There’s a remarkable image in the final scene of Florian Zeller’s play “The Father”:
ANDRÉ: I feel as if… I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves, one after another.
WOMAN: Your leaves? What are you talking about?
ANDRÉ: The branches! And the wind… I don’t understand what’s happening any more…..
For the opening night at Wyndham’s Theatre, Kirsty Oswald – inspired by this scene – made a striking portrait of Ken Cranham as André, and gave all of us in the company copies. Now as the leaves in my garden turn and scatter over the reservoir, Kirsty’s picture keeps coming back into my mind, recalling a rich, lovely time working on an extraordinary play with a quite exceptional, special company. I hope she won’t mind my reproducing it here.
A further prompt for these memories has been another fine play exploring the worrying territory of dementia, this time by the American writer Sharr White, who in his story shows the disintegrating world of a female scientist, ironically suffering the very condition into which she is conducting important research. The play is THE OTHER PLACE, and is currently at The Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. Skilfully directed by Claire van Kampen, the central role is given a powerful and disturbing performance by Karen Archer, who is also co-producer. The show is a collaboration between the Park Theatre and the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, to which it migrates after the Finsbury Park run, which finishes on October 20th. (Links below)
KAREN ARCHER is a remarkable talent, who tackles work and life with formidable energy.
She joined Martin Wimbush and I in 2017 to help re-create a play about the first Duke of Wellington, a project Martin and I have wheeled out intermittently at various venues over several decades. Its latest title is MISS WILSON’S WATERLOO, an unrolling of the Iron Duke’s adventures during a late-in-life (mythical) encounter with the most notorious of his many mistresses, Harriette Wilson – a role tackled with some zest by Ms Archer. We presented it initially at sea on board a private cruise ship between Amsterdam and Hamburg, and subsequently last April at the Le Colombier Theatre at Cordes-sur-Ciel in South-West France. Karen’s contributions to the project as a company member (and merciless script editor) were inspiring and revitalising – bringing a splash of sophisticated glamour to our story, which went down wonderfully well with the (largely British ex-pat) audience in France.
We were also made splendidly welcome by Donald Douglas and his Friends of English Theatre in this gorgeous corner of Europe, who provided generous – indeed lavish – accommodation and hospitality – and a well equipped, modern theatre with an efficient, supportive tech and admin team.
If you’re minded to explore that region – rich with history and scenery – don’t fail to find Cordes and its theatre – again, link below.
Production photos by JENNY CUNDY
It did, I must say, seem a bit odd to take a play about the Duke of Wellington – in British history a famous conqueror of the French – to a theatre in France, but then most of our audience on this occasion were Brits, so there were no – at least audible – murmurs of dissent. I understand French historians regard the battle of Waterloo as a draw. I’m quite certain Michel Barnier does…
I came across another largely French story this month – “Picasso’s Women”, produced by Colette Redgrave – a project I helped on its way a couple of years ago – at the Gallery Different in Percy St. It’s a good, thought-provoking glimpse into the love-life of a Great European Genius, and makes an ideal on-site show for an art gallery. Oh, and includes three excellent performances, including a welcome appearance as Fernande Olivier by the estimable Judith Paris. I gather the project is available to all gallery-owners across Europe and beyond – link below.
What a cross you must bear as the offspring of a legend! No I’m not talking about Cressida Wyn Jones, who copes admirably, but about Finty Williams, actor daughter of two other actors, one of whom is our profession’s most revered icon, Dame Judi Dench! Finty has taken on one of her mother’s celebrated roles from the early 90s – Barbara in Hugh Whitemore’s terrific real-life espionage story PACK OF LIES – at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark – and succeeds wonderfully. It’s a brittle, sweet and heart-breaking performance in a spot-on, crisp period production by Hannah Chissick, and is not to be missed.
Tracy-Ann Oberman, Finty Williams, Macy Nyman Picture: Evening Standard
I love the play – I directed it at Keswick not long after its West End run, with Debbie Farrington as the daughter, who had played the part in London. Michael Williams, Finty’s dad, who had co-starred with Dame Judi came to see our production. The play concerns the Kroger spy case of the early 60s, and has many a resonance of the recent dark dealings in Salisbury and elsewhere. Michael talked about meeting the original M15 officer who dealt with the case, and who is the basis for the narrator character in the play. Apparently the MI5 man came to the first night, and when asked to comment afterwards he bristled slightly and then – inevitably – simply murmured “Pack of lies….”
THE OTHER PLACE London: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-other-place
FRIENDS OF ENGLISH THEATRE, CORDES sur CIEL: https://www.fetatlecolombier.com/aboutus
PICASSO’S WOMEN: http://www.picassos-women.co.uk/
PACK OF LIES: https://www.menierchocolatefactory.com/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=47B366FF-3E61-4888-98FD-DF46E2052134&sessionlanguage=&SessionSecurity::linkName=
P.S. You may wonder why Martin Wimbush and I have so often trotted out a play about the Duke of Wellington over such a long period. So do we, sometimes. I suppose the pictures below may be clue. As they say in Private Eye, could they by chance be related?
Martin Wimbush Duke of Wellington
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