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Posts Tagged ‘Penny Downie’

A quick update on the whereabouts and doings of some RSC alumni:

1. Nick Asbury is part of the new Propeller company that will be staging Henry V and The Winter’s Tale starting on 9th November at Guildford and climaxing next July at Hampstead Theatre in London. Find all the details you’ll ever need at http://www.propeller.org.uk/;
2. John Heffernan, such a fine Richard II at the Tobacco Factory recently, is in the new show at Hampstead Theatre running from this Thursday (20th) until 26th November. Called “The Last of the Duchess” it’s about the final days of the Duchess of Windsor, is written by Nicholas Wright and, apart from John, stars Sheila Hancock, Angela Thorne and Anna Chancellor. Check it out on http://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/;
3. I’m sure you’ve all seen the news (but no harm in repeating) that the RSC  is collaborating with the Soho Theatre, London, now run by Steve Marmion who cut some of his directorial teeth assisting Rupert Goold on Antony & Cleopatra a few years ago, to produce a play about football featuring Katy Stephens;
4. Edmund Kingsley has another week in “The River Line” at the Jermyn Theatre www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/ 
5. Tamsin Greig can be seen in the current show in the Royal Court’s Theatre Downstairs until 19th November http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/
6Penny Downie AND Michael Pennington will be appearing at the Print Room in “Judgement Day”, a new version of Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken”. The Print Room is a new(ish) space in the Notting Hill/ Westbourne Green area of London at 34 Hereford Road W2 5AJ. Have a look at http://www.the-print-room.org/ for more details 

And I notice that it’s farewell to Michael Boyd and Vikki Heywood who announced on Friday that they will both stand down next year after 10 years running the RSC together. What will we do now?

Regards

Geraldine

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The Stratford Poetry Festival had a wonderful ending to their programme with Muse of Fire devised and presented by Paul Edmondson.. We were really looking forward to this because both Penny Downie and John Heffernan would be reading. And we were not disappointed. The programme was divided into two distinct halves. 

The first  was presented, in regard to the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible, and a good prelude to the play being presented at The Swan later in the year- Written on the Heart. The idea was based on the two desert island books (from the radio programme) – The Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare. The principle behind the idea being the creative connections between both major works of English literary culture. The readings, from both The Bible and Shakespeare, were excellent but two parts stood out for me. Penny Downie, when she read Portia’s plea for mercy  (Merchant of Venice 4.1.) and John Heffernan as Prince Hal,  from Henry IV 1.2.

And so to the second half where there was a reading of a new, short play written and introduced by Graham Holderness, Wholly Writ, about Shakespeare being involved with the Translation of the Bible. Here Penny (Judith Shakespeare and Angel) and John (Ben Jonson and St. Peter) were joined by Sam Lesser who played Shakespeare.

Shakespeare (Sam) having arrived at The Pearly Gates after a lengthy queue (apparently normal according to the script) was interviewed by St. Peter (John) and asked why he should enter Heaven. Shakespeare talked about his contribution to the translation of The Bible and how he had written Psalm 46 by pointing out the words “shake” and “speare”. In Psalm 46, these words are 46th from the beginning and 46 from the end. It was 1611 when the translation took place, William Shakespeare was 46!!

I hope those who did not get the opportunity to see this really interesting play are able to do so in the future and therefore will not dwell further on the content.Sam Lesser played his part very well. This was a great opportunity for this young actor to work with Penny and John and I congratulate him.

For us to watch Penny Downie again was a privilege. Her Gertrude in the RSC Hamlet was an outstanding performance and it was so good to meet her again. I will always remember her giving us some of her time to talk with us when we travelled over to Stratford to see that production at the Courtyard. Penny is a genuine, charming lady and a brilliant actress.

Many of you know that John is the son of Viv and has inherited that lovely smile from his Mum and has the ability to mesmerize an audience with his sheer stage presence. We were lucky enough to see his performance as Richard 11 at The Bristol Tobacco Factory in March. His performance has been rightly acclaimed and some critics have declared it to be the best Shakespeare performance of 2011.

by David Stevens 

AND A SUMMER GARDEN

We were fortunate enough to watch the performance of A Summer Garden at the Holy Trinity Parish Centre on Saturday. Written by Steve Newman, who lives in Stratford, it is an inspired story about a meeting, in the 1933, between the two greatest composers of the time- Frederick Delius and Edward Elgar in the garden of Jelka Delius near Paris. It is understood that they actually met albeit the story of course is purely the thoughts of Mr. Newman.

