Category Archives: Neverwhere

Temple and Arch (2)

Note: This is a cross-posting from Paul Holmquist’s “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere.

Temple and Arch

Hi am Maren, the dramaturg for Neverwhere and I am delighted to be part of the project and delighted that Paul asked me to post. That’s a lot of delight.

First of all, I enjoy Gaiman because he works in layers and there many resonances to his words and worlds. Neverwhere is like a street map and a tube map and bits of Celtic history, art  and modern London all blended in and knit together Gaiman’s own inventiveness and dark whimsy.

So in the spirit of layering, I wanted to add a thought about the use of temple in “temple and arch”. The beauty of the phrase is that is has so many meanings and evokes such strong images.

First, just to riff on Paul’s post, England had early pre-Christian temples and the Beast of London seems to harken back to pre-Christian stories like the Fisher King (wounded in the groin by a boar or a beast) and some Welsh mythology. Anyone interested in looking at this early mythology might look at the Welsh classic The Mabinogion, a world in which heroes step in and out of magical other worlds easily. But I digress, London below seems to get the layers of all times in history, they get the detritus of the London, both the pre-Christian, the Christian and the secular. They get their geography and customs from above and below, present and past.

However my thoughts about Temple and Arch were a bit more geographic. Since Gaiman plays with place names in London, I thought of geographic temples when I heard the oath “temple and arch.”

There is a Temple church in London that founded by the Knights Templar. The Templars being that odd hybrid of monastics and warriors made famous during the crusades both for their valor and their secretiveness and from the rumor that they had the shroud Christ was wrapped in after his death. (The Black Friars in Neverwhere seem to be cut from similar cloth.) Temple Church is near the Inns of Court of which there are four: Grays Inn, Lincoln Inn, The Inner Temple and the Middle Temple. I am sure I am inadequately representing the history of the British legal system but roughly, they used to be where law students learned the law and now I believe they sort of function like our bar associations now and you belong to one of them if you practice law. Historically, some of Shakespeare’s plays were played for these groups who were the new burgeoning class of lawyers who could afford to have the players come there.

Here are links to the church and inner and middle temple.  Judging from some of the photos on their very modern websites there are a fair number of arches there as well.

The London Temples are very old institutions and the hierarchies that govern them date back to the age of fiefdoms and guilds, a system still apparently used in London below.

Where the Middle and Inner Temples are now intricately associated with law in London (apart from the Old Bailey itself where cases are tried) Temple might also have a legal connotation.

Thinking about temples as a geographic feature of London made me think about arches in London geography of which there seem to be many. There are a few arches that might be of interest: The Marble Arch across from the speaker’s corner in Hyde Park in London, (there is a marble arch tube station), Wellington Arch also in Hyde Park and of course Admiralty Arch near Trafalgar Square. But then there are many arches in London.  Below is Admiralty Arch in picture taken by my husband when we were in London over a year ago.

The interesting thing about an Arch as a geographic memorial, you go through them like a door but not into a building, you see through them and around them, but they still function architecturally even if they are not part of a building. They change the thing you see through them and frame it.  But as you can see I am prone to digression and I have already digressed far enough I just wanted to peel a few more layers of the onion.

Temple and Arch

Note: This is a cross-posting from Paul Holmquist’s “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere.

Temple and Arch

The architecture of England’s oldest and most revered churches are founded on the sanctity of the Temple and the invention of the structural marvel of the Arch.  It is a fascinating choice of Gaiman to use the phrase “Temple and Arch” as an evocation, a prayer, an oath. London Below is dependent on the tunneling technology of the Victorian era but before there were tunnels, the churches of England unified the greater culture of the island.  Roman technology journeyed north in the settlement of early London and the surrounding countryside.  And as the Christian faith was spread through the countryside, heathen temples became churches, the communities were centralized by parishes, church leaders maintained lineage and family records giving even deeper generational connection to the area, and eventually the identity of the township was known by the sound of its church bell.

Here are two slideshows of pictures of two well known churches.

The first is of St. Paul’s (Old Bailey’s favorite site), one of the tallest buildings in the City.  It stands as a sentinel, with its iconic dome and central location in the square mile known as the City of London. There is something incredibly gratifying about finding it randomly as you scan the rooftops of London; a landmark that immediately orients you to where you stand, where North, South, East and West is, where to find the Thames, the Tate Modern, the Tower of London. It is also a beautiful site on its own.

This second series was taken on a side trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon. It is of the 13th century church where Shakespeare is allegedly buried, Holy Trinity Church.  While the actual exhibition space of Shakespeare’s grave was closed for renovation, I took a myriad of pictures of the mossy gravestones, flora and finials, beautiful and frightening gargoyles, stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings and carved wooden pews. The iconography of angels are everywhere. There’s a red winged angel in one of the windows that made me wonder.

Wrapped into the functional brick and tile of the London underground is great reference to the Temples and Arches of England’s architectural identity. With timeless characters populating our story, we could make reference to the Temple and Arch of their roots and beliefs somehow. Not to mention Bridges. And Doors. More of those to come…

Meanwhile, let me introduce the illustrious Maren Robinson, our dramturg. She will have many a thing or two more to add here, so I’ve asked her to feel free to contribute.  She’s already sent me some thoughts of greater depth on the relationship of the word Temple to London’s identity.  Instead of crudely regurgitating her thoughts, I’ll let her speak for herself.

Orme Passage

Note: This is a cross-posting from Paul Holmquist’s “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere.

Orme Passage

First things first, as far as I’m concerned, is hitting the actual locations mentioned in the book. By tagging my book and a map I discovered that much of Richard’s journey involves the West End and Soho. Curious why this area of London inspired Gaiman so, I thought I’d follow adapter Rob Kauzlaric‘s advice and visit the highly specified location of Richard’s encounter with the Marquis de Carabas, where his first real experience of NEVERWHERE’s fantasy starts to get going.

“Richard had taken the Tube to Tottenham Court Road and was now walking west down Oxford Street, holding the piece of paper. Oxford Street was the retail hub of London, and even now the sidewalks were packed with shoppers and tourists….”

Absolutely. My first impression upon stepping up from the Tube station was how many thousands of people were packing the streets. I’m not inexperienced with crowds of people in public – I live not far from Wrigleyville in Chicago. Michigan Ave and the so-called Miracle Mile aren’t the least intimidating. This is exponentially different. The streets and sidewalks are narrow and irregular, poking around each other in curves and jots. Buses and cabs, mopeds and brave cyclists slalom around pedestrians who are jostling for purchase. The sidewalk has a tide to it, keep up with the rhythm or move off to the side.

“He turned into Hanway Street. Although he had only taken a few steps from the well-lit bustle of Oxford Street, he might have been in another city: Hanway Street was empty, forsaken; a narrow, dark road, little more than an alleyway, filled with gloomy record shops and closed restaurants, the only light spilling out from the secretive drinking clubs on the upper floors of buildings. He walked along it, feeling apprehensive.”

That shift is absolutely correct. Two steps off Oxford onto Hanway, suddenly I feel exposed and alone. There may have been a person here and a couple there but the extremity of solitude after riding the wave of the teeming urban parade is almost shocking.

“He did not remember an Orme Passage… as far as Richard could remember, Hanway Place was a dead end… He had been wrong. There was an Orme Passage…”

Well, I look around. I turn thrice widdershins. No luck. No Orme. Gaiman does write fiction after all.

Here’s our main character, regular guy Richard. A bit in a rut. A bit disorganized. Rather average. Lives comfortably enough but has no investment in fashion, style or status. Not much personality to him. His fiance Jessica is trying to groom him but that’s her ambition, not his. He goes along with what life presents him, a Taoist undercurrent of going with the flow of life and letting it carry him along. Ho hum.

Then he finds himself picking up a visibly injured homeless girl off the street and carrying her to his flat. Some sense of humanity lies deep under his shabby old sweater and he becomes something, not quite as grand as a Champion of Justice, but suddenly we realize he is a Good Man at Heart, maybe even Brave. Definitely maintaining his impulsive flow-going, he’s also sensitive, and the immediate commitment to action to try and “rescue” this young woman feels foolish yet Right. By leaving Jessica and skipping out on their date, despite her enraged threats shouted down the street, Richard makes a choice that no matter how improbable it is that he will benefit from this act, it is something he Must Do.

Thus he approaches the instructions (delivered by a Rat, with help from a Pigeon none-the-less) to meet up with the Marquis on the girl, Door’s, behalf, with the same vague sense that despite the improbability of the whole thing, he Must go through with it, maybe even to just test his own resolve. Facing the population of London and wandering around a back alley must feel incredibly stupid and embarrassing, but he goes through with it. Hidden within, like Orme (More?) Passage, he has a hero blooming. Believing deep behind that old shabby sweater that he Must Do Something, for Good, for Balance, for the Right.

And simply because he was asked to. How could he say no?


Note: This is a reprint of Paul Holmquist‘s first post at his new “Neverwhat?” blog, chronicling his preparatory research for directing our spring MainStage production of Neverwhere. We’ll continue to cross-post here from time to time…


About four months ago I decided A) I need a vacation, B) I should travel somewhere and C) I should go to London.  Many many years ago, when I was in high school, way back before I knew I’d be acting and directing plays, I went with a humanities class for a 10 or 12 day trip.  What I recall of the trip is a cacophony of teenage dramas and the striking images of the touristy highlights – Stonehenge, Bath, Shakespeare’s grave, the Tower of London.  What interests me for this go around includes the Must See attractions of London but focuses more on the City and experience of London as the setting of Neil Gaiman’s book, NEVERWHERE.

Chicago theater is rather anglophilic.  We love plays about Britain’s history. We like savvy upper crust Brit detectives and scurrilous cunning Brit villains.  Dialect geeks live and breathe for the nuanced sounds of the British isles and we’ve sighed over and over again at the romance of the English countryside.  NEVERWHERE is something a bit different though. As a modern urban fantasy we are drawn into a London that is current, vibrantly chaotic and full of life. The City of London is itself as much a character in the story as anyone else.  Gaiman names characters after streets and tube stations.  We are surrounded by her, steeped in her streets and alleyways, and most importantly, lured underground to explore her mysteries.

I will be touring London Above and London Below for inspiration, clarification, research and just shear geeky pleasure.  I have been digging through my copy of NEVERWHERE and tagging locations in my very own guide to NEVERWHERE’s London. Click on any of the blue tags in the map below for a brief description of the area’s significance to the story.

View Neverwhere in a larger map

This map will continue to grow and be edited with further detail, including photos, as I visit them. This blog will catalog those experiences and their relevance, but will also be a space for any and all pre-production reference, announcements, inspirations and ideas.

The London we create onstage will be an approximation, but one that I am interested in feeling right – very urban, very current, somehow ancient and modern at the same time. Starting with the City for inspiration seems like the right way to begin, as this is a London story.