Yes. Well. Now to the crux of the matter. We were writing a skit on The House of Niccolo. This was a series of 7 Books, plus one that was not yet published and, due unfortunate circumstances, would not be published until 6 weeks prior to the show. Tovah's Opera 'Francesco Y Filipa' had taken the Lymond Chronicles, ditched most of books 1, 2 and 5, and concentrated hilariously on the core plot: notably Lymond, Gabriel and Philippa. Such an approach was not possibly with the House of Niccolo, because without book 8 we did not know who might turn out to be important, who might live, who might die, who might be good, who might be bad. Was Catherine Charetty a new agent of the Vatachino? Was Kathi an evil stirrer? Was Adorne the real head of the Vatachino? Or was it Mick Crackbene's Ada? Would Simon and Nicholas be reconciled? Would Tobie betray Nicholas 'for his own good'? Would Robin go mad and turn evil? Was Adelina really dead? Was Julius good, bad or indifferent (we knew he wasn't ugly!). Most importanly, we didn't even know if Nicholas was good or bad, the hero or the villian (though we had our suspicions that he might turn out to be the hero).
We considered Tovah's Law of Grand Opera (take the plot, throw out all the extraneous bits, and then throw out some more) and due to advances in stagecraft, technology and thought since 1994, we took the plot, and then threw it ALL out. We would, of course, refer to it. But we would replace it with a plot of our own. The Trial.
The idea of doing Gilbert and Sullivan had been mooted (by Diana Crane? by me? I really can't remember) at a meeting at the Trout pub in Oxford between Diana Crane, Karen Rex, Henk Beentje, heather Fletcher and Eve Sinaiko (see the Niccolodeon for details!). This was followed, some time later, by a further meeting at Cindy Byrne's house in Dublin, between Cindy, heather and myself. It was Cindy, in fact, who had first volunteered to take on the role of arranging a performance at the end of Edinburgh Gathering. I volunteered to help!
Anyway, at Cindy's house, she suggested that we use Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial by Jury as a template. In fact, we didn't use a single song from Trial by Jury. I wanted to play Jordan, and I can't sing - which eventually ruled out 'I am a Judge (and a good Judge too). I wanted to give Julius a song about Zoe ('she could very well pass for 43 in the dark with the light behind her') but she was such an insignificant character that we couldn't waste a song on her. By the end of the weekend, we had a premise. Nicholas would stand trial for his 'crimes'. Goro (someone whose motivations we were pretty sure of) would be the defence attorney, and Julius the prosecution. Anselm Adorne would be the judge. The witnesses would be: Adelina, Gelis, Tobie, Kathi, Marian, Simon, Godscalc, Zacco & Carlotta, Ludo, Umar, Jordan. And I already knew the verdict.
Driving through Dundrum on the way to the shops that weekend, the car radio played 'Both Sides Now'. "That's it!" is said, "That's Nicholas".
That meeting was in Spring 2000. By the Summer, I'd decided that what "Trial of De Fleury" needed was more pantomime (in the traditional British sense) action. You can see this quite clearly now in the construction of the Nikado as it finally stood. (I'd written a pantomime of Sleeping Beauty once). And what a pantomime always has to have is a pantomime villain. Jordan (already the demon king of the House of Niccolo) was perfect for the role. But a pantomime villain needs real power. He (or she) usually gets this through magic. This was inappropriate. Jordan St Pol would need to have a more temporal power. So I ditched Adorne (who I'd found to be a rather boring character after Nicholas Rising, and lacking focus, and with no clear "angle"), in favour of Jordan St Pol - the Judge from Hell.
At the same time, the fact that Julius was the Prosecution attorney looked wrong. For a start, he was not the enemy of Nicholas - he was a colleague. He might be vain, but he had never acted against Nicholas. And he would be more free to be himself as a witness. And we could give him a scene with Adelina. And we had someone who loathed Nicholas wholeheartedly, but was much more wily and intelligent than Julius. We had David de Salmeton - DeSlime.
So now we had Nicholas (except we didn't know how we were going to come up with a good Nicholas, or what he would say), with Goro at his side, facing an evil Judge, who had fixed the Jury, and was abetted by DeSlime. The odds were well and truly stacked against Nicholas. Which is, of course, just how Dorothy Dunnett likes it.
Updated 06 Jan 2002
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