The heat-death of the universe – from Beyond the Fringe

Beyond the Fringe opened as part of the Edinburgh Festival on 22 August 1960. The earliest known performance of Jonathan Miller’s monologue below, however, was as part of Bright Periods, a revue at University College Hospital, in 1957.
The monologue is now available in One Thing and Another: Selected Writings 1954 – 2016, a new collection of Jonathan Miller’s writing, edited by Ian Greaves. 

Some years ago, when I was rather hard up, I wanted to buy myself a new
pair of trousers – but, being rather hard up, I was quite unable to buy
myself a new pair. Until some very kind friend whispered into my earhole
that if I looked sharp about it I could get myself quite a nice second-hand
pair from the Sales Department of the London Passenger Transport Board
Lost Property. Now before I accepted this interesting offer I got involved
in a great deal of fastidious struggling with my inner soul, because I wasn’t
very keen to assume the trousers which some lunatic had taken off on a
train going eastbound towards Whitechapel.

jonathan-miller

However, after a great deal of moral contortion, I steeled myself to the
alien crutch, and made my way towards the London Passenger Transport
Board Lost Property Sales Department in Portman Square, praying as I
did so, ‘Oh God, let them be dry-cleaned when I get there.’ And when
I arrived there, you can imagine my pleasure and surprise when I found,
instead of a tumbled heap of lunatics’ trousers, a very neat heap of brand
new, bright-blue corduroy trousers. There were 400 of them! How can
anyone lose 400 pairs of trousers on a train? I mean, it’s hard enough to
lose a brown paper bag full of old orange peel when you really want to.
And anyway, 400 men wearing no trousers would attract some sort of
attention. No, it’s clearly part of a complex economic scheme on the part of the London Passenger Transport Board – a complex economic scheme
along Galbraithian or Keynesian lines, presumably. So over now to the
Economics Planning Division of the London Passenger Transport Board
Ops Room:
‘All right, men. Operation Cerulean Trouser. Now, we are going to
issue each one of you men with a brand new, bright blue pair of corduroy
trousers. Your job will be to disperse to all parts of London, to empty railway
carriages, and there to divest yourselves of these garments and leave them
in horrid little heaps on the floors of the carriages concerned. Once the
trousers have left your body, your job ends there, and I mean that! All right,
now – are there any questions? Good – now, chins up and trousers down!’

And they disperse to places far out on the reaches of the Central Line.
Places with unlikely names like Chipping Ongar; places presumably out
on the Essex marshes, totally uninhabited except for a few rather rangy
marsh birds mournfully pacing the primeval slime.
And there in the empty railway carriages they let themselves separately
and individually into the empty compartments; and then, before they
commit the final existential act of detrouserment, they do those little
personal things which people sometimes do when they think they’re alone
in railway carriages. Things like…things like smelling their own armpits.

The Beyond the Fringe gang

The Beyond the Fringe gang

It’s all part of the human condition, I suppose. Anyway, it’s quite
possible they didn’t even take their trousers off in the compartments but
made their way along the narrow corridor towards the lavatory at the end
– that wonderful little room, where there’s that marvellous unpunctuated
motto over the lavatory saying, ‘Gentlemen lift the seat.’ What exactly
does this mean? Is it a sociological description – a definition of a gentleman
which I can either take or leave? Or perhaps it’s a Loyal Toast? It could
be a blunt military order…or an invitation to upper-class larceny…but
anyway, willy-nilly, they strip stark naked; and then, nude – entirely
nude, nude that is except for cellular underwear (for man is born free
but everywhere is in cellular underwear) – they make their way back to
headquarters through the chilly nocturnal streets of sleeping Whitechapel
– 400 fleet-white figures in the night, their 800 horny feet pattering on
the pavements and arousing small children from their slumbers in upstairs
bedrooms. Children, who are soothed back into their sleep by their parents with the ancient words: ‘Turn your face to the wall, my darling, while the
gentlemen trot by.’

The new collection One Thing and Another: Selected Writings 1954 – 2016 is published by Oberon Books and is now available to pre-order ahead of publication in March ’17. In keeping with Miller’s grasshopper mind, One Thing and Another leaps from discussions of human behaviour, atheism, satire, cinema and television, to analyses of the work of M.R. James, Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens and Truman Capote, by way of reflections on directing Shakespeare, Chekhov, Olivier and opera.
Jonathan Miller is internationally celebrated as one of the last great public intellectuals. Read One Thing and Another to find out why.

Edinburgh Festival 2016!

