22 August 2015


We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.

We have been crowded out of our house by the boxes and our last week or so as residents of London is to be spent in our local Marriott Hotel.

This is Swiss Cottage as one does not know it; of course the Marriott claims Regent’s Park in its title and there are Primrose Hill Teas to be had in the afternoons. The last time we moved house and into a hotel was thirty-three years ago when we left our Kilburn flat and flew straight to Manila, having left the key with the estate agent. We (as part of the London Shakespeare Group) were to play Twelfth Night in the huge main theatre, part of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines that Madam Marcos had instigated in the late 60s in the grounds of a large, rather deserted park. There were dark stories about the haste in which the whole project had been constructed. Tonight at supper, by strange coincidence, our waitress was from Manila.

The Tanghalang Pambansa (Theatre of Performing Arts).
Photo by EP
Our Twelfth Night set on the stage of the main theatre.
The proscenium has a height of 30 feet and a width of nearly 60 feet.
Photo by EP
I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Emily and I had, on that same British Council tour of the Far East, performed in Hiroshima. A few days later, whilst sorting and packing, I discovered Emily’s Japan diary and saw from it that we took possession of our house in West Hampstead the day before we arrived in Hiroshima.

A lady from the Council called at our house today and spent three minutes looking at the rear of the property. These terrace houses are all constructed identically but I suppose Camden keeps a watchful eye on developments and our buyers are certainly going to make structural changes – built to last. So I know that this year’s crop of ripening grapes in our little conservatory is the last.

Photo by EP
      Loose Ends

     I sit here, my mind churns and prattles 
     And chatters of goods, endless chattels 
     What can it portend
     When each odd and end
     Enslaves me and signals more battles?

     Oh to spirit or give them away
     Realizing that blessed new day
     Free from this tittle-tattle
     No need then to tackle what package or pack’ll
     Prevent breakage or rattle 
     Oh that day my back’ll
     Sing songs voiced through each vertebrae!

10 August 2015


To remember happiness which cannot be restored, is pain, but of a softened kind … and memory, however sad, is the best and purest link between this world and a better. But come! I'll tell you a story of another kind.

One of the recent rediscoveries in the mammoth ongoing task of sorting and packing was this photograph I took of Emily and Roger Rees during the filming of Nicholas Nickleby at the Old Vic. 

Emily as Kate and Roger as Nicholas. Kneeling in front of them, 
also taking a snap, is Jim Goddard who directed the show for television.
To the left can be glimpsed the Cheeryble brothers played by David
Lloyd Meredith and Hubert Rees.
Photo by EP

I sent the picture to Roger’s spouse, Rick Elice, and he responded with a delightful story which I share with you here.
Roger’s coat, that he’s wearing in this photo, he kept after you finished the New York run. He had it hanging in the closet. One spring, there was a Broadway Cares auction and Roger decided to donate his NN coat.  
The auction was held in Shubert Alley, which was mobbed with people. Saturday afternoon between shows, so lots of actors, lots of fans, lots of amazing stuff being auctioned off.
Roger’s coat was shown. The bidding was quick because someone from the back of the crowd kept upping the bid. Finally, it sold for $4,000. Not many of the objects were going for more than $1,000, so it was kind of a big deal.   
Roger couldn’t be there at the auction; he must have been working, I can’t remember. But he wasn’t there.
But that night, when he came home, he received a call from the charity, telling him that the coat went for a lot of money. He was so pleased.
‘What are you so happy about?’ he asked me, when he saw me smiling too.
‘Go look in the closet,’ I said. 
He opened the door, and there was his coat, hanging in its usual spot. ‘I was the high bidder,’ I said.  
‘This way, we can auction it off again next year.’ 
Which is exactly what we did.

06 August 2015


          Summer night:
          ruined mountains, rivers
          cry out with one voice.

          Flaming trees 
          dance up
          into the angry autumn sky.

Timiki Hara,  Haiku 20, 6-7 August 1945

Today, we have been thinking, Emily and I, about our visit to Japan in 1982. We were on a British Council tour of the Far East, playing Viola and Feste respectively, and what we remember chiefly is the friendliness of our audiences, our hosts in Hiroshima. We performed in a college there and at the end of our show some students played traditional music to us and there were speeches of welcome and appreciation. A party even came to the station to wave us off. 

Hiroshima Peace Memorial or Genbaku Dōmu,
part of the 
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
Photo by EP
Here in West Hampstead there is a Peace Park too. Its opening on 9th August 1984 had been timed to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. Among its symbols of peace is a white crane, representative of the origami cranes made by Sadako Sasaki, who was two when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and who, ten years later, died of leukaemia caused by radiation exposure. 

Photo by EP
And among the messages of peace embedded in a path through the park is a plaque inscribed with the words of the Mayor of Hiroshima.

Photo by EP
It is worth mentioning that less than a mile north of the Peace Park lies the grave of Joseph Rotblat, a longtime resident of West Hampstead and the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project on the grounds of conscience. In 1995, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts towards nuclear disarmament. His gravestone bears the words with which he concluded his Nobel lecture: ‘Above all remember your humanity.’