The Vic Wells Association Newletter June 2006:
The OLD VIC, Waterloo Road, SE1 8NB
SADLER'S WELLS, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN
(also at the PEACOCK THEATRE,
Portugal Street, Kingsway, London WC2A 2HT)
By LILIAN BAYLIS, C.H., M.A.(Oxon) Hon.., LL.D.(Birm.)Hon,.
The Old Vic Association, The Old Vic Circle, The Old Vic Club,
Sadler's Wells Society, Sadler's Wells Circle
President....................Dr. Wendy Toye, CBE, Hon.D.Litt.
Vice President.............................. Mr Nickolas Grace
Chairman.......................................Mr James Ranger
No. 453 June 2006
It is with great regret we have to report the sad death on Thursday 15th June 2006, at age 90, of our Vice-President James Penstone, shortly after returning from hospital to Charterhouse. The next edition will give full details of the memorial service and an obituary.
"THE BOY FRIEND"!!
A VISIT TO THE OPEN AIR THEATRE.
We have arranged a visit to the beautiful Open Air Theatre at Regents Park on the afternoon of Saturday, July 22nd, to see a 2.30 matinee of the famous and joyous musical "The Boy Friend".
Set in the roaring twenties, with the Charleston all the rage, Sandy Wilson's legendary show is a light-hearted and infectiously enjoyable soufflé, bursting with tuneful melodies such as "I could be Happy With You", "Won't You Charleston With Me" and "It's Never Too Late to Fall In Love" - to name but three of a score bursting with wonderful songs. This show is just the ticket for what we hope will be a sunny afternoon, in the blissful setting of the Open Air Theatre, and some of you may wish to bring a picnic to eat before the show starts, on one of the grassy lawns at the side of the theatre, or in the Park itself.
If you prefer a more sedate form of eating, the refreshment area at the back of the theatre is first class, and has a good selection of both hot and cold food. It should make a magical afternoon out.
Tickets are priced at £25.00 for good seats in the stalls, and will be sent on a first come first served basis. The nearest tube station and bus stop is in nearby Baker Street. Car parking is on the inner and outer circles, and the theatre is outside the central London congestion charge. Once you reach the Park, there are several signposts indicating where the theatre is situated.
Cheques made payable to the Vic-Wells Association in the sum of £25.00 per ticket, should be sent, together with a stamped, addressed envelope, to Mary-Jane Burcher, Flat 6, Oak House, 6, Carlton Drive, Putney, London, SW15 2BZ. Telephone: 0208 789 9227.
VISIT TO THEATRE MUSEUM & COVENT GARDEN.
As you will doubtless know from all the recent press coverage, the future of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden is in jeopardy, and the Museum may well be closed. At the moment a decision has been delayed for a few months, and it is very much hoped that a solution can be found with the Museum being linked to the nearby Royal Opera House, thus continuing to operate in some form. The Museum itself is a treasure house of theatrical memorabilia, and many of the contents are priceless and of great value. Currently, the Museum is continuing as usual, and I have organised a visit on the morning of WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9th, 2006. During the tour, which starts at 10.30 am and lasts for one and a half hours, we will be taken round the Museum and shown all the many treasures and exhibits on display, including costumes, make up and every detail of what goes on backstage. It should be a fascinating tour, and may well be the last chance we have to see the Museum in its present environment. The tours are heavily booked up, and August 9th is the first one currently available.
The tickets are £5.00 per person (including 50p. handling charge) and a minimum of 15 people are required to attend - maximum 25.
The Museum is based in Tavistock Street, WC2 just near the Royal Opera House, and near the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
When we leave the Museum, it is hoped we can walk the short distance to the
Actors' Church, St. Paul's in Bedford Street, for a short tour of this lovely
old Church, which contains many plaques to famous actors and actresses over the
years. This visit is at present being arranged, but when you apply for the
Theatre Museum tickets, you will be given further details. The area abounds with
many cafes and restaurants, and if you wished to make a day of it, you can
always have a stroll round the Piazza in Covent Garden itself with all its
interesting shops and other attractions.