The Edinburgh Festival is almost upon us, and the team here at Oberon Books have been working their socks off behind the scenes to get everything ready. We’re delighted to now be bringing you the very best new writing, theatre and performance from across the festival and the country, from leading venues and rising-star writers

Get your festival diary sorted with these must-see shows, or delve deeper by getting stuck into the text. Catch up with the history of the festival through epic collections like Forest Fringe: The First Ten Yearsor help raise money for Save The Children by going to see The Duke for free! There’s so  much to see, do, and get involved with.
Have a brilliant #EdFest2016 everybody! xo

9781783197514Started in 2007, the Forest Fringe was brought to life by Andy Field, Deborah Pearson and Ira Brand as an independent, not-for-profit space in the midst of the Edinburgh Festival, to enable and encourage adventurous, experimental theatre. Ten years on, it’s become a consistent Edinburgh highlight, and we’ve collected the best of the work that’s come out of it in Forest Fringe: The First Ten Years. You can check out their Edinburgh 2016 programme here.

9781783191437Duncan Macmillan’s star has been on the rise for a few years now and the acclaimed writer hit the big time with the recent West End transfer of his fantastic play People, Places and Things. His earlier work Every Brilliant Thing is back at Edinburgh this year, and was lauded by critics as ‘one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see about depression.’ It’s going to be an Edinburgh must-see, and you can book tickets here.

9781786820310The Duke is a brand new live solo show by Shôn Dale-Jones. A funny and poignant one-man show which playfully mixes fantasy and reality, it was made to raise money for Save The Children’s Child Refugee Crisis Appeal. It’s free to attend, with donations given in lieu of ticket price, and proceeds from sale of the play text will also go towards the appeal.

9781783198320A Good Clean Heart is a funny, moving play about coming of age, with two brothers raised apart, in different families speaking different languages. A Welsh and English bilingual production, which Alun Saunders won the 2016 Wales Theatre Award for Best Playwright in the English Language for, it uses innovative lighting and animated subtitles to help with translation. Book tickets here.

9781786820037Five Guys Chillin’ is a graphic, gripping, funny and frank verbatim drama exposing the chill-out chem-sex scene. An original look into a drug-fuelled, hedonistic, highly secret world of Grindr, and instant gratification, you can see it here.

97817831983825 Out of 10 Men is a perceptive, darkly humorous look at male suicide rates by Roland Reynolds (tickets here), whose Blush of Dogs was called ‘a demented cackle of a play‘ by Time Out. A modern retelling of the Greek myth of Thyestes, Reynolds debut is available along with 5 Out of 10 Men here.

9781783198283Adapted solely from real testimonies and interviews, E15 looks at the modern rent and housing crisis, and the campaign started by single mothers in Newham E15 when threatened with eviction. A pertinent piece of documentary theatre, you can see it at Summerhall in Edinburgh and buy it with The 56 (about the 1985 Bradford City football ground fire) here.

9781783199785My Eyes Went Dark is a modern tragedy about a Russian architect driven to revenge after losing his family in a plane crash. A huge critical success during its original run at the Finborough, it’s sure to be in demand this summer in Edinburgh at the Traverse.

9781786820136A fierce and playful feminist work exploring the psychology of extremism, Blow Off is explosive new guerilla-gig-theatre from the co-creator of festival hits Beats and Chalk Farm, with live music by Kim Moore with Susan Bear and Julie Eisenstein from Glasgow’s hottest indie-pop duo Tuff Love. See it at the Traverse.

9781783197637Hailed as a ‘short, sharp shock of a production… that recall[s] the form-bending virtuosity of Caryl Churchill’ by the New York Times, Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again examines the language, behaviour and forces that shape women in the 21st century and asks what’s stopping us from doing something truly radical to change them. Full of ‘ferocious energy’, this is sure to be a must-see.

9781783190928In preparation for the film role of a lifetime, an actor goes to extreme lengths to dig up the truth. Her subject is the celebrated artist, Janet Adler, who rejected the art world in favour of a private life. From the real to the unreal, fake to true and theatre to film, Adler & Gibb is a compelling story of misappropriation and death, and this re-staging of the Royal Court production will be a great show.

9781783197491Part play, part house party, Ten Storey Love Song is Luke Barnes’ adaptation of Richard Milward’s cult novel about the tangled lives of the residents of a Middlesbrough tower block. A love song to a loveless Teesside, this is a guaranteed good night out at the Pleasance.

9781783197361Equations for A Moving Body is a story about triathlons. It’s a story about the physiology of endurance – when our brains tell our bodies to stop – and the psychology of continuing. Hannah Nicklin muses on the people who share that journey with us – family, coaches, friends, ex-boyfriends – and the people we swim, ride and run alongside at Summerhall. Her book Collected Works For Performance is available here.

You can browse all of these titles on our website HERE.