09 October 2015


Edward’s newly renovated and updated website, still under the title Peth’s Staging Post, is now up and running. We hope you will enjoy exploring the site which comprises some familiar features and some brand new. Among the latter is a section devoted to the highly acclaimed production My Perfect Mind and a gallery of recent photographs taken by Edward. You can still purchase signed copies of Slim Chances (the original and NT50 editions) as well as the 4-CD audiobook, and contact Edward via the website.

The blog will now be an integral part of the website, so please make sure you bookmark Peths Staging Post on your web browser and subscribe to the blog in order to receive email alerts. All the historic posts can still be viewed on the new blog and you will also find today’s post which marks National Poetry Day in the UK.

Please note the new-look website is best viewed in full-screen mode.


01 October 2015


Edward’s official website, Peth’s Staging Post, is currently undergoing a major renovation. The new site will be up and running soon and the launch date will be announced here. From that date, the blog will feature as an integral part of the new site so be sure to sign up to receive email alerts and stay tuned for the first post from Sussex.
A Constable landscape in East Sussex. Photo by EP 

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.’

31 July 2015


My friends, my dear friends! Can I be silent, in leaving this house for evermore? Can I restrain myself, in saying farewell, from expressing those feelings which now fill my whole being … ?
Gaev in Act IV of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard 

I arrived back from New York last month not with a clutch of press cuttings, but heavy jet lag and hard copies of two editions of the New York Times. I suppose there must be hard evidence, too, of the twenty-two online rave reviews we received but, more potent and poignant, I carried memories of the lively, wise and witty audiences and impressions of the numbers of people we spoke to after the performance each day, fellow theatre folk, friends, long-lost acquaintances. There were people too who had simply breathed the same air with me in theatres – do I romanticize? Perhaps, but most amazingly, on one of the 59E59 nights, there was the Englishman, now American, who announced that he had met my late mother-in-law on a train from Victoria to Lewes, sat with her on the coach to Glyndebourne – both of them in their operagoer’s finery and alone, so they talked together, as theatregoers do, and spent the time before the performance in the gardens with the trees and flowers, their champagne and afternoon salmon sandwiches. She told him about her daughter Emily and me. He had seen an early performance, he told me, at the Old Vic of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1967; I think he had also seen Emily and me in Nickleby on Broadway and certainly later saw me in O’Neill’s Strange Interlude.

We had Mondays off and no weekday matinee, though we did undertake four shows in one rather gruelling weekend. So there was time to visit art galleries. Of special note was the new Whitney Museum situated in the Meatpacking District between the Highline and the Hudson River. It was fascinating to watch Americans viewing their own art and the turbulent history it recorded. An atmosphere of almost silent reverence prevailed, quite unlike the tourist bustle uptown at the Metropolitan Museum which houses the most astonishing collection of Impressionist paintings.  

At the Whitney. Photos by EP
One of Richard Estes’s photorealist portraits of New York City, currently on
exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle.
Photo by EP
It was my daughter Dora and her friend Ruth who told me of the High Line, a green promenade over a mile long, imaginatively reclaimed from the disused southern portion of the old West Side Line.

View of the Empire State Building from the High Line.
Photo by Kathleen Riley
Dora and I in Manhattan

With Emma DeCorsey and Ruth Johnston.
Photo by Dora Petherbridge

There was time also to walk in the heat and splendour of Central Park, always escaping to my subterranean air-conditioned dressing room on East 59th Street to rest and recover before the show.

Summer in Central Park.
Photos by EP
Kathleen and I in Central Park on our last day in New York.
Photo by EP
The mesh of connections is complex and it was especially apt that I should be reminded of East Sussex on East 59th Street; it so happens that Emily and I are moving out of our London home to a house on the edge of Lewes where our view, if all goes smoothly to plan, will be of Mount Caburn and in theory we might dress for the opera and walk towards and over that hill, hardly a mountain, to Glyndebourne, just down the other side. I say just, but a taxi skirting round would be wiser.

Part of the lake and grounds at Glyndebourne, taken on our visit 
in May to attend the first night of Poliuto
Photo by EP
However it was owing to the fact that Emily and I had had not only a steady period of work with the RSC in the late 70s to the early 80s, but had made television versions of the RSC Nickleby and Trevor Nunn’s RSC production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters that we were able to contemplate buying the house we are now leaving (those were the days).

Stills from the televised version of Three Sisters, with me as Vershinin,
Emily as Irina and Roger Rees as Tuzenbach. Suzanne Bertish far left as Masha
Emily and I in the garden of our West Hampstead home
a year or two after we moved in
Thirty-three years have passed.

I started boxing books and paintings before I left for New York and thought of the physical work as part of my preparation for performance. I have resumed my labours since coming back, being as ruthless as possible with the accrued possessions and junk. Kathleen sprang to our aid and did wonders with an impossible attic.

Talking of old acquaintance, I thought I must have lost this photo of The Soldier’s Tale. I almost threw out a seemingly empty brown envelope but luckily checked it first. There is the great violinist Yehudi Menhuin tucked into the corner.

Yehudi Menuhin, Sally Gilpin and myself in The Soldier’s Tale,
Bath Festival, 1968
Before rehearsals, knowing I had to mime playing the violin, I listened over and over again at home to a recording of Stravinsky’s tricky music until I knew the quirky rhythms and worked out my idea of the bowing before I had laid hands on the prop, mercifully muted, violin. This rediscovered photo is a favourite because it does appear that I am managing to dance and get the bowing more or less right at the same time.

Yesterday I came upon a quaint trophy given me by Caroline Blakiston. Appropriately it has a Chekhovian connection – Caro was after all the only English actress ever to play Chekhov in Russian at the Moscow Art Theatre, Carlotta in The Cherry Orchard. The item is symbolic of change, renewal and the detritus of the past, and is in a crumpled brown envelope that could easily have been thrown out, but it bears a handwritten label which reads: ‘Piece of canvas from Moscow Art Theatre stage cloth? gathered by me on my 1st visit to Moscow when they were re-building in 1982. And a fragment of floor tile picked up at the same time.’

Photo by EP
It is possible that Stanislavski, even Chekhov might have trod this particular patch of tile. Ridiculous to keep such remnants, to attribute mysterious qualities to them … or is it? Where does one draw the line?

Our daughter is here and at this moment is ruthlessly chucking out sketches she did at art school and putting books in the Oxfam pile; that’s the way! Oh for the life of a minimalist!

Examples of Dora’s artwork
But with handmade artefacts and what I think of as eccentric treasures, whether related to Moscow, Menuhin or Manhattan, one must be careful …

In view of the present preoccupation with boxing everything in sight and the impending move to Sussex, please note that there will be a short moratorium on website orders for the Slim Chances audiobook and NT50 special edition. These items will again be available to order from the second week of September.

13 July 2015


But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us ...

Today is the day of Roger Rees’s funeral in New York. He leaves behind his companion of more than thirty years and spouse since 2011, the writer and producer Rick Elice.

I simply want to post a phrase or two from an email I sent Roger after seeing him play Vladimir in Waiting for Godot at the Haymarket with Ian McKellen in 2010.
As you can imagine I have always fancied myself in your part since 1956 was it? I conclusively relinquished it to you tonight and was constantly surprised, disarmed and engaged, there is no one who can dance in the part and go into the fearsome shadows with your seamless ease … Your relationship [with Ian] is very believable and the audience love you both …
Roger as Vladimir in Waiting for Godot