Cheques made payable to the Vic-Wells Association, in the sum of £5.00 per person should be sent, together with a stamped, addressed envelope, to Mary-Jane Burcher, Flat 6, Oak House, 6, Carlton Drive, Putney, London, SW15 2BZ. Telephone: 0208 789 9227.
ADVANCE NOTICE - TRIP TO BRISTOL OLD VIC.
This year’s attraction at the famous Bristol Old Vic is a musical and rip-roaring version of the famous story by Alexander Dumas of "The Three Musketeers". The theatre is very anxious to continue the long association with the Vic-Wells Association where we are always assured of a warm welcome. We have booked tickets for the 2 pm matinee on Saturday, January 20th, 2007 and I would ask you to put this date in your diary now, and further details will be given in due course, as to the means of transport, cost etc.
Our Treasurer, the Reverend Stanley Underhill has indicated that he does not wish to embark on another year’s accounts, and therefore, the Association is in urgent need of finding another Treasurer shortly. He or she must be computer literate, and will, of course, be given full details and information of the work involved.
We need a replacement for Stanley shortly. He will have served three years as our Treasurer when he reaches his eightieth birthday and has given us very great and careful service over this time.
We also are in need of volunteers for members to become members of our Committee, in order that the Association can be run as it should be. Apart from requiring a new Treasurer, volunteers are needed to take over other jobs - such as arranging the catering for our parties and for arranging social events.
This is very urgent, and we do ask you to give us every help in finding new
members to join our Committee and serve the Association in some form. Please let
our Secretary, Dr. Richard Reavill know if you can help in any way.
SHAKESPEARE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY
This year’s party held at the Old Vic on Saturday 22nd April celebrated, at Leo Kersley’s suggestion, 50 years since the Five Year cycle of all of Shakespeare’s First Folio at the Old Vic from 1953-58. Cast members from the Company at that time were invited but naturally many were otherwise engaged in acting assignments etc. Apologies were received from Dame Judi Dench, Peter Bowles, Barbara Jefford, Anette Crosbie, Edward Hardwicke, Nicholas Amer, Virginia McKenna, Jacqueline Ellis and Bernard Hepton who all wished the party well. We were lucky to welcome Michael Culver, William Hobbs and Petronella Barker who together with our Vice-President, Nickolas Grace proposed the toast to Shakespeare as may be seen in the photo.
Mary Clarke, who had produced some intriguing books on the performances, was to have proposed the toast but unfortunately fell ill the day before. She very kindly sent the script of what she would have said which is quoted below.
“ I was greatly honoured to be asked to propose the toast and should like to place on record my lifetime’s gratitude to the Old Vic for the inestimable contribution it made to my education and my love of Shakespeare. I was fortunate to spend all my schooldays at a Clothworkers’ school in Camberwell Grove, particularly renowned for its teaching of English literature, and in the year of ‘Hamlet’ we were taken to see Laurence Olivier in the title role. I remember rather hard seats in the old Pit, it was the “eternity version” but we were enthralled and subsequently a small group discovered we could take a tram to Waterloo Road every Saturday afternoon and see other Shakespeare plays for nine pence in the Gallery. We savoured many famous actors, Richardson, Redgrave, Guinness, Harcourt Williams, Lewis Casson and Dame Sybil herself.
Many years later I was asked to write the text to accompany Roger Wood’?s plan to photograph all the plays of Shakespeare during the ‘53-58 seasons. For the last two years I used photographs from other distinguished photographers. Perhaps it was the Burton/Neville seasons that were the most celebrated but I have one specially enduring, endearing memory – Paul Daneman’?s Justice Shallow.
May I ask you to raise a glass to the immortal memory of William Shakespeare and also to his players not forgetting Lilian Baylis.”
Leo Kersley kindly brought along copies of the five books and members enjoyed
looking at them and reliving their own memories of these great performances. It
was a most enjoyable well attended party and our sincere thanks go to the Old
Vic for allowing us to use the delightful Circle Bar area, even although the
theatre was dark at the time, and to Mary Clarke.
