PLYMOUTH HOE!

Photo by EP

Monday We’re speeding South West on the train to Plymouth and I see from our rehearsal schedule that tomorrow morning we begin at 10am and finish at 10pm. Kathleen Riley and I are squashed into standard class, which Kathleen tells me is rather more generous than economy class on the twenty-four-hour flight from Sydney. We left London in three inches of snow with more falling. That was peanuts compared with the news from America, but much of the West Country farmland seems to be flooded. Having just passed Newton Abbot racecourse with the sun struggling unsuccessfully to make a last-ditch showing, we are looking forward to Plymouth’s Devil’s Point and the promised excