Posts Tagged ‘Jeffrey Dench’

The summer of 1964 saw me back in Stratford and this time for a whole week! I had just finished my schooldays and my ‘A’ level results were on the horizon (in fact, they were due in a few days). Meantime, I was determined to enjoy an absolute feast of theatre and I was not disappointed. On the day I arrived (Saturday), I had tickets for the matinee of RICHARD II and the evening performance of HENRY IV -PART I. As usual, I made my way down to the theatre as soon as possible and purchased programmes. A quick glance at the cast for each play showed that I would soon be seeing some now familiar faces from previous productions -David Warner, Roy Dotrice, Ian Holm, Janet Suzman, Eric Porter, Jeffery Dench, John Normington and Jeffery Dench. The programmes were more detailed than two years previously and they provided much food for thought over lunch – no pun intended!

 I still have the programmes for this historic season and readers may be interested in the following quote from an article about the then RSC: “The Royal Shakespeare Company believe that the Elizabethan theatre and especially Shakespeare offers a dramatic richness unequalled in any other epoch or language …the aim of the Royal Shakespeare Company is to express this richness so that it is immediate to modern audiences, an experience that reverberates with the thoughts and feelings of today “.

 Some retrospective thoughts about the productions I enjoyed that week will follow in future blogs but I cannot resist referring to the weather on that first day of my week in Stratford. It may have been early August but as I made my way from the theatre in search of lunch, the heavens opened and there followed a downpour worthy of the winter months. Ah, but didn’t someone write something about “..the rain it raineth every day “?!! Actually, it WAS typical of some of the days we have experienced during the past week because when we came out of the matinee, the sun was shining brightly and it was becoming quite hot.

I should also at this stage like to relate how I first discovered the Stratford -upon-Avon Poetry Festival. Between performances, I came across this magnificent Tudor Building not far from the theatre and Holy Trinity Church. Correct, my first encounter with Hall’s Croft. The following evening there would be a programme of poems and readings under the title of THE MAN TRAP. It was arranged by Patrick Garland and would be performed by Fenella Fielding and Max Adrian. Now I had nothing booked for the following evening but enquiries within revealed that the tickets had long been sold but ..now this WAS interesting ..if I would care to purchase a ticket and sit in the lounge, the performance would be heard there even if the actors were not seen and coffee would be served in the interval. As you may guess, I purchased a ticket and had a rather special surprise the following evening.

 What was it ? To be continued …

by Tony Boyd-Williams

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Back in 1963, the company altered the format of programmes. Instead of the shilling priced  red coloured play title cover (with Swan logo) which contained the cast list and a brief director’s note, patrons were  given a choice. They could have the now familiar free cast list or purchase a more detailed programme with cast list and potted biographies of the cast, director and designer, plus a longer director’s note (sometimes also a designer’s note with costume sketches), comments on the play or the themes discussed by Shakespeare and photographs of either rehearsals or the production itself.

Such programmes paved the way for the splendid ones we are enjoying in this special Birthday Season with so many fascinating and informative articles. Plus the more detailed bio and photos of the ensembles, not forgetting for posterity  the information about THE COMPANY and what our theatres now offer – including forthcoming productions up to March next year.

Many thanks to our compilers and editors -Michelle and Lucy! As well as the productions themselves, these programmes are wonderful souvenirs of this historic moment in not only RSC history but also British  and World Theatre generally.

The productions of JULIUS CAESAR and THE TEMPEST, which I have previously mentioned, also gave me the opportunity to begin to see the fruits of the work of an ensemble and to become familiar with the work of company members who would appear with the RSC over many seasons to come:

Jeffery Dench ( Ligarius and Flavius), Clifford Rose (Soothsayer), David Warner (Cinna the poet and Trinculo), John Normington (Lucilius and a Cobbler ), Susan Engel (Calphurnia and Juno), Cherry Morris (Portia and Ceres), Janet Suzman (Iris) and Ian Holm (Ariel ). 

Fascinating to think that some of them were making their RSC debut that year!

I was now absolutely determined to return to Stratford for as many of the 1964  Quatercentenary productions as possible! Of course, that year would see productions of Shakespeare all over Britain and former company member Russell Hunter (now with the Bristol Old Vic) gently reminded audiences generally of the pitfalls of being over familiar with the plays. He suggested that in the moments before any production of one of Shakespeare’s plays began, the members of the audience should…”forget you have ever read or seen the play before”.

Without seeming arrogant, I have always followed that advice and have NEVER (yes, NEVER ) been disappointed.

And my memories of 1964?  To be continued!

Tony Boyd-Williams

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