Here is how this blog began on 27th April 2003:
My name is Augustine and this is my first blog. I am Natalie's alter egoist. I'm the ventriloquist and she's the dummy.
I'm embarassed that I thought I could keep up the pretense of being a
cartoon character with a life of her own. Can there be such a thing as
an alter ego?
Appropriately and coincidentally, on Saturday I went to see Tom Stoppard's new play at the National Theatre, The Hard Problem.
(I hadn't read any reviews before seeing the play). The 'hard
problem' is the mystery of consciousness. At least it's a hard problem
for those who have a problem with believing that anything which is not
material can exist, those who are absolutely convinced that the activity
of a physical organ, the brain, is consciousness.
I don't have that particular hard problem because it seems
completely rational to me that non-material things can exist and
interact with matter. Does Augustine stand for consciousness while
'Natalie' is merely the body she inhabits, the hand that drew the
cartoon character 'Augustine'? Maybe. Why not?
Bravo to Stoppard for tackling a controversial and profound
subject on the stage - where better? Unfortunately in this play the
characters he created are not controversial enough. It's as if he was
afraid to come up with bold leaps of the imagination in case he'd be
mocked on one hand by the orthodoxy of science, and on the other hand by
the orthodoxy of religion or spirituality. Instead he sticks to safe
territory, merely presenting known points of view spoken by mostly
conventional characters within a situation that apes the real world but
is too contrived to be convincing.
The most annoying stereotype in the play is the female lead,
Hilary. She represent the educated, intelligent but naive believer: she
believes in God, in morality, in altruism, in motherlove and in getting
ahead career-wise, more or less on her terms. In order to embody these
characteristics, Stoppard makes her female (of course), young, pretty,
excitable and emotional, 'zany' in a cute way. Very Hollywood. To
demonstrate her naivety, the playwright has her kneeling at the foot of
the bed to say her prayers, after sex. Any original, probing,
challenging point of view which might be expressed by a
non-stereotypical, non-naive believer is automatically excluded
because the Hilary persona is unable to depart from the conventional
role Stoppard gives her. The male characters have more to say and are
more rounded but they too are trapped in a script that is like a clever
The programme notes by Stoppard are more interesting and
include an exchange of letters between himself and Richard Dawkins and
an extract of a letter from Professor Armand Marie Leroi, leaving us to
draw our own conclusions about where he, Stoppard, stands in the debate.
I hope he isn't tired and hasn't lost his pizzaz, his ability to take
on perennial philosophical questions and invigorate them in wildly
There's more to say on the Alter Ego theme but I want to wander away
from it now. After the play I walked along the South Bank, always a
pleasure, always filled with life and unexpected sights, sounds and
smells, especially on a beautiful April afternoon. There's also a very
speedy little movie at the bottom of the photos: skateboarders
performing at their special hang-out.