Theatre life, with its quarrels and muddles and vanities, is a form of lunacy: but the moonbeams of that lunacy can be of a radiance that does indeed reward. The occasional miracle of the theatre its inhabitants know: indeed, by it they live.
Ivor Brown, Shakespeare
|Sunset, Drake’s Wharf, Royal William Yard.|
Photo by EP
Sunday morning I have just added to my too heavy luggage by buying the huge bulk of The Sunday Times at Plymouth railway station. I have a very large bruise on my upper right thigh though the sensitivity is located in my buttock bone. The acupuncturist, a Mr Ding, dealt with it during the last of three visits for my traumatized left kneecap. Mr Ding rang the right bells I trust, but I have been climbing rather than hopping onto buses in Plymouth, and oh so slowly wrenching myself out of taxis like a genuine geriatric for the last weeks.
I collapsed twice back in Wellington, New Zealand nearly six years ago. Paradoxically the stroke must have engineered two perfect stage falls – not a bruise nor a troubled joint; well I think I cut my head. However it was the other night on stage in Plymouth, in pursuit of a convincing dramatic recreation of the very same stroke, that, inexpertly, I fell too heavily on my arse, having already ten days before fell off the platform whilst entering Lear’s hovel during rehearsal.
I suspect Doctor Theatre has been every bit as good as Mr Ding, better perhaps at allowing me to prance up and down and even attempt an autumn leaf in the wind on Michael Vale’s sheer white steep incline of a worthy scaffold. The good Doctor’s endorphins, or whatever he induces, faithfully took effect nightly at the five-minute call.
|Me age twenty-two.|
Gisborne Photo News
Sunday evening I met a middle-aged man on the railway platform this morning, who had been a touring member of a band in his youth. He was off to Brighton to give some lectures and remembered not at all fondly his days of one-night international gigs and lots of alcohol. He asked how I found touring ‘at your age’. This sort of thing I get a lot now; people even ask me ‘Do you still do any acting?’ It surprises me, since, even struggling with rather too much luggage and the gnawing knee and buttock, essentially I feel I’m the same Petherbridge who went on tour to New Zealand in 1958 or with Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ in 1965 (a rave review I see in today’s Sunday Times for the new Donmar revival of the dear old play, ‘with’, it is claimed, ‘some most respectful additions and ornamentations’).
|As Ferdinand Gadd with Louise Purnell (Rose Trelawny) |
and Pauline Taylor (Imogen Parrott).
Photo by Angus McBean
Critic and novelist Christopher Hart has fallen for the Victorian theatrical glories of the play completely. Clearly Arthur Wing Pinero’s ‘great achievement’ creates as much affection now in at least one critic’s heart as it did in my twenty-seven-year-old heart when it provided me with my first good part at the National all those eons ago. I feel I could don the wig and yellow suit designed for my Ferdinand Gadd by Motley and go on, given a day or two to let out the waist a touch and brush up the lines: ‘Avonia, there’s something to lay hold of here. I’ll think this over. … I’ll play it!’
|With Maggie Smith as Avonia.|
Photo by Zoe Dominic
Tuesday we head to Liverpool ...
|‘Have Lear, will travel’.|
Rehearsal photo by KR
Read the first crop of reviews of My Perfect Mind here. And view a series of production shots on Flickr.