28 November 2010


Blow, blow, thou winter wind.

It looks as if I will be sending you seasonal snow scenes very soon. Hoping meantime that my Budapest film suffices until my next posting midweek.

Meanwhile, this shows what you can do to amuse yourself and the children with felt-tip pens and ping pong balls. I have kept these from several Christmases back and next time will send you Spring and Summer.



25 November 2010


My first iPhone film!

(N.B. The video is possibly best viewed in small screen to avoid delays in loading, but you can double-click to enlarge.)

21 November 2010


For shadow play of Budapest
Time has made its acid test
So there will be a slight delay
Before my shadows have their say
But have no fear – I’m all agog
We’ll catch the clock up with the blog.

For those of you who may have missed my ‘kitchen-table’ meditation on King Lear, commissioned by Vulpes Libris for their inaugural Shakespeare Week, here it is – partly filmed in Budapest!

14 November 2010


Heroes' Square, Budapest

Surreal supper in solitary splendour in the hotel with Harry Potter on TV and Mike Gambon's Dumbledore speaking Hungarian, which seemed right as I last worked with Mike here in Budapest. The screen was a thumbnail size at arm's length, if you follow me, but dominated the empty dining room. It was an appropriate warm-up for tomorrow, when I confess Jeremy Irons's Borgia Pope: good and evil doing battle on the small screen.

I was a filmmaker myself today, using my iPhone camera. I actually caught a Hungarian architect, who talked in halting English to me, singing 'It's a long way to Tipperary' – he learnt it at school. We saw an exhibition together. I may be going slightly mad in my solitude here, but I have seen some good art and photography and conned my lines.

I offer two pictures of the kind of Hero you see here. The nymph has nothing to do but try in vain to reach up and plant the laurel on the hero's brow. It strikes me this is rather the way Lear thinks of his daughters in Act I, scene i: 'Which of you shall we say doth love us most?' 

The Museum of Fine Arts currently has a large exhibition on Klimt and the origins of the Vienna Secession. According to the lushly illustrated catalogue, Klimt was influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, and I was pleased, indeed felt at home, to see William Nicholson, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Whistler and Burne-Jones in the amazingly comprehensive line-up. The museum is cavernous and the upstairs rooms, where I glimpsed the permanent collection, are reached by a marble staircase that makes London's V&A seem positively cosy. And Hungary has a population of just 10 million!

Next time I hope to show you my Hungarian film!

09 November 2010


As promised. (Double click to enlarge screen.)

07 November 2010


We know that Anthony Hopkins reads through and speaks his film parts a hundred times before he gets to the studio. This element of intense preparatory study is the thing that connects the actor performing before the oil and gas footlights of the 18th and 19th centuries with the film actor today finding his mark and his key light. In the ‘old’ theatre, rehearsal was at a minimum, especially in the classics, where the staging was standardized. Leading actors made their special ‘points’, even sending a junior actor ahead on a tour to explain the business they were going to do and so avoiding rehearsals with a provincial company altogether. When a leading actor was preparing to burst onto the West End stage, the great bulk of his preparation was in his own study, not only learning his part thoroughly but also working out exactly what he would do with it.

It is not outlandish to turn up for filming on Day One of a project and find one has committed one’s key scene to the cameras by lunchtime or by 9.30 if it’s TV. In film acting, there is a heady sense of improvisation and discovery and living in the moment, but it had better be backed up by one’s own careful preparation. 

I’m about to go to Budapest to confess Jeremy Irons’s Pope Alexander VI (in the Showtime series The Borgias). The last time I met him was last Christmas when he came to see his son Max playing the younger me in Stoppard’s Artist Descending a Staircase and we chatted afterwards, backstage by the fire escape at the Old Red Lion in Islington.

I was last in Budapest in 1992 where I had flown in to play the eponymous role in Maigret’s Boyhood Friend. Our Stanislavskian preparation, Mike Gambon and I, might have been done nearly thirty years earlier when we were inmates of the walk-ons dressing room at the Old Vic, home then of the National Theatre. I certainly remember schoolboy mischief leavening the boredom of our very slender acting duties. 

I had just gone direct from Budapest Airport to a make-up caravan to discuss a moustache, and there was Maigret/Gambon on the street corner. We greeted each other briefly, like boyhood friends, and the next day were filming in the back of a police car, with me under suspicion for murder.

Eventually we caught up over a hotel supper. So much of our talk was about ‘the old days’, as if we were speaking of gaslit footlights. Though they were the days when we rehearsed The Royal Hunt of the Sun – Mike playing a Spaniard, I an Inca – for at least twelve weeks? 

The Royal Hunt of the Sun, National Theatre, 1964.
Photo by Angus McBean.

Mike and I parted early that night … we had our parts to study for the morning.


Coming shortly: a new webcam poem, an autumnal meditation and celebration.  

Meanwhile, a recent picture of Bean, happily ignoring my self-portrait to charm and entreat the artist.


01 November 2010


Emily and Edward at home in their London garden, circa 1985.

As you may have seen, Edward is a follower of Ruth Johnston's excellent blog Cocktails and Feminism. This week Ruth has posted an interview with Edward's wife, Emily Richard, in which she gives a candid and fascinating insight into her career as an actress, which is by turns funny, moving and inspiring.

The interview includes lovely rare images of some of the stage productions in which Emily and Edward have appeared together over the years.

You can read the interview with Emily here.

And don't miss Edward's Halloween blog posted below.