Monday 18th September at 7.30pm Sacred Monsters
We have been invites to attend the evening rehearsal of “Sacred Monsters”? with Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan on 18th November. This time we need to know in advance if you and a friend wish to attend as only named people will be admitted. As usual there will be a £5 entrance fee per person payable on the evening. Please write to me at the address on the back or email me at email@example.com.
Wednesday 14th September, with time to be confirmed, Bangarra Dance Theatre
We are still awaiting confirmation that we may attend so please telephone Richard Reavill on 0149187 2574 nearer the date to check whether we may attend and to find out the time. No prior booking is required but any enquiries must go to Richard and not Sadler’s Wells.
Wednesday 8th November, from 1.15 to 3.30pm, Dutch National Ballet
Please come at least 15 minutes before the start of the rehearsal and make yourself known to the Committee Member who will take the £5 entrance fee.
Tusday 14th November, time to be confirmed, Rambert Dance Company
We have been asked to limit our attendance to Members and a guest and you are asked not to invite Members of other Associations to attend other than as your personal guest. Please telephone Richard nearer the date to confirm timings.
It may be possible to arrange for attendance for other rehearsals for the Autumn Season but details will be given in the next Broadsheet.
INFINITE VARIETY –
THREE SHOWS AT SADLER’S WELLS THEATRES
By Richard Reavill
An organisation with a schedule of shows of the range of Sadler’s Wells’? this
season has only one problem, that of the compiler of the ballet triple bill. It
is said that if such bills are arranged to please as many people as possible,
they will include something to annoy someone. Not so this March, when the Wells
organisation put on three shows covering the widest range of styles at its two
major theatres, and seemed to please everyone.
At the Wells, Scottish Ballet gave Cinderella, choreographed by Ashley Page. Page’s version is coherent, original, and shows no Ashton influence, despite his Royal Ballet history. The company danced well, and Page’s directorship has clearly made the company progress both technically and artistically. The Richard Alston Dance Company’s brief season opened with a typical Alston work, Volumina, to a rather dense organ piece by Ligeti, and closed with a delightful new light work, The Devil in the Detail, to Scott Joplin piano rags, some used earlier by MacMillan in Elite Syncopations. Both were very well danced, as was the middle piece, About-Face, by Martin Lawrence, an attractive work to 17th century music for viols. The music worked so well that I had to resist silly jokes of the “another ballet to viol music” type. The work showed the choreographer moving away from the Alston style to a more personal vocabulary with a wider range of steps.
The most spectacularly successful, in critical acclaim, audience reaction, and a box-office sell-out, was the appearance at the Peacock Theatre after a five year absence of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Fans will know that this New York based group has no connection whatsoever with Monte Carlo, and is an all-male dance troop in which the men dance the ballerina roles as well as those of the premier danseurs. They dance versions of the classics which are technically very accomplished, but which mock many aspects of classical dance. The mockery varies from gentle loving send-ups of great subtlety to savage parody and slapstick. The consistent feature is the quality of the dancing, and that the whole evening is hilarious.
Perhaps my pleasure is enhanced because the Trocks do a thorough demolition job
on some of my least favourite ballets. The performance on Friday 31st March
commenced with a complete Les Sylphides. Well, fairly complete, since
the fifteen strong company fielded twelve dancers. Even with a ‘corps’ of only
eight, they managed to develop versions of the static groups which would have
surprised Fokine. The role sometimes known as ‘The Poet’? was performed, not so
much as in a dream, as in a drug induced stupor. The audience of ballet fans and
suspected total newcomers regarded it as a hoot. However, this send-up was
superior to a performance I witnessed a few years ago in Swindon, when a touring
company who will remain nameless, (because the dancers did their utmost), but
whose artistic director ought to be publicly flogged. A serious account of the
work was attempted with a corps of four dancers!
The middle section of the performance started with the ‘Mystery pas-de-deux’?, which proved to be the highlight of the evening. The one selected on this occasion was Flames of Paris, and it was brilliantly danced, both by the ‘ballerina’ and ‘her’? partner. Had the soviet style heroics not been sent-up rotten, it would have been the best performance of this work I have ever seen, and it probably was even with ridicule heaped on its now unfashionable style. A neat contrast was supplied by the next item, Go for Barrocco, a skit on practice-dress Balanchine at its most arid and convoluted.
The last item in this section was The Dying Swan. It always has to be performed before an interval because, by its conclusion, the stage is littered with feathers. The Dying Swan is a permanent feature of any Trocks performance, and despite all their efforts to ‘?execute’ this piece, it still reappears in divertissement programmes. The ultimate measure of good satire is its ability to obliterate the original. I recall a parody of Barbra Straisland in the film Funny Girl by Stanley Baxter in a TV show. This inevitably springs to mind when clips of the original film are shown. So it is with the Trock’s Dying Swan. I can no longer see this piece performed ‘straight’ without the Trock’s version superimposing itself. It needs an artist of genius to convert this choreographic dross into gold, and I am too young to have seen Pavlova perform the work. I wonder if any of our members saw her? Fortunately, I did see Plisetskaya dance the role in Manchester. Also as a teenager, when the Bolshoi visited London for the first time in the 1956, I saw Ulanova dance the role when the Bolshoi gave a ‘highlights’ programme at the old Davis Theatre in Croydon, after their Covent Garden season. Ulanova’s performance was quite unforgettable, a memory which even the Trock’s cannot obliterate. It is sustained despite the cartoon in Punch the following week. This showed two up-market ladies taking tea. One is saying to the other “Fancy having to treasure the memory of seeing Ulanova dance in Croydon!” I still treasure the memory!
The final session of the performance was devoted to a very Hungarian version of Raymonda’s Wedding. Many of the Trocks most accomplished dancers are tall, and the performances of the female solos in Raymonda’s Wedding were excellent. By chance, or more likely by design, the partners of the ballerinas were of shorter stature. This added another comic dimension, but I was disappointed that the bijou ‘Jean de Brienne’ was not allowed a solo.
The first time I saw the Trocks five years ago, I was impressed by their
technical competence, and the fun of their performance. This time, the humour
was even greater, but the most impressive feature was the remarkable technique
of many of the dancers.
One other thing I missed this time. Five years ago, one of their dancers danced the male variation in the ‘Mystery pas-de-deux’ very well, in excellent style, and absolutely straight. It made an enjoyable respite from the fun, but I found his decision to dance the solo straight rather touching.
SCOTTISH BALLET AT SADLER'S WELLS.
After an absence of six years, a revitalised company, complete with new Director, returned to London for a short season recently with two programmes.
The season opened with Ashley Page's "Cinderella" to the Prokoviev score, using more of it than The Royal Ballet does. Clare Robinson and Eric Cavallder were the principal pair, who settled down as the evening progressed. This was not a pretty-pretty version of the famous story, the ending only Cinderella was saved, the stepmother and her daughters had their eyes pecked out by crows, as in the German version of the story. There were some nice touches, when the pumpkin was turned into a hot air balloon, and at the beginning of Act 3, on the journey to find Cinderella with a number of outsize feet protruding from a drop cloth. Some of the choreography was inventive and some mundane. The sets were functional and obviously designed for touring purposes, and the costumes were on the modern side yet still suggested the 18th century in the main. The colours were rather garish, but to a ballet starved audience out of London, I am sure it all added up to a splendid evening out.
The second programme was a triple bill opening with Balanchine's Episodes, staged by Patracia Neary. For me, this was the best danced piece of the season. It was a joy to see the Company execute the choreography with an ease that would have had the approval of Mr. B himself. The middle ballet "Middlesex Gorge" was very noisy, at least the sound system at the Wells had the moths shaken out of it. Perhaps it was this work that attracted a very large audience, as the younger element seems to enjoy it hugely. The final ballet by Forsythe to music by J.S. Bach was not my cup of hemlock; I cannot understand where this Choreographer got his reputation from, for all his ballets seem boring. But the Company danced it with great vigour. It was very pleasant to see a triple bill with more dancing than intervals!!
