25 April 2012


There is hardly a pioneer’s hut which does not contain a few odd volumes of Shakespeare.
Alexis de Tocqueville (1831)

A slightly belated film in honour of the Bard’s birthday.


On the subject of suburban and Shakespearean activity, Sir Frank Dicksee (1853-1928), President of the Royal Academy, who painted this famous Pre-Raphaelite image of Romeo and Juliet, is buried in our local cemetery. He and several members of the Dicksee family, all of them artists, lived and worked in West Hampstead. 

Painted 1884. Southampton City Art Gallery

His cousin Herbert Dicksee had as his most frequent model the young Gladys Cooper who is also buried in Hampstead Cemetery.

Gladys cooper as Juliet and George Clarke as Romeo.
Photo by Bessano

Spring in Hampstead Cemetery. Photo by EP

22 April 2012


            Bright baffling Soul, least capturable of themes,

            Thou, who display’dst a life of common-place,

            Leaving no intimate word or personal trace

            Of high design outside the artistry

            Of thy penned dreams,

            Still shalt remain at heart unread eternally.
Thomas Hardy, ‘To Shakespeare’ (1916)

London is decidedly chilly; I remember last year I photographed our bust of Shakespeare near our lilac blossom for his birthday, but I fear it won’t be fully out by Monday.

Photo by EP
I can’t quite believe I managed this idealized Bard Birthday ‘painting’ last year, using my index finger and the Brushes app on my iPhone.

I have taken fright lately about working on the iPad and iPhone, though I did manage an abstract not long ago and what could represent an enchanted Forest of Arden.

This last week I went to Large Glass, an art gallery in the Caledonian Road, to hear A.L. Kennedy (author of The Blue Book) talking about her postcards (the gallery has currently a fascinating exhibition of postcards and has, since February, been running a series of related talks). Alison managed to give us a potted history of her life. None of her own postcards, projected on a screen, were specially memorable, and I suspect she could have given an equally engrossing talk with a random collection of objects – a pair of shoes, an old note book, a favourite pen – doing a riff on each. 

Image courtesy of Large Glass
Stratford-upon-Avon was introduced via what she admitted was the most ordinary postcard view, but what she said about it was touchingly personal. Her first taste of professionally performed Shakespeare was in the intimacy of the Other Place, the original tin hut of blessed memory. I would like to read a transcript of the talk (it may have been recorded); I won’t attempt to paraphrase her words, but it was the power of Shakespeare’s words, their sound that thrilled the young girl down from Dundee. At first she was surprised to be in a shabby hut and not a ‘proper theatre’, then the RSC’s big guns came on: Richard Pascoe, Alan Howard et al.

She loved the vast reaches of the main theatre too and spoke particularly of its smell and lamented its radical rebuild. In fact, on a recent visit they were actually in the process of gutting the building and her wry threnody of the familiar smell drifting along waterside mingled with the building’s dust is something I will not forget. 

Mind you, for all one’s fond memories, it was a dreadful mammoth Odeon of a place and the back rows of the gallery seemed miles away. I remember the Head of Voice, Cis Berry, getting the company to spread so that we were dotted about all over the stage and the empty auditorium, speaking the Bard to one another over the wastes of empty plush in fervent attempts to colonize the territory with an amalgam of projected clarity and intimacy.

Speaking of postcards, we have this framed one of Emily as the Princess of France in Love’s Labour’s Lost, bought from the front-of-house shop at Stratford. (It was during the run of Love’s Labour’s Lost that our daughter Dora was christened in the very church in which Shakespeare was baptised and buried – the church seen in A.L. Kennedy’s postcard above.)

The last written words I will give to Frank Benson, as famous for his cricket teams as for his Shakespeare. Even in this night-scented hymn to Stratford and the Bard, he manages a reference to the town’s playing field.

From Shakespeare’s Heroines (1926).
Click to enlarge

But perhaps the last spoken words should be the Bard’s.

At 7.45 this Sunday evening (UK time) on Radio 3 you can hear A.L. Kennedy’s documentary Art and Madness, to which Edward contributed. The programme runs for forty-five minutes and ‘questions the clichéd link between madness and creativity’. For those of you in other time zones, you can still listen in via the Radio 3 homepage.

06 April 2012


               We shall not cease from exploration
               And the end of all our exploring
               Will be to arrive where we started
               And know the place for the first time.
                                                                     T.S. Eliot

Steps in Time, South Bank. Photo by EP

Home and Hearth. Photo by EP

A Happy Easter to you all!

05 April 2012


Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.
Charles Dickens

Part II coming soon ...


Apologies for the hiatus in weekly posting. A bumper Easter edition of the blog, in two cinematic parts, is coming very soon. STAY TUNED.

Photo by EP