Whispers from the Wings

Farewell to the Ford

April 7, 2014

These unforgettable days in Stratford have flown by in a flash. As I was boxing up the extensive batterie de cuisine, that I insist bringing with me, it seemed such a short time ago that I'd piled the empty boxes in the utility room.

One of the great delights of working in Stratford is the opportunity to entertain friends on stage and at home. It's a bit like running a Bed & Breakfast in my spare time, but it's been wonderful to have so many people to stay; several dear friends from university, even some old school friends and good friends who lived in the flat above me in rep days, more than 40 years ago in Chester. Wolf Hall has been a magnet for people of taste!

Farewell to the food

Shared food and shared pleasure. So many smiling nights through the kindly light of candles with friends with whom the only contact might otherwise be a Christmas card. The dinner table is the warm heart of a home, I think. So important it is, I even have to bring my own up with me, together with pans, knives and the culinary gee-gaws that I'm convinced I cannot do without. And the cooking is my relaxation after the show.  How great that Fox's Spices is headquartered in Stratford! The masala dabba returns to London fully replenished.

Together with my man-with-a-van - my most generous brother-in-law, I wrenched myself away from beloved Bardsville after one last Colazione Magnifica breakfast at Carluccios. It was made a more poignant farewell by being the most perfect sunlit daffodil-day. But this ending is the beginning of our great West End adventure.

It will be a rather different dynamic, a bit more of a "nine-to-five" thing I suppose with the cast spread all over London rather than living in a couple of streets like an extended family. The spirited farewell cabaret that the company put on in our last week reinforced the bonds of respect and admiration everybody holds for each other. I was awed by the phenomenal talents of my fellows.

Farewell to the fond

As I turned onto the M40 I heard the news that my old friend Kate O'Mara had died. Many years ago dear Kate was the inspiration behind and light all over the British Actors Theatre Company. We did The Taming of the Shrew with no director; a Shakespeare company with no director, run by a cooperating cooperative of owner/manager actors . . . surely unprecedented . . . how could that possibly work? We did a No.1 tour and it was remarkably successful. There was a bit of shouting every now and then but I remember it as a vibrant and happy time.

At my age you start to get used to saying good bye. Another very dear friend, Anna Nicholas, also died a few weeks ago. Thank God we had dined together after The Lyons at the Chocolate Factory only a short time before. I remember Anna always wore the most fabulously expensive and elegant shoes — even when she was very poor — and she ever looked the total film star.

The day before we left Stratford I took Jenny Grand, our DSM, to Upton House to look at the paintings and play country house guests for an hour or two. We played a hand of cribbage and pocketed a few snooker balls before taking a turn around the beautiful picture gallery. I want to tell my friend, Philip Mould, that I have identified the subject in Hans Memling's Portrait of an Unknown Man - it is our own Nick Shaw!

Portrait of an Uknown Man - Hans Memling

Nicholas Shaw

Image right: Portrait of an unknown man by Hans Memling

Image left: Nick Shaw

by Nick Day  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare