Friday, 5 July 2019

Selling Shakespeare.

From my diary...

Recently, Boris has started having me in to his office for a weekly meeting.
His agenda is always the same. What's on the horizon that could bring in big money, and what's the situation concerning any current negotiations. In particular, can payment be speeded up. As Foreign Minister he needs money to impress wily foreigners, he tells me...

He's doing knee-bends when I walk in.
“Sit,” he gasps. “What's new?”
I go through a few items and then get to today's big one, selling off the Bard.
He stops his exercises and collapses into his office chair, mopping his brow.
“Most..um..interesting,” he splutters. We wait until he has regained his breath.
“Yes, most interesting.”
“Well, for me, the big question is who do I approach with the idea. Presumably it would be a rather sensitive issue in some quarters.”
“Yes.” He massages his head. Then he rubs his knee.
“I know! Iran!” he exclaims. “Yes, Iran!”
“Iran? Does the Supreme Leader like Shakespeare?”
“Oh no. She's not cultural at all. She won't mind if you sell Shakespeare.”
“Er...I meant Iran's Supreme Leader.”
“Hah! Oh dear! Lapsus lingua, what? Anyway, Jason, it may surprise you to know that the Iranians are extremely keen on Shakespeare. They had an international Conference about him last year, and are continuously giving productions, in English and Farsee. I know this because I met their Cultural Ambassador at a dinner last month. Very cultivated johnnie. I'll call him on Monday and see if he's interested.”

The 'cultivated johnnie' is coming to see me this morning. He told Boris he's quite happy to come to my office as he likes to stroll along the Mall. When he is shown in, I am somewhat surprised. Not wearing robes, no beard, no sandals, no studious glasses. Instead a silk Molteboini suit, swept back grey hair, slight tan, impeccable. Brilliant white teeth, too. And Hollywood looks. His name is Gatros Aresten. One of the girls brings in coffee and leaves the room backing towards the door, gawping at my visitor. After a general chat, I ask him my key question.
“Does Ayatollah Khameini appreciate Shakespeare, Mr. Aresten?”
“Indeed, he does. The Ayatollah, whom Allah preserve, has the highest admiration for the Bard. I know he will be interested in acquiring the rights to this genius.”
“Well, that's wonderful,” I say.
“We have a long tradition of showing Shakespeare. All of his plays have been produced in Iran. There is even a movie of a production of 'The Merchant of Venice' from 1928. Quite amusing. In those days women were not permitted to appear on stage so the female characters were played by young men wearing large wigs. Along with 'Hamlet' and 'The Tempest', 'The Merchant of Venice' is a favourite in my country.”
“Forgive my ignorance. I had no idea.”
“The Ayatollah said that he considers Shakespeare to be a fine moral dramatist. With a high regard for values. Western values of course.”
“Ah. I have to say that we would not wish Shakespeare's works to be modified by a purchaser to suit particular political needs. The texts must remain unadulterated.”
“Dear me, Doctor Bryggs. We are not savages, you know. We had a civilisation long before your merchants started colonising. And we have a fine literature of our own. Which reminds me, we would not be interested in buying the sonnets. We have our own poetry of a particularly high standard and dating from many centuries before Shakespeare left his home town for London. What would be the price you are seeking for the plays?”
I tell him. He raises an eye-brow. It's a big number - which I calculated by taking the net earnings of the latest blockbuster Shakespeare movie, multiplying it by 37 (the number of plays) and then by 50 (the number of years I reckon the Bard will last.)
“I think I know how you arrived at that figure,” he says smiling. “But please reduce it by one thirty-seventh as we are not interested in the play 'Pericles, Prince of Tyre.' It is a confused piece of drama and has long been considered unworthy of production by your own critics.”
O.K. Hopefully, he isn't aware that 'Two Noble Kinsmen' was half written by another guy called Fletcher.
“Then there is the play 'Two Noble Kinsmen.' As this was half-written by John Fletcher, we would not be interested in purchasing it. So another one thirty-seventh may be deducted.”
“Of course.”
“We also would like to see included in the price, the original plans for the construction of the Globe theatre.”
“Do they still exist?”
“I don't mean the original of 1599, I mean the Sam Wanamaker Globe of 1997.”
“Ah. No problem.”
“Excellent. I will report back to my Ayatollah, whom Allah preserve, and have the legal documents drawn up.”
I'm glad I don't work in Legal. They'll have to be extra careful with this guy.
“As a matter of interest, what is the name of the young lady who brought in the coffee?”

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