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September 30th 2011

As I have always said, I don't look to the past too often, but now and again, one does as one gets older. And, with the recent visit to Cologne, I have thought a lot about my father’s family and tried to imagine what it would be like to be obliged suddenly to have to leave your country and begin a new life in your sixties, with very little of what you once had. I cant say that my childhood was a very happy one, it wasn’t too bad, but it was scarred by my parents horrendous separation and eventual divorce....I was spoiled and over protected by them both, so I grew up as a mixture of precociousness and horrible insecurity. Both characteristics affected me as an actor, on the one hand I was very confident, cocky I would say and full of imaginary fears on the other. There are always compensations to a difficult childhood and mine was the theatre and the film world. I dreamed and imagined and had a wonderful time fantasizing. Daydreaming was one of my saviours and solace.

We had a wonderful publication as I was growing up and apart from my usual fare of ‘Beano’ and ‘Girl’, we had The Childrens Newspaper, which was great. It was full of articles for children often written by children, puzzles, bits about nature and I loved it. My mother worked in the newspapers at the time... she was a fashion artist (not many fashion photographs then) and she knew someone who had contacts in The Children’s Newspaper. I was invited to write an interview with the celebrity of my choice. What excitement, I chose Richard Burton and joy of joys he agreed and I went to meet and interview him at the Old Vic, where he he was appearing in “Henry V” and “Hamlet”. I still have a copy of the article, I may try to scan it, but it is a bit tattered and worn now. However its grand title was “He Gave Up Rugby For Acting” and my first sentence read: “As I stepped into Mr Richard’s Burton’s dressing-room I felt at last I was really in the heart of that wonderful place, the theatre.” And it ended “I had learned a good deal from my interview with this extremely modest star and as I left the theatre I hoped I was going to be as worthy, as Mr Burton is, of that wonderful exciting career - the stage!!!” Of course we both ended up rather more on the screen than the stage, but the innocence and charm of the occasion was a moment I will never forget.

Show biz journalism by the professionals is a bit different now. My friend Julian Fellowes was on the receiving end of an extremely vitriolic article by AN Wilson, following the success of “Downton Abbey”. Mr Wilson seems to have missed the point, that we are in the entertainment industry, the drama part, not the documentary part. Maybe it is a show that is loved and followed more by women and the older members of the public, but so what, its viewing numbers are impressive. Mr Wilson is supposed to be an historian and he seems to think that World War 1 was in Edwardian times!

On the other hand I am off to see another friend’s new musical “ Kisses on a Postcard”, being tried out in North Devon this weekend. This has been written by Terence Frisby of “Girl in My Soup” fame and we are all hoping for good things for it. What I am getting to in a long winded way is that it had a lovely review by Charles Spencer in one of this week’s Daily Telegraphs, which is wonderful. I know Terry was thrilled; this is such a tough, and evermore ruthless business, that just one generous and unqualified thumbs up is a tremendous boost. “Kisses on a Postcard” is the delightful look at Terry and his brother’s experiences as evacuees in the Second World War.

However even Cameron Macintosh cannot keep a musical on and long running as in the case of “Betty Blue Eyes” and it is very much in the lap of the gods. Musicals are expensive and the seats ludicrously expensive. Times are hard and people seem to want to go to the shows that are tried and true.......Les Miz, Phantom etc, rather than risk their precious cash on new shows. Good reviews and word of mouth are so important and a show/film that is of above average quality as in the case of the brilliant “Tinker. Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, an old story, is cleaning up!

That’s all this time, friends.

Thank you for reading


All content copyright Jane Merrow