Posts Tagged ‘Sam Lesser’

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 


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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