Marja-Leena Rathje
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Griffin & Sabine


Griffin and Sabine, An Extraordinary Correspondence, written and illustrated by Nick Bantock grew into a series of six books that achieved great popularity and are some of my very favourites. I love the artwork, letters inside envelopes and postcards that invite a slow savouring, a sweet pleasure of opening mail and reading hand-written letters. Something that is not so common today with the speed and ease of electronic communication. In fact, Nick Bantock and his art exhibition were the subject of a blog post here a couple of years ago.

Now there is a play, an adaptation of the Griffin & Sabine series. Called a lyrical romance, this world premiere is now playing to November 4th at the Arts Club's Granville Island Stage in Vancouver. Here's a description from the theatre site:

"How can I miss you this badly when we've never met?"  
Travel through the lush, mystical universe of Griffin & Sabine, based on the internationally renowned series of books by Nick Bantock. Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem are two artists who live half a world apart. He is an isolated, hesitant English postcard designer, while she is a confident illustrator of postage stamps and very much a creature of the South Seas. The pair exchange love letters, unaware that their profound connection will draw them into a surreal realm of haunting figures and intrigue.

View the list of actors and a few video clips about the cast and audience reactions.

Like many fans, we wondered how these books can ever be made into a play. Some time ago I read a fascinating article about the long and challenging process of transforming this very visual and ephemeral story into a stage play. Really worth a read.

Anyway, we went to see it earlier this evening. It was well done in most respects. We liked the minimalist set with projected images of Bantock's artworks and the interesting changing lighting. A bass player and a percussionist hidden in the shadows provided occasional background music. Knowing it's an immensely challenging proposition to stage such an otherworldly story, it was fairly successful. However we thought it was rather rushed in the two hours, the actors speaking too fast. (I had difficulty understanding Griffin's English accent, though it was authentic to the character, but that's just me.) It's the usual dilemma of condensing a book or books into a short time. My husband had not read the books (he rarely reads fiction) so he had no preconceptions and expectations and thought it well done but also felt it was rushed, the speech sometimes too "clinical".

We'd still recommend it highly for its unique artistic achievement. We did wonder if it would make a great digital animation movie.

Image: part of the artwork on the cover of The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock, scanned from my copy.

Marja-Leena | 24/10/2006 | 7 comments
themes: Books, Culture, Other artists


Oi, kirjoituksesi luettuani oli pakko heti rynnätä kirjahyllylle ja poimia kirjat esiin. Minulla on sarjasta vain kaksi, ne ensimmäiset, mutta miten monta hetkeä olenkaan viettänyt kyseisten kirjojen kuvituksia ja ihania kirjekuoria katsellen.

Helsingissä alkavat tänään nelipäiväiset kirjamessut, joille aion suunnistaa lauantaina. Millaisiahan aarteita sieltä löytyy tällä kertaa kotiin kannettavaksi...

Antoisaa syksyä ja lempeitä lukuiltoja sinne ison rapakon taa!

Very interesting. I enjoyed the books. I have a hard time imagining something so visual and tactile, as well as a love story where the two don't meet, being translated into the theater — but then that would be the fun of doing it for those involved in the production, wouldn't it!

Hei Viides rooli! Onpa hauska että kirjat ovat tutut ja rakastetut! Yritä saada ne kaikki, yhteensä kuusi. Onko ne käännetty Suomeksi? Kiva että ne ovat sinne asti päässyt. Olen saanut monet Bantockin kirjoista lahjoina. Oikein kiinnostava kirja taiteiljan omasta processista on hänen The Artful Dodger. Ja kiitos, hyvää syksyä sinnepäin myös!

MB, if you loved the books you'd like the play even with some of it's shortcomings. It's another art form the way they developed it. I just had to see how they were able to translate such books to stage. I wonder if it will travel or otherwise be staged by other theater groups across the continent.

Looking at that cover gave me a visceral longing to cut and assemble and paste things ith my own two hands rather than doing everything in this damn computer! Eventually I am going to be so glad to have a studio again, and to work with real tactile materials - even if it's just for therapeutic reasons!

Having said that - I love the photo in the next post, and can't wait to see what your prints look like!

Beth, thanks! I hope you will be able to do some hands-on work soon! If you work small, maybe the kitchen table could be a place to start to play around, perhaps in a sketchbook. I do believe doing anything creative is very therapeutic. And the hands-on textural prints are something I like to combine with the digital prints.

By the way, I was replying to the Finnish commenter above and mentioned Nick Bantock's book The Artful Dodger, which is very inspiring as he writes about his artistic development and process with humour yet great depth.

Hei Marja-Leena, tietääkseni Nick Bantockin sarjaa ei ole suomennettu. Olen ostanut omat kirjani aikanaan New Yorkista. Kiitos myös vinkistä, yritän saada käsiini tuon mainitsemasi The Artful Dodger.