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Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

Our Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter, was a great friend of the actress and poet Charlotte Mitchell….

….who acted in many films, television series and plays….

….and was the only woman EVER to have appeared in The Goon Show….

She wrote a lot of her own revue material…..

And often read her own poetry on Radio 4….

….especially on Woman’s Hour.

She published three books of verse……

……Ten Burnt Saucepans, I want to go Home and Just in Case……

…… and one of her poems was chosen to be included in The Nation’s Favourite Comic Verse.

Stewart was going through the back files of The Shakespeare Code and made a wonderful discovery….

….a handful of poems which Charlotte – or Bunty as she was called by her friends – had given him for safe-keeping before her death.

These, as far as we know, have never been published or broadcast.

Here is one, entitled, The Penultimate Bit, which deals with what, for Bunty, was a wonderful moment between Motherhood and Old Age….

THE PENULTIMATE BIT

Between a running, mopping, smiling,

Frowning, cooking Mum

 

and a Grandma

getting hard of hearing

 

lost her glasses, always peering

whose children have to fetch and take her

persuade, cajole and sometimes make her,

there is the penultimate bit

to which I’ve lately come –

Too early to be like a child

too late to be too mad and wild

when I’m not certain if I should

serve the old dears their Xmas lunch

or sit

and scoff the Christmas pud myself

admit I’m tired – give in, give up

and take a cup

of kindness for

O Lor!

but that’s not what to do at all

or so I’m told

I should be going to evening classes

before I’m really old –

wait a minute – here’ the gist –

Let me just pursue this list –

‘Flamenco dancing, Glass blowing

Wind ensemble, Cactus growing,

Millinery and love-making –

whoops, that was a Freudian slip,

Millinery and glove-making –

Faberge eggcraft and collage

Ocean navigation?’

Er, no thank you, no, not I –

Back to thinking, back to wa,lking

Back to quiet contemplation –

This part of life is surely so

that I can lounge, relax without

too many ailments on the go –

But I should fill this ageing bit

with jogging here, abseiling there

and forking out on gear and kit

which I spose might be improving

less of thinking, more of moving.

 

But all my life I’ve longed for this

Lest of “must” and “oughts” – it’s brill

and when I want to I’ll lie still

and stare up calmly at the sky

pondering on past joy and sorrow

while other people hurry by

…..I may not feel like this tomorrow.

© Charlotte Mitchell 1964

End-note from Stewart Trotter:

After Trixie the Cat had typed out Bunty’s poem,. the computer auto-corrected her idiosyncratic, crafted punctuation – punctuation which gives you a clue to the woman she was and the voice she had.

One piece of punctuation the computer STILL refuses to set: there should be a dash and not a row of dots to introduce the final line.

How Bunty would have laughed!  She hated computers – and forbad me to post her work on the Internet.

But this poem is, I think, so warm, human and good that I am defying her.

We can sort it out in Heaven.

S.T.

To read more poems by Charlotte Mitchell, please click: HERE!

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Brothers and Sisters of the Shakespeare Code…

As you know, The Code attempts to decode the politics of William Shakespeare’s plays and poetry….

It’s Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter also tries to decode the politics of our OWN times!!!

Over on our sister blog, The View from the Hill, you will find his satire…..

…described by one, highly discriminating reader as

fantastic!

…on our current Foreign Secretary….

….the Old Etonian Boris Johnson…

It is ‘Bullingdon Boris’….

…..to the tune of ‘Burlington Bertie’.

Enjoy – and even sing along!

https://theviewfromthehillblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/bullingdon-boris-to-the-tune-of-burlington-bertie/

‘Bye, now.


 

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A Tribute from Trixie the Cat

Brothers and Sisters of the Shakespeare Code….

Everyone seems to be dying……

……well Thesps at least…..

After a long battle with dementia, Sir Peter Hall, CBE, has passed on…..

He started the RSC and oversaw the National Theatre’s move from the elegant Old Vic…..

…..under the charismatic Laurence Olivier…..

…..to the squat, concrete bunker on the South Bank….

