I’m always reminding myself that I can’t see everything - and sometimes I have to stop myself and tell myself I can’t read everything, either. The web is such a vast resource of news, reviews, interviews and features that you could spend your entire life online, and I sometimes think I do. It wasn’t until I took a self-imposed one-week hiatus from being there at all recently that I realised it was possible to do without it. And guess what? I found myself (albeit only temporarily) far happier than with it!
But it’s also my job, and now that I’m back, the constant feeding of this addiction has also returned. I already twitter daily links to things of theatrical interest, but in case you’ve not been following these, here are some choice notes and quotes from the week.
Anna Friel, interviewed in today’s Independent by Gill Pringe, on making her home and career in LA: “When I first arrived in Los Angeles, it took some time before I realised that you do have to confirm to a type. You do have to stay slim, and you can’t make excuses. Looking good is a serious business and you have to make a decision to go along with it or else you’re just not going to get the work. In the beginning, I had such an awful time that I just wanted to run back home. But, looking back today, I’m glad I stuck it out. I never aspired to be just the pretty girl because, if that’s all you’re known for, then you’re going to have a pretty short career. Mature actresses like Susan Sarandon or Judi Dench are far more interesting to me”.
L’Osservatore Romano - the Vatican’s official newspaper - has reviewed a new book about Oscar Wilde, and according to today’s Independent, has praised him for being “an aesthete and a lover of the ephemeral”. As the Independent puts it, “Labelling Wilde as ‘one of the personalities of the 19th century who most lucidly analysed the modern world in its disturbing as well as its positive aspects’, L’Osservatore’s writers say a different side of Wilde’s life must be taken into account.’[He was] not just a non-conformist who loved to shock the conservative society of Victorian England,” the paper writes, “[he was also] a man who behind a mask of amorality asked himself what was just and what was mistaken, what was true and what was false’.”
Harriet Harman, leader of the House of Commons and Women and Equality Minister, has stepped into the fray on the dismissal of Arlene Phillips as a judge of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing. According to a report in today’s Daily Mail, she has publicly stated in the Commons, “I think it’s absolutely shocking that Arlene Phillips is not going to be a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. I am suspicious that there is age discrimination there. So I’d like to take the opportunity of asking the BBC - it is not too late, we want Arlene Phillips in the next edition of Strictly Come Dancing.”
Michael Billington, in a Guardian blog published on Wednesday, on the appetite that some keen theatregoers seem to have for queuing early for day seats: “I gather people have started queuing outside Wyndham’s theatre at 4am to get tickets for Jude Law’s Hamlet. You can view this in one of two ways. You could say that it’s irrational and absurd that theatres haven’t devised a better way of allocating on-the-day tickets. But I find it touching that people, mostly young, are ready to squat all night on the pavement for a theatrical event. They will talk, read, bond and watch London slowly come to life in the dawn light - and then feel a real thrill when they get the few spare tickets available. My advice would be to carry on camping. Easy for me to say, when I swan into shows at the last minute on critics’ free tickets. But there was a time when I queued for big events, although I didn’t engage in overnight sit-ins. Being naturally parasitic, I recall depending on the stamina of a friend who, when we were both about 15, bravely decided to camp outside the Shakespeare Memorial theatre in Stratford-on-Avon for first-night tickets to Peter Brook’s Titus Andronicus.
Mark Rylance, interviewed in the Daily Telegraph by Dominic Cavendish, talks about being labelled eccentric, as he plays one in Jez Butterworth’s new play Jerusalem at the Royal Court: “Can a person be too eccentric, given the present state of lunacy on the planet?” He points out to Cavendish that he’s a Capricorn, and says, “I’m a goat - very stubborn. My wife [the composer and musician Claire van Kampen] is surprised by how much I love washing up dishes. I also like to build things!” One of the things he built up, of course, was Shakespeare’s Globe, putting it on the map in every sense. Does he miss it? “It was a great grief to go, but also a relief. Eventually the job overwhelmed me. I had moments when I saw the success of it but mostly I couldn’t. I left because I had disagreements with the board about the general direction of the centre but to be fair, I was 10 years into it. I got tired and I was starting to make mistakes. So it was a good thing I stepped down when I did.”
Virginia Ironside, the newspaper agony aunt who is to appear at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe in a one-woman show, The Virginia Monologues, Why It’s Great To Be Sixty, wrote a feature published in the Daily Mail on why she is doing it: “Have I finally, after advising people who think they might be going off their heads, gone off my own at last? I’d like to think not. Rather, I think, my desire for the limelight is something that’s coming to a head later in life, after years of bubbling under the surface. I’d already had a bit of experience. Back in 1975, when I was agony aunt at Woman magazine, the editor told me that I needed to go round Ladies’ Luncheon Clubs and explaining the intricacies of the problem page. I was appalled when, on my first outing, I looked up at the end to find that about half the aged audience had fallen asleep. When I apologised for my poor performance, the organiser replied, ‘No, you were brilliant,’ she said. ‘Usually all the ladies have a nap after lunch. The fact that half of them stayed awake was a first!’ After that shaky start, having written quite a few books, I started to lecture at schools and literary festivals. More recently, I did a tour in the U.S. to publicise my last book, No! I Don’t Want To Join A Bookclub, which was the diary of a 60-year- old granny. There, I had audiences sometimes of only two homeless people at 11am in a bookshop in Houston or Miami, a rough training ground for any performer. I knew by the end of that tour that I had something to say. Something I wanted to get up on stage and say… Yes, it’s an ego trip. Yes, it shows almost ludicrous confidence and thick-skinnedness. And yes, I’m opening myself up to hilarity and friends whispering behind my back about how incredibly embarrassing it all is and how I’m completely unfunny… but it’s odd and exhilarating. And frankly, I’m just too old to care.”
Jonathan Miller, interviewed in The Times by Alan Franks, on the Blairs: “Well, I have a deep disdain for them [Tony and Cherie]. I couldn’t bear that grinning, money-hungry, beaming, Cliff Richard-loving, Berlusconi-adoring, guitar-playing twat. I suppose I would say that, at the risk of being inoffensive. No, it’s that beaming Christianity and that frightful wife with a mouth on a zip-fastener right round to the back of her head. And both of them obsessed with being wealthy. And he got us into this disastrous war with Iraq because he had consulted with God. Like Bush. Well, anyone who claims to do something on the basis of a personal relationship to a non-existent deity …” Franks goes on, “For someone notoriously thin-skinned over hostile reviews, he has quite an appetite for invective, regularly attacking his critics in personal terms.” Miller admits it: “If they go at me, yes. Most people believe it’s safer and more prudent to keep their mouths shut. But what I will do is come out and say what I think of these … liver flukes. I once said: ‘Bernard Levin came down on me like an ounce of bricks.’”
Aiden Gillen, interviewed in The Guardian by Stuart Jeffries, on keeping himself fresh as an actor: “I’ve made a point of trying not to play the same part, and of moving between theatre and film and TV. The idea is that by the time you come back you have been away for a year and people have forgotten you. If you like having time off, which I do, that’s a good career strategy. Or at least, it’s my strategy to keep my head together.”… Iwas, he says, “literally the smell of the paint” that made him become an actor in the first place: “I was building and painting the sets. I didn’t want to go to college or work in an office or have a nine-to-five job. I knew that quite clearly before I left school.” He is 41 now, and in the intervening years says he “definitely thought about stopping more than twice. I have been doing this since I was very young. If I could wind it back I would have another life - I would like that, but I would also like to have this life too. For me, now, working and children is it. There’s nothing more to life”