GLORIOUS ENGLISH SUMMER
7th July 2010
This is England as I remember it from childhood, well mostly! Anyway it really is lovely at the moment - sunshine, humid - of course - strawberries and cream, long evenings, Pimms and Rose wine. It's been a busy social time and also a time for networking to push the film series forward. I saw "Henry 1Vth part 2" at the Globe Theatre last night and walked over the Millennium Bridge (the wobbly one- it doesn't wobble now) to get there. It was a perfect summer evening and when I got to the other side of the bridge, I turned back and saw the most stunning view of St Paul's Cathedral in all its loveliness. The view was even better going back over the river, with the Cathedral lit up. It really is a testament to our culture and our talent and frankly our luck that it wasn't destroyed in the war. Anyway, before I get too starry eyed and sentimental, the performance of Shakespeare's play, full of well known and memorable lines, was OK, but not great. It really was rather pedestrian if truth be told, with only a couple of the actors energised and in control of the audience - a vital ingredient, if you are going to hold them. Sad to say I saw many of the younger audience leaving - we must do better if we're to keep their attention.
However, last week I saw an outside performance of "London Assurance" on a large screen set up on the platform, used for the outdoor events at the National Theatre. That was wonderful, with the actors giving the live performance inside. I would go anywhere to see Simon Russell Beale, a real star, with a great voice and never a false moment, even in this, which does call for some outrageous rather over the top acting. Richard Briars with all of his eighty years, which sit lightly on his shoulders was also in it and quite magical, his comic timing is a joy. All of this is great acting and sadly I dont think the young actors of today get the opportunity to hone their skills by doing repertory theatre, which no longer exists - a different play every week and loads of different parts to get your teeth into. I didn't really do rep either, which is perhaps why my skills are more in film than theatre. I do regret it, but I had different choices to make and different opportunities. I do wonder sometimes whether that's why I never went into the National Theatre to work, one of my few sadnesses. Never mind, as I said, I had other good things that came my way.
One of the very first was "Lorna Doone", a half hours series of the book for Childrens Television, which was big feature around 5:30pm on a Sunday evening. I think this was one of my favourite jobs. I was playing "Lorna" opposite the lovely Bill Travers of "Born Free", fame which he did later with his smashing wife Virginia McKenna. Lorna is described as having gorgeous long black hair. The wig made for me look like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz and we were starting the pre- filming in North Devon- in those days we did the outside work before we went inside to do the studio work. So what to do - the make up lady decided on a half wig, with the front of my hair dyed by temporary black hair dye, which would give me a softer more natural hairline. None of that to hand, while we waited for another wig, so I wore a scarf, with the front of my hair being covered by black pancake make-up. Naturally it rained with the obvious ensuing results, black streaks falling gently down my face, lovely and so right for romantic perfect Lorna.
Everyone was good fun in the cast, one of my lasting friendships was with Patricia Brake, who played Gwenny, my maid and who went on to do lovely things on television- not the least "Porridge". She and I would have very unprofessional giggling fits, which we had a hard time controlling. I think the tapes were all erased and re-used by the BBC, very economical at that time, so nothing is left of poor old "Lorna Doone", or that version at least.
I guess the BBC did not forsee televison with hundreds of channels to fill and they didn't hang on to so much of the wonderful work.
I live in London beside the river, I love to be near water and the tranquillity it brings. Or at least the river brings. I always fancied the sea, but frankly the British seaside can be rather dreary in winter. The California coastline would be choice as they say. The Pacific can be really stunning, with those great waves rolling in. But the Thames is good enough for me and I cant help thinking of all the history associated with it. Places change, but water doesn't and one does get a strong feeling of the past just by watching it. (I can just hear my English teacher saying "too long Jane" - "shorten it up and make the point".)
Bye for now