Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Pirandello's The Man With the Flower in His Mouth

I'm writing an unpleasant story (inspired by Piandello's 'Man with a Flower in his mouth'), about a man with cancer of the lip, and almost at the end of his tether, who invites his old doctor down for the weekend. They pass the time away over the fireside by exchanging yarns, and my man with cancer of the lip keeps forgetting that there's anything wrong with him.

Subsequently...but that's as far as I've got, and I've committed the one fatal error in writing a short story, writing the beginning before the end.
Letter to Carol Brown 10th June 1926

As Sherrill Grace says in her annotation to Malc's Collected Letters - "an intriguing choice of model for the seventeen year old Lowry." The short story is now lost if it was ever completed.

The play is a one-act "dialogue", derived with small variations, from the novella La Morte Adosso (1923). The dialogue takes place in a bar, late at night, between a man who is dying of an epithelioma ("il fiore in bocca") and a peaceful businessman who has missed his train. In other words, between someone who intensely lives the little time left to him and someone who is rich with time to spend idly and irresponsibly, waiting for the morning train and entirely absorbed by the banal contretemps.

The exceptional nature of the moment, for the man who feels death upon him--to use Pirandello's phrase--and the normality of it, for the one who is absorbed in the usual affairs of life with its small daily commitments, mark the two ends of the dialectic which is animated in the grand soliloquy of the protagonist.

He lucidly analyses his last sensations on earth, evoking scenes of common life, particulars of a quotidianity which are receding from him irremediably and which, for this reason, make precious the memories of even the most trivial events. In the solemnity of his solitude, he seems to have gained unexpected awarenesses of the life that is leaving him and of death. With no sense of regret or repentance, he almost seems to bitterly enjoy his unrepeatable experience marked by the echo of the end, which allows him to dedicate himself with interest to observing the anonymous life of others, in order to grasp its sense.

On July 14, 1930, Luigi Pirandello's play became the first drama ever broadcast over the then-experimental medium of television:

BBC radio producer Lance Sieveking's reaction to the new medium of television was very much as a place in which he could experiment with new ideas. In collaboration with Val Gielgud he brought an adaptation of Luigi Pirandello's short play L'Uomo dal Fiore in Bocca (1923) to 30-line television as "The Man with the Flower in His Mouth".

In 1967, Radio Rentals who owned the Baird brand approached the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) Television Service to co-operate in recording a reconstruction of "The Man with the Flower in his Mouth" for the Ideal Home Exhibition later that year. The video at upper left is the one performed in 1967, with fairly accurate 30-line equipment specially constructed by technician Bill Elliot at Granada. The reconstructed play was authentically re-produced and presented by the original producer, Lance Sieveking, supported by the original art-work, and used the original incidental music which had been retrieved from the 1930 gramaphone disc. The actors were students from ILEA, who were coached by Sieveking himself.
Baird Television

You can watch the reconstruction here:

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