Hall is of particular interest to the Shakespeare Code because our Chief Agent, Stewart Trotter…..

…..as a very young man…..

…..worked as his assistant on six productions at the National Theatre at Glyndebourne…

(1) Bedroom Farce….with Michael Gough and Joan Hickson….

(2) Volpone – with Paul Scofield and Hugh Paddick (the Jules of Jules and Sandy fame).

Also in the show were Ben Kingsley (not then a knight) Sir John Gielgud (very much then a knight) and the late, handsome, Ian Charleson – who starred in Chariots of Fire….

(3) Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne with Thomas Allen who played his first Don under Stewart’s direction….

(4) The Country Wife – with Albert Finney as Horner….

(5) The Cherry Orchard – with Sir Ralph Richardson as Firs, Dorothy Tutin as Madame Ranevsky and Derek Thompson as Yasha…..

 – now the highest paid actor on  television….

….and  (6) Cosi fan Tutte with Maria Ewing who later became Hall’s third wife….

Maria Ewing as Dorabella

When Stewart later applied for the Post of Artistic Director at the Northcott Theatre…..

….it was what Peter wrote about him in his reference than ensured he got the job….

…..a position he held for five years.

During this time, Peter Hall published his diaries……

…..and Stewart was asked to review them for the Listener….

…..the prestigious BBC magazine, for whom he often wrote….

You Cat has been rummaging round the office files….

…and here is what she found…..

Unhappy Hall

by Stewart Trotter

The Listener.

29 September 1983

Sir Peter Hall’s diaries – like the man himself on a good day – are totally disarming.

Not that he actually bothered to write them. They were dictated – either late at night or early in the morning – into a machine then pieced together, selectively, by the National theatre’s Press Officer, John Goodwin.

So inevitably they are biased. Hall seems to win every argument, opponent ts bacvk away like naughty school-boys – and he comes across, at times. Like a retrospective Old Moore’s Almanac: ‘But I’ll do it [Wagner’s Ring] one day I know’. But something of the truth remains – too much processed, but with oh! So much pain that even if you do not exactly want to throw your arms around Hall, at least you want to tell him that he has achieved something, that he is worth it.

Hall, like many theatre directors, fears oblivion. A bit of him wants to be a writer – but what really motivates these diaries is a desire to catalogue his fight to open the National Theatre. What comes across as the villain is not Lord Olivier, not the strikers, not the building, but the entire concept of the National theatre itself as realised after the war. How is it that the British fought a huge evil, yet were so contaminated by the need to construct monoliths – to smash up organic life?

 

Anyone in the theatre will tell you that the whole building works for the moment when a play opens; technicians, wardrobe, workshops and actors all slave away for the opening of a play – then collapse until the cycle starts again. But here we have not one but three theatres, opening all the time with the company spread between them. A medieval warrior can pass a Twenties flapper in the corridor, and the Green Room is like an airport lounge with everyone waiting tom take off to a different part of a fantasy world.

Hall took this over instead of Olivier and these diaries still do not make it clear who, if anyone, stabbed whom in the back.

 

But Olivier, to say the least, was a hard act to follow……

The public had seem him at work, but hardly knows what a director of plays does, let alone a director who runs a theatre. These diaries record idiot schemes by Sir Peter to make himself well known – fronting Aquarius and advertising wallpaper. Of course he wanted to make money as well – and large sections of the population will feel little sympathy for his need to make an extra £12,000 a year. But a theatre board, having employed an exceptional person, surely has an obligation to look after his needs.

It might be argued that Hall was not up to the job, that his almost suicidal lack of confidence excluded him from wielding exceptional power. But his very ordinariness, his bourgeois aspirations, his refusal to blow up mark him out as exactly the right man to weather strikes, press abuse and misunderstanding.

But at what cost? His health failed, he nearly went blind in one eye and he worked with no joy. Max Rayne, the Chairman of the Board…….

….abuses him more than he praises him and, crudely, does not let him get on with his job. Hall, needing authority figures, gives him the time of day.

Perhaps a maniac should have been appointed to run the National – single-minded, obsessive and arrogant. But how could a man like that hold together a team of top directors, all equally meglomaniacal? Hall shows a childlike delight in the achievement of his peers with a corresponding denigration of his own talent.

The final sense one gets from these diaries is the destruction of Hall’s self-respect. But they are only one sixth of all the material available to Goodwin. And it is possible that too pathetic emerges. Much has probably been censored to stop lawsuits from flying all over the place.

It seems to me that a lot of the life has been squeezed out of Hall and the full diaries – available, probably, long after everyone involved is dead will tell a very different, wilder, more life-embracing story.

I for example appear on page 383 as a lunatic who has destroyed Hall’s conception of Cosi fan tutte for the Glyndebourne tour. What he doesn’t mention is that I assisted him, very closely, on five earlier productions and we had great fun. I genuinely believe that I have had more laughs with Peter than anyone I know…..

Peter Hall with Dominic Dromgoole.

…….that he is a great, ordinary man who, when happy, can transform the world.

© Stewart Trotter.

Thanks for letting me post this, Stewart.

Your Cat is hunting down a further review of the Diaries that Stewart later wrote for the Western Morning News….

And I’m trying to persuade him….

(1) To review Michael Blakemore’s Stage Blood…

(2) Do an interview about his time with Peter with Your Cat!

‘Bye now,


 

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In 2012, Charles Sharman-Cox, F.S.C., and Shakespeare Code Director, Stewart Trotter, edited a book about the Palace Theatre, Westcliff, called…..

One of the chapters was called Paul Greenhalgh’s Tale and it was an account of life in a weekly rep in the 1960s.

Sadly, Paul, who was a great friend of Stewart’s, died this week……

…..and as a tribute The Code is re-blogging extracts from this chapter.

When you look at the photographs it seems extraordinary to us now that these productions were created in a single week.

Thanks for all your hard-work and good humour, Paul.

Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory….

Actor PAUL GREENHALGH ….

……. was only 24 when he encountered PETER ALEXANDER RITCHIE BRIDGE….

……….who ran The Palace Theatre , Westcliff, from 1965 to 1969.

Paul’s agent had fixed an audition for him at Mr. Bridge’s  flat in Notting Hill, London…

…..where Paul takes up the story…..

PAUL’S TALE

The flat was very strange and very dark…..

……..Peter used to pretend that he was into Satan and black magic….

He once said to me:

I woke up one morning and the wall was covered with blood.

But it was just a case of terrible damp when you went in to see it…..

…….just a big streak of wet wall which needed a damp course.

I loved Peter, but he was a terrible liar. 

He had a secretary called Hilary Clulow. When you went to meet him, he used to say:

Oh, Hilary, would you just get this contract off to Diana Dors…..

…..and….

Oh, take this contract off to Mandy Miller….

…….a famous child star then. It just happened that I knew Mandy Miller, so I rang her up.

Of course, she knew nothing about it…..

They called it Weekly Rep, but in reality you didn’t have a whole week to put on a play.

With Peter you started rehearsals on the Tuesday and you had two matinees during the week, Wednesday and Saturday. So those afternoons were gone because you finished rehearsing about twelve.

Peter had a very short attention span. He would be very keen on the first morning of rehearsals…….

………but by four o’clock in the afternoon he had totally lost interest……

He would be eating cream cakes in the foyer.

Peter directed one play – I think it was an Agatha Christie – which he hadn’t read.

He didn’t read half the things he directed….

Very often we didn’t even have a run through….

At the Dress Rehearsal on the Monday, you would go in and the set would be half up. Then about half past three you might start to vaguely go through it. Often we never even got to the end.

Sometimes they would drop the curtain and we would carry on doing the Dress Rehearsal while the audience was coming in…..

At times, Roz Elvyn [the Acting A.S.M.] would hide behind the sofa with a book in her hand, feeding me the lines. 

I do remember once there was a play with a lot of telephone calls. I would pick the phone up and say

 Hello

…..and I’d think:

Who is this? What am I supposed to say?

Michael Hyatt, the Stage Manager who sat in the prompt corner, would hold up cards telling me who was on the other end of the line….

On one first night Peter had a meeting to go to so he didn’t turn up. He never came to see the show during the week because he couldn’t be bothered. He had directed a show that he never saw….

We never read the stage directions in the plays.

We would simply wait for Peter to say:

You come on over there.

Then he would let you do what you liked…..

He would say:

Oh, I want you over here.

And then you’d have to find a way of getting there.

He did have a very good eye for things.  He was very good at making pictures on the stage….

I’m sure Peter fiddled the finances….

When he got big stars down, he always paid them in cash….

June Bronhill, for instance…….

.

…..got her money in a brown envelope. I think she thought:

If I don’t get it in cash, I’m never going to get it….

Peter, and this sounds terribly arrogant, was in love with me.  Everybody thought that we were lovers, everybody, and it was completely untrue.  He just, for some reason, loved me. He wanted to turn me into the ‘Star of Southend.’

I loved Peter. I absolutely loved him. I really did.  And although he was in love with me, he never tried to make a pass at me, ever.  But he did everything in his power to keep people away from me.  If he thought anybody was getting too close, he would sack them….

The other thing Peter used to do, and this is something we discovered quite early on, was cause trouble. He would go to everybody and say:

Oh, you know so-and-so says this about you.

And for a few weeks we all really didn’t like each other. ..

He had a deep, deep love of the theatre.  He loved everything about it and had a great knowledge of plays.  He would come up with some that I had never heard of.  And he knew all the authors and where they had been produced

Because he had this love of the theatre, his parents thought:

Oh, we’ll buy him one.

Norman, his dad, was extremely wealthy and his mother, Eileen Farrow……..

…….was a dreadful contralto who always sang as though she had a pound of plums in her mouth. 

She was like Hyacinth Bucket.  She had this posh voice which she would drop out of at times.

She kept bees in her garden and would say:

 Oh, I’m going ’ome to get the ’oney……

Then, as she was leaving, she would turn around and say:

Good neet.

Once, in the middle of a performance of Robert and Elizabeth, Peter was having trouble with a scene change. He sent ‘Mother’ out to cover by singing……

She chose a song from Show Boat – which had nothing to do with the show – but sang…..

Birds gotta swim, fish gotta fly…..

When the mistake was later pointed out to her, she didn’t turn a hair.

She thought no-one had noticed.

Norman was in charge of the finances and had his office at The Theatre. I loved Norman. He was absolutely adorable….

But I came in one day during the first week of the pantomime rehearsals and found the Stage Manager and the ASM sitting on the stairs, crying with laughter. 

And I said:

What’s the matter?

And they replied: ‘

We’ve just gone to Norman for money for props for the pantomime and he’s given us a pound.

A pound to prop the entire panto! 

Peter, on the other hand, was the complete opposite….. 

He would say things like:

Oh, we need a horse here.

And, lo and behold!, someone would turn up with a horse. We had one in Adventure Story – a play about Alexander the Great…….

As Alexander, I had to come on riding Bucephalus, who was famously white. But they couldn’t get a white horse so I had to make do with a brown one….

Alexander also always wore a red cloak, but they couldn’t get a red cloak either. So I had a white one.

……And the horse came on, led by a man in a costume which didn’t reach the floor, so you could see his trainers.

On the first night, the horse shat and pissed everywhere, which summed up the production.

To be honest, it wasn’t that bad…..

All the costumes were from the film of Antony and Cleopatra. I had all Richard Burton’s outfits. This was a great idea, but none of them fitted me.

All the old ladies at the matinees would applaud when I came on with these wonderful outfits……..

…….but I couldn’t turn my back to them because I was all held together with safety pins….

Peter wanted to be Diaghilev and that’s what he looked like. He used to wear black coats down to the ground. But he couldn’t quite carry it off. He was like a twelve year old.

For instance, he brought down Elsie Randolph, a Musical Star…….

…….to play in Hay Fever. We actually managed to do a run through of this production, but at the end she went forward to ask Peter for notes……

He was lying in the second row with his feet up, fast asleep… 

Peter did manage to get audiences for his productions…..

…… and he would get stars to play in them.

I remember one day he said:

Oh, I want to do A Taste of Honey.

He always chose plays that had a good part for me.

We asked:

So who is going to play the girl?

He was getting frustrated with us, so blurted out:

 Una Stubbs.

And we thought,

Yes I bet. Una Stubbs.

And, lo and behold, who turned up on the Monday  morning but Una Stubbs!

He had employed Oriel Ross……

Self Portrait by Oriel Ross

…… who was Max Reinhardt’s leading lady. I don’t know how she had been his leading lady because she was just a piss-artist, drunk most of the time…..

She would always make her entrance through the fireplace – because she couldn’t get the idea that it wasn’t a door.  So in the end Peter just let her do it. Every night she would come on, carrying a basket of flowers, through this huge stone fireplace. 

Jessie Matthews and Wee Georgie Wood came down to do Palace of Varieties.  Some of these stars were absolutely delightful and some of them weren’t. 

Jessie Matthews wasn’t particularly nice….

Chili Bouchier was a Film Star in the 40’s and she came down to do Gigi. I didn’t like her very much either. 

She was one of those actresses who, when she acted, looked at the top of your head. ….

She never, ever looked you in the eye. I was doing a scene with her and the set was very dark.

Peter suddenly said:

Oh, Chili, I think we will have a lime on you here.

And she replied:

Oh, how lovely.

I was even more in darkness than she was, so I said:

What about my effing lime? 

She looked as if she could have killed me…. 

So for the rest of the show, there was Chili Bouchier in a limelight…..

 ……..a hissing stick of sodium which burnt so brightly it almost blinded you…..

………while all the rest of us were dancing around in the dark…..

When Peter did My Fair Lady I went to The Theatre to see a rehearsal. The poor man playing Professor Higgins was in a terrible state….

Peter had said to him:

Step forward here and the cloth will come down behind you. Then you do your song in front of the cloth.

When it came to the Dress Rehearsal, the cloth wasn’t there.

Peter said:

Come on, come forward.

And the actor replied: ‘

I thought you said the cloth was coming down behind me?

And Peter said: ‘

Can you see it up there?

And the actor replied:

No.

So Peter said:

 Well it won’t be coming down then, will it?…..

I loved Clarkson Rose, the great pantomime dame……..

…….and he loved me……..

I was no threat to him.  He had worked with all those incredible principal boys, Norman Wisdom and people like that, who had stolen the show from him. Of course, I didn’t. 

I just did exactly what I was told…. 

I had this wonderful letter from him saying:

You are the best Principal Boy I have ever worked with.….

When people took against Peter, they really hated him; but I never knew how anyone could hate him, even when he was being a monster….

And believe it or not, he would write his own reviews for the local paper.  I don’t know how he got them in there, but they were always glowing, especially about me and Mother.

We received rave reviews, week after week after week. I don’t know who they thought he was, unless, of course, he was paying somebody.

He called himself Peter Quartermain…..

The Palace has the most fantastic stage to act on. It’s what you imagine a real theatre should be, beautiful and really, really intimate. You feel as though you are wearing it when you are performing. There isn’t a dead seat in the house.

All the Fans used to come and sit in the Gallery……

Towards the end Peter had got a terrible reputation in Southend.  A lot of people were out to get him. 

The Council didn’t get their rent and that was probably the trouble…..

Peter’s Dad had also run out of money and just couldn’t continue….

Peter’s last production was a Palace of Varieties called The Last Laugh.

I kept in touch with Peter and did tours of Novello musicals for him……..

…….He thought I was the re-incarnation of  the body of Ivor……

…..while he had inherited the soul……

The dates, of course, don’t tally at all…..

I’m not particularly proud of the productions I did for Peter. But I’m proud of the fact that we went through it all and survived.

If you got a group of people together now and said:

Right, we are going to put Adventure Story on by next Monday…

…..I mean, you wouldn’t even dream of it……

I went to Peter’s funeral. Mother……

……. had banned everyone from the service who had fallen out with him. ….

She believed everything Peter said, you, see.  As far as she was concerned, Peter could do no wrong.

Peter should have stayed the rich boy who directed all the amateurs. 

That’s what he should have done.

He would have been great at that.

 

Michael Hyatt writes: 

I was in Alexander (Peter) Bridge’s first season at Westcliff and was there again for the latter half of his second.I arrived at the same time as Marilyn Chenney, who has added a very funny comment here.  We were both ASM’s and spent the week before rehearsal started washing down the dressing room walls.Paul Greenhalgh has remained one of my closest friends and there is hardly a time when we are together that Westcliff is not mentioned.   Mounting 25 productions in as many weeks without a single day off was very hard work  but, I would not have missed it for the world.  All the permanent company got on so well and regardless of the hard work we did have lots and lots of laughs.   We did some very good things despite the fact that everything had to be done in a week.  The productions always looked good thanks to the talent and ingenuity of our set designer John Page. At the start of rehearsals one week John went to father, NormanBridge, to ask for money for curtains, ‘What do you want new curtains for?’ Norman replied.  ‘You had new curtains last week’. Without the professionalism and respect we had for each other we would not have survived.  Everything I learned at Westcliff carried me through the rest of my theatre career.

Marilyn Aslani (Cheney) writes:

I’ve cried laughing at Paul’s stories. I joined Alexander Bridge in 1965 as an ASM for the first six months, then found myself playing leading roles, such as Irma La Douce and Corrie in Barefoot in the Park. Meeting stars like, Hetty King, Ronnie Shiner, Gladys Henson and Sandy Powell was a weekly occurrence. When I was in charge of props Peter would send me off to find, numerous live animals, including a horse, a St Bernard, an Afghan Hound and a goat. The latter would eat scripts left on the props table and butt everyone on it’s way to the stage. When it shat on stage, the rake sent it’s pellets bouncing down to the footlights, which they bounced off of and launched into the orchestra pit and the laps of the front row punters! I’ll never forget ‘Mother Bridge’ rapping on the piano in rehearsal, to halt our singing. In her best Hinge and Bracket voice she announced, “Just a minute, someone is singing different from like what I am”! God bless them all for some of the happiest years of my life.

 

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A Review of King Lear at the Globe Theatre, Southwark

by Trixie the Cat.

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code…

It’s been TEN long years since Your Cat sloped up to the Globe in Southwark….

This was to see the great Michelle Terry play the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost….

Way back then, Michelle and Your Cat met at a supper given by the National Theatre’s brilliant Alexander Teacher, Sue Laurie….

 

We were both in agreement….

The Princess of France really is Queen Elizabeth!!!

(See: ‘The Princess of France is Queen Elizabeth’ )

Michelle is to take over the Artistic Directorship of the Globe Theatre in 2018…..

Great things will happen!

Your Cat has been an ardent supporter of the Globe….

And loved, particularly, Mark Rylance as Cleopatra….

 

BUT – and it’s a big but…….

……productions began to get coarse and cater for..

…..the groundlings ……

……American tourists, mostly, all too eager to be raucous and crude.

Poetry got lost in stage business….

Also the Volunteer Stewards could be overweeningly  bossy….

(Why are volunteers nearly always a pain in the neck?)

However, there was no question that Your Cat would see King Lear….

…starring Kevin McNally….

….who has won world-wide acclaim as Pirate Joshamee Gibbs in the Pirates of the Carribean films..

…..not that Your Cat has ever seen any of the films…..

….She’s far too much of a snob!

[She is, though, a big fan of Johnny Depp…..

….who sometimes drops into her local, the Old Bell in the Kilburn High Road….]

No! Your Cat has been a close follower of Kevin M. since he was a student at RADA…..

….and played a sublimely funny Young Marlowe in Stewart Trotter’s production there of She Stoops to Conquer….

To this day Your Cat remembers him twitching nervously every time Kate Hardcastle clicked her fan.

Now, such is Kevin M’s INTERNATIONAL fame, Your Cat could hardly get in to see the first night….

But the play IS going to be screened in cinemas up and down the land on Thursday, 21st September…..

So book for that if you can’t get into the Globe.

As for his Lear?

 

STUNNING! 

Kevin M. has thrown away all the traditional, monotone, delivery of the part from the past…..

Like Paul Scofield’s dire performance in Peter Book’s dire film….

Not a lot of laughs here…

Kevin M. has realised that the old King really IS…..

…more sinned against than sinning….

He is loved by his followers who are prepared to die for him….

…..Kent, the Fool, Cordelia, Edgar and Gloucester….

……and tell him to his face when he is being an old idiot.

His strength is also his weakness……

 He is a man of utter spontaneity!

His fault has been too much love for Cordelia (Anjana Vasan) – his youngest daughter – and not enough for his other two, Goneril and Regan, splendidly performed by  Emily Bruni and Sirinne Saba…..

This King Lear loves fun and jokes…..

Loves the company and banter of his fool (the highly musical Loren O’Dair)

And makes new friends with ease…..

The banished Kent, for example, incisively played by Saskia Reeves….

 

Kevin M. makes his King an everyman….

He’s EVERYONE’s old rascally father, used to getting his way…..

A bit like Old Steptoe…

 

 

The lesson that Lear has to learn is that two of his own daughters hate him in a way he has never hated anyone in his life.

And it breaks his heart.

He is a blunt old soldier, a man’s man, who has never quite got the hang of women….

Kevin M. is superb in the mad scenes where he takes the place of the Fool – even looks like the Fool –

and plays the crowd like a stand-up comic.

This really is…

…reason in madness….

…..Shakespeare’s satire on the corruption of late Elizabethan and Jacobean life.

Your Cat saw the first night and is confident Kevin M. will grow and grow to sublimity in the lyrical last scenes with Cordelia….

This is the most completely HUMAN Lear you will ever see.

And the production? Nancy Meckler has assembled an excellent cast all round – as articulate as they are ethnically diverse.

Burt Caesar made a wonderfully superstitious Gloucester….

 

A good, loyal man, he is entirely vulnerable to the machinations of his lying, bastard, son  Edmund – played as a cocky, Jack the Lad, by Ralph Davis….

….as is his legitimate son, Edgar – played by Joshua James as a nice-but-dim, camp, aristocrat.

The cast bangs drums during the action which creates wonderful effects for the storm scene and battle. 

But what an uncompromising play this is!

Shakespeare goes right against his sources and has the Baddies win.

It is The Shakespeare Codes belief that the Bard was going through a period of dark despair when he wrote the play.

He had been cast out by his patron and lover of fifteen years, the Earl of Southampton….

 

….after the birth of his son in 1605…..

….just as Lear in the play is cast out.

See: ‘Sonnet 126 Decoded’

The characters in the play think that things are so bad, the world must be coming to an end….

…..as people did in the last, dark years of Queen Elizabeth.

The play shows it just needs a handful of evil people to seize power to make everyone’s life a misery.

But those evil people will finally turn against each other and destroy themselves.

And everywhere there are shown to be ordinary, decent people willing to come out of the shadows to help….

…..even at risk to their own lives.

In fact the play and this production – and Kevin M’s towering performance – prove the truth of Philip Larkin’s great line:

What will survive us is love….

‘Bye now…


 

Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code might also like:
The Background to ‘Lear’ and the Original Ending.

 

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……informing her that the Reading Room was to be renamed….

The Tom Stoppard Reading Room…….

……in honour of it’s President for the last fifteen years……

…..Sir Tom……

Culture can sink no lower…..

But Your Cat has a cunning ploy…..

The Comedy Theatre…….

…. was quite recently re-named The Harold Pinter Theatre.

….in honour of Sir Harold…

In what was probably Sir Tom’s only true moment of wit, he said to Pinter:

Couldn’t you have changed your name to Harold Comedy?

In the same way I suggest Sir Tom change his name to ….

Reading Room

That way everything can be left exactly as it is….

‘Bye now…

 

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Brothers and Sisters of The Shakespeare Code….

If you would like to read Trixie the Cat’s review of the new movie Dunkirk…..

…..on our dazzling new sister blog, The View from the Hill….

Please click:

http://theviewfromthehillblog.wordpress.com

 

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