stage play, Shakespearian or otherwise? Why?
Prizes! I’m offering a prize of an ebook of the winner’s choice from my backlist to one lucky commenter at EVERY stop on the tour, plus a grand prize of a signed copy of Caught!, the first Shamwell Tale, which comes out in paperback on 4th August. I’m happy to ship worldwide, and I’ll throw in some small goodies as well. :)
Please remember to leave an email addy in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win.
I’ll be making the draws around teatime on Friday 10th July, GMT.
Good luck! :D
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers’ Circle and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Though Tristan must join his family’s New York firm at summer’s end—no more farting around on stage, as his father so bluntly puts it—he can’t resist when Shamwell’s local amateur dramatics society begs him to take a role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The bonus: giving private acting lessons to a local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Not only is Con delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan getting him in his bed.
A late-diagnosed dyslexic, Con’s never dared to act, convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines. But with Tristan’s help, he takes the chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken. And with Tristan due to leave the country soon, Con is determined not to start anything that’s bound to finish badly.
Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance for happiness.
Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.