The fact that both composers were British is heartening. Delius was born in Bradford of German parents and clearly spoke excellent English (albeit Yorkshire!) but in this version the actor performing the role shows his talents by using, from time to time, a German accent. Who else could play the part but Tony Boyd- Williams who first played this role two years ago? Outstanding performance by Tony and both his real and stage wife, Glenda, who played Jelka. Jelka was a German painter and as stated the Delius couple lived in France.

Steve Newman who competently played the part of Elgar produced a play which demonstrated how two very different men and composers got on and the result was excellent from our point of view. The story, which also included music and song, was about change, the fear of the rise of Hitler about the possibility of war and with the very poor health of Delius about death. But there was a lot of laughter in a story which explored the social aspects of the time and how both men were still planning their music and other matters. They both died the following year. There was no mention of ill health regarding Elgar, who was unaware that he was suffering from cancer.  

I am so pleased we went.

by David Stevens

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And so it was that the following evening, I was one of a number who sat in a downstairs room in Hall’s Croft  (the present cafe space?) and much enjoyed listening to the voices of  Fenella Fielding and Max Adrian as they treated us to a poetical battle of the sexes with splendid panache and gusto. Some of the pieces were so amusing that there was as much laughter in our “small corner” as in the room where the actual readings were taken place. One particular moment which almost stopped the show was to hear Max Adrian dramatically whisper:

“Yesterday, I held her tight then cut her throat and serve her right!”

I cannot recall the author of this particular excerpt (perhaps it is familiar to some readers?) but I CAN recall the author of the very last piece. And why? Ah, now this refers to the surprise I referred to in my last blog.

We were just finishing our interval coffee when the door to the room opened and one of the organisers of the evening ushered in our guest readers. It was just as if Fenella Fielding and Max Adrian were in the family lounge back home! We were told that Miss Fielding  and Mr Adrian were aware that they had two audiences that evening – those who could see them and those who could only hear them. To show their gratitude to us, therefore, they had very kindly agreed to give us a special reading of the final item of the programme which was from George Farquhar’s THE BEAUX STRATAGEM. It was a richly comic reading, and still a vivid memory.

That season saw the 11th Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival and in this special year of RSC celebrations, we have the 58th Festival. What joins those seasons together is that readers taking part  include members of the RSC past and present. In 1964, Max Adrian was a former founder member of Peter Hall’s new company – 50 years ago, he had been in THE HOLLOW CROWN and THE DEVILS at the Aldwych Theatre, and had also played Jacques here in Stratford with Vanessa Redgrave as Rosalind.

On 3rd July, Alexandra Gilbreath, Henry Goodman and Scott Handy appeared in a devised programme by StanleyWells entitled THESE OUR ACTORS, whilst on 10th July John Heffernan and Penny Downie are taking part in MUSE OF FIRE. The latter is devised by Paul Edmondson and explores the relationship between the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. (Tickets cost £15,and may be obtained by telephoning or calling at The Shakespeare Bookshop in Henley Street .The Box Office opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 5pm,and Sunday 12pm to 4pm).

These evenings provide a special celebration of poetry, and I can’t help wondering whether at either performance there will be any 18 year olds who just happen to be in Stratford on holiday and who just happened to notice these evenings were taking place ? If so, I hope they have or have had as marvellous an evening (and holiday) as I did.

Next time, I’ll write more about that special week in 1964.

Tony Boyd-Williams

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News of another Histories girl:
 
Ann Ogbomo is listed as taking part in a conference being run by the Shakespeare Centre in Stratford on Saturday 11 – Sunday 12th September 2010 called “WRITING ABOUT WOMEN IN SHAKESPEARIAN PERFORMANCE”. Ann, of course played Lady Percy before moving on to various fiends and attendants, the Countess Auvergne and ending the cycle as Lady Grey and Queen Elizabeth.

Also scheduled to be taking part is Penny Downie, an unforgettable, if not definitive, Gertrude in David Tennant’s Hamlet.

Details and registration can be found by emailing education1@shakespeare.org.uk  or calling 01789 207131.

and Latest news about Geoff Streatfeld
 
Once Geoffrey has finished at Westminster Abbey he will be appearing in “Earthquakes in London” at the National Theatre from 28th July. Earthquakes is a new play by Mike Bartlett and will be directed by Rupert Goold, whose production of “Romeo and Juliet” is currently playing at the Courtyard Theatre. http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk

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