On the last day of the season, some of the members attended a Company class on the Saturday morning, given by the Ballet Mistress, and the Marketing Officer thanked the Vic-Wells for taking an interest in the visit.
On the Saturday night, I attended a second performance of Cinderella with the same cast as the opening night, and the performance had improved beyond all recognition.
This was a very noisy company as we found out in the Shakespeare Pub from 10 o'clock onwards!!
IS THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR’S LOT A HAPPY ONE?
By Richard Reavill
Readers will doubtless recall (well, more likely readers might have a vague recollection of), a piece written for the Newsletter a few months ago, which was primarily about the Paris Opera Ballet production of Le Parc at Sadler’s Wells in October 2005. In it, I mentioned that there had been a proposal for a production of this work by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, but that this proposal had been dropped for various reasons which the vast majority of observers regarded as valid. The last paragraph of the article contrasted the wealth of innovative dance at Sadler’?s Wells with the limited innovation in the Royal Ballet programs at Covent Garden.
Once having despatched a text to Hon. Editor Mary-Jane Burcher, it tends to get no further attention from me. In April, I was surprised to receive a charming but critical letter about the article from Jeanetta Laurence, the Assistant Director of the Royal Ballet. Essentially, she took me to task for having shown insufficient awareness of the efforts being made to bring new work to the Royal Ballet repertory. True, my awareness of this was not very evident in the article, but my letter in reply claimed greater knowledge than was apparent. Furthermore, to try to prove this, and to make the efforts of the Royal Ballet Directorate known to a wider audience (well, those who read the Vic-Wells Newsletter), I offered to write an article on this issue.
My perception is that there are many problems concerning the inclusion of new work in the repertory of a major international ballet company such as the Royal Ballet. Firstly, there is the matter of resources. The money available to the RB, the number of performance slots at Covent Garden, and the staff and dancers required to mount productions, limit the number of shows equivalent to full evening performances to 12 and the number of performances to a maximum of 140 per year. The Royal Opera mounts more productions, but their situation is different. A more valid, (but not entirely fair) comparison would be with the Paris Opera Ballet, which will mount in their 2006/7 season 11 productions and give 143 performances. So, much the same, you might think. But if the RB had the same resources as the Paris Opera Ballet: two large theatres, (one much bigger than the Royal Opera House); 60 more dancers; a larger support staff; and a budget enhanced by a subvention from the French tax-payer about twice that received from the Arts Council by the Royal Opera House, what might it be able to achieve?
The next problem concerns competing demand for inclusion in the repertory. The valid policy is to include the classics (Swan Lake; Sleeping Beauty; Giselle; etc), modern full evening works (Romeo and Juliet; Onegin; Cinderella; etc), and multiple (generally triple) bills made up from the Royal Ballet’s substantial back-catalogue of works by master choreographers (Ashton; MacMillan; Cranko; Balanchine). To these are added occasionally established works which are new to the RB repertory, plus commissioned creations from extant choreographers. It is this latter area of innovation that I would like to see occupying a larger slice of the repertory time. The only valid argument against the exclusion of Le Parc, right though that decision was in my view, was that by removing it from the plans, the number of works new to the repertory was reduced. Even more important, in my view, is the inclusion of ‘new’ new works (creations). The RB Directorate is working hard to achieve this, and my researches show that steady progress is being made. For example, the proportion of creations in the repertory has increased year on year during the tenure of Monica Mason as Director of the RB: 2003/4 = 2.5%; 2004/5 = 3.6%; 2005/6 = 3.4% (fewer performances in total for this season); 2006/7 = 5.0%. Is 5% enough? Is it the right percentage of the repertory? My view is that it should be higher, but others may disagree, and there may be factors that resist further increase.
Well, there appear to be quite a number of adverse influences. Firstly, the public like full evening ballets, particularly the classics and the modern three act war-horses. “?Ballet lovers want SwanLake, and lots of it”, is the alleged view of one independent ballet impresario. No organisation could, or should, disregard the requirements of its customers, however deeply conventional and heavily embedded in the ‘tried and true’ they might be. The current desires of the Covent Garden audience support long runs at top prices of ‘all evening’ works which have occupied between 81% and 56% of the repertory over the seasons 2003/4 to 2006/7. Triple bills generally have runs of 6 performances, and those with new works generally have 5 performances. This may be as much as the punters will accept. Perhaps with high ticket prices, the customers want to be sure the show is something they will enjoy, hence the continuing high demand for works such as Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet. To counter this, and to avoid the Box Office Manager having nightmares when “New Ballet by Choreographer X” appears on the schedule (name removed to protect the guilty, but please substitute your favourite candidate), the management have reduced the ticket prices substantially (£50 top price) for such evenings. This seems to be having a good effect, as the attendances have recently appeared much improved. For triple bills with a significant content of new works, even lower ‘50% off’ prices are advertised for the forthcoming 2006/7 season (top price £37.50!). Alternatively, it may be that the works for multiple bill evenings have been more interesting, better chosen, or represented a more varied or better balanced show, and the audience is being successfully weaned off the warhorses. This seems to be the case since Monica was appointed Director.
Another explanation is that 5% is as much as the availability of quality material will permit. One would think that any choreographer would be ecstatic to receive an invitation to create a work for the Royal Ballet, but it may not be that simple. The RB would only want to invite major international choreographers, and these may be fully stretched providing works for their own companies. While willing to remount an existing work (for example, Mark Morris and Gong, or Jiri Kylian and Sinfonietta), persuading a major international choreographer to provide a new work may not be so easy. The existing work would be one new to the RB repertory, and welcome as such, but would not provide the opportunity for RB dancers to have roles created on them. The choreographer may feel the need to get to know the company before risking a creation.
Of course, the way to resolve this problem is to have a resident choreographer. The Royal Ballet used to have such rare animals, sometimes more than one. Indeed, the loss of both Kenneth MacMillan and David Bintley within a year could not, in view of the untimely death of MacMillan be fairly summarised by a paraphrase of Lady Bracknell: “To lose one choreographer could be considered a misfortune, Mr. Dowell. To lose both looks like carelessness”, but the departure of Bintley was attributed by many to the minimal opportunities that he was given to create new works. External acquisition has not always worked well for the Royal Ballet, and its greatest successes have been achieved by a ‘?grow your own’ policy. It is in the support of such a policy that the facilities of the Linbury Theatre and the Clore Studio are so important, so thanks again Linbury Foundation and Clore Foundation. These spaces provide the opportunities for young choreographers to practice the skills in evenings such as First Drafts, and its forthcoming successor Second Drafts, before the most promising are exposed to the main stage and the larger audience.
This policy has many advantages apart from those just mentioned. For whatever invalid reason, our dance critics seem to expect a masterpiece whenever a new work is presented on the main stage. Even genius choreographers have in the past produced works that are merely good, and even occasionally, not so good. Any work that is interesting and satisfactory gets abused roundly for being inadequate (example the recent Castle Nowhere). There is a need for our critics to understand that if new works are to be produced, they must accept some degree of variability in the quality. It is the price we all have to pay for innovation. With the new pricing policy of the Royal Opera House for programs with a high innovative content, the price begins to look like a bargain.
So to the question of whether the lot of the artistic director is a happy one. Of course it is! It must be a wonderful job. Probably highly taxing, certainly very stressful, but surely immensely fulfilling. Both company and repertory are doing great, nostalgia rules with Sleeping Beauty, and if Dances at a Gathering reappears in 2007/8, even I will be satisfied.
JOURNEY TO THE RIVER SEA.
On a Saturday afternoon in February, four Committee members went to (for me) a new theatre - the Unicorn in the City to see a performance of "Journey to the River Sea" by Eve Ibbotson, adapted by Carl Miller.
A young and extremely talented cast of eight played a total of twenty parts in this piece, which when we saw it was still being developed and honed before its press night, not that that was in any way evident.
Basically, it was the story of a young little river girl, whose parents have died in England, and is sent to South America to stay with distant relatives for financial reward, and who proved to be relatives from hell!!
The action takes place in the Amazon Jungle, the local town and even a trip to the local Opera House. The orphan child on arrival to meet this truly awful family meets two cousins who treat her like Cinderella, them being the ugly sister characters. The young girl, like all the rest of the cast, turns in a great performance, in which they act, sing and play a variety of musical instruments.
At the end of the performance, the author, Eve Ibbotson, who was present, was
given a huge reception from the packed house, and presented with flowers.
CHARTERHOUSE - A PARADISE IN THE HEART OF LONDON.
On a beautiful sunny afternoon in May, our Treasurer, Stanley guided a party of us round the beautiful Charterhouse, home of our Vice President, James Penstone, and, of course, of Stanley himself.
Some of you will know Charterhouse already from visiting James there over the years - I personally have been there on countless occasions, but one never tires of going round all the wonderful rooms, steeped in history, and however many times you may have visited Charterhouse, it seems as if there is always something new to feast your eyes on.
Stanley was a superb guide, and, as one of the privileged "Brothers" as the residents are known as, took us through the almost gothic stone archways into what is known as the "Master's Lawn", a square grassed centre, with buildings on all sides. "The Master" I should add, is the gentleman who runs Charterhouse, very important, and I have to say, a very charming man.
Aided and abetted by his colleague, a delightful gentleman, also a Brother, known as "Raymond", Stanley guided us to the wonderful old chapel, telling us the history of each place as we went - to the splendid dining room, where the Brothers eat, and, going by one of the menus on display, eat very well indeed...."far too much" was Stanley's view. We ended up in the spacious Great Chamber, visited by Queen Elizabeth the First, and this is where any concerts or other events are held, recently, of course, our James's 90th birthday party was held there. After viewing the spacious and immaculately kept gardens from a vantage point high above the ground, we ended up by being served tea and biscuits from two charming ladies.
Space prevents me from going into more detail - suffice to say that those of us who know Charterhouse well enjoyed it just as much as those who were visiting it for the first time. Steeped in history - it was first a monastery in the sixteenth century, founded by a man called Thomas Sutton - hence the name "Sutton's Hospital in Charterhouse" which is what the Infirmary is known as, where our James resided and where the sick and more infirm Brothers are wonderfully looked after by a caring staff.
The one disappointment on a beautiful afternoon out, was, of course, that James,
who had hoped to be able to greet us and be with us during the tour, was
hospitalised. Our grateful thanks are due to Stanley - and to his friend Raymond
- they would make a great double act in music hall - for taking so much trouble
in giving us a wonderfully enjoyable, and indeed, unforgettable afternoon.
THE DE VALOIS BLUE PLAQUE.
On "Madame's" birthday, June 6th, which turned out to be a perfect summer’?s day, the English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled by Monica Mason - Director of the Royal Ballet - on the wall at the house in Barnes where Dame Ninette lived for some twenty years.
After a short ceremony, the whole group of people of about sixty who were invited proceeded to one of Dame Ninette's favourite watering holes for a glass of wine. Miss Mason asked Leo Kelsey to say a few words, which were appreciated by all present, and then we spent time talking with members of both Royal Ballet companies which included Sir Anthony Dowell, Wayne Sleep, The O'Hare Brothers, Marguerite Barbereli and lan Webb, amongst others, together with members of the various Associations and the London Ballet Circle.
During the opening address by a member of English Heritage, it was revealed that the idea of the plaque came from Leo Kersley - well done, Leo!
THE VIC-WELLS NEWSLETTER
The Vic-Wells Newsletter is an extraordinary, if sometimes unconventional, resource for theatre historians. The Newsletter offers a mixture of reviews, reports, and news all of which could be of great interest to researchers in the future. One great resource for me, when researching the life of Lilian Baylis was the work of the indefatigable Reginald Mander who, fifty years ago, was committing really fascinating material to print via the newsletter: Mander wrote about productions he remembered and gathered reminiscences about the earliest of the Vic and the Wells under Baylis; he wrote about theatrical families connected to the Vic and the Wells, like the Comptons; he gathered reminiscences from chorus girls and stars; and he recorded fascinating anecdotes – the Vic-Wells Newsletter is the only source for the famous anecdote about Emma Cons not replying to Charlie Chaplin solely because he didn’t include a stamped addressed envelope in his application to work at the Vic. Reginald Mander also gathered remarkable material from other people who had worked at the Vic and the Wells: in the issue for September 1953, for example, Andrew Leigh was reminiscing about a production of All’s Well That Ends Well in 1921, and Ernest Milton was remembering happy days at the Vic during the 1920s. The issue for January 1954 includes a discussion of ballet on film; the issue for June 1972 discusses opera on film. In September 1978 the case is made that John B Gordon’?s work at the Wells was much undervalued, particularly by Tyrone Guthrie. In 1983 there is a discussion of Leslie Gordon’s colour film made during dress rehearsals for the opera and ballet during 1936-8.
Given these nuggets of information and discussion it seems all the more unfortunate that the Newsletter has never been deposited in the British Library. Indeed it is impossible to get hold of past copies of the Newsletter except in scattered archives – there are some copies in the Mander and Mitchenson collection at Greenwich, some copies at the Theatre Museum at Blythe House in Kensington, and some in the Bristol Theatre Collection. However, no one archive has a complete run. Currently I am trying to get as many copies as possible deposited in the British Library so that they will be readily available for researchers in the future. Our magnificent printers have been able to help out here and have donated a good run of copies to the British Library, but we are desperately in need of early copies – some extremely interesting articles appear in the newsletter during the 1950s. So if any long-standing member has any of the copies missing from the donation to the British Library please would you contact me and let me know what issues you have and whether you would be willing to donate them, or have them copied. We need numbers 360 and 364 and any issue previous to number 358 (Summer 1989). Your help here would be very much appreciated.
And, for anyone interested my biography of Lilian Baylis it is due to be
published later this year by the University of Hertfordshire Press and the
Society for Theatre Research.
SADLER'S WELLS: Tel: 0870 737 7737
20 - 24 June: Companie Metros
30 June - 2 July: Sangeetham - Indian Dance & Music
18 - 23 July: Carlos Acosta & guests from the Royal Ballet
27 July - 20 August: Brasil Brasileiro
1-10 September: Ballet Nacional de Cuba
14 -16 September: Bangarra Dance Theatre
19 - 23 September: Sylvie Guillem & Akram Khan
11 - 14 October: The Forsythe Company
3 & 4 November: The Cholmondeleys & The Featherstonehaughs
14 - 18 November: Rambert Dance Company
21 - 25 November: Opera North
- 2 December: Darcey Bussell & Ivor Zelensky
5 - 9 December: Glyndebourne on Tour
- 21st January 07: Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake
6th July: London Studio Centre Jazz Dance Company
9th July: "Images of Dance"
8 -16 September: British Youth Opera
19 - 30 September: Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
4 - 29 October: Shaolin Monks
- 7 January, 2007: "The Snowman"
LILIAN BAYLIS THEATRE
9 July: Lost Musicals - "Flower Drum Song"
7,9,11 November: Handel's Orlando
17 November: Live Screen
- 6 January, 2007: Carrie's War
LES BALLETS TROCKADERO DE MONTE CARLO - This clever and hilarious Company will be returning to the Peacock Theatre from the 19th to 30th September.
THE BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET will appear at Sadler's Wells from the 24 - 28 October.
July 22nd: "The Boy Friend"
August 9th: Theatre Museum
January 20th Bristol Old Vic
SUBSCRIPTIONS —- IMPORTANT NOTE.
Subscriptions for the next year are due at the end of June, and run from 1st July in each year. Subscription rates are: Annual £7.50; OAPs £6; Life membership £75.
Please send your subscriptions to:
Professor Elizabeth Schafer
372 Stroude Road
Please enclose a Stamped Addressed Envelope if you want me to send your new membership card and receipt of payment.
Any queries to the above address or (preferably) to E.Schafer@rhul.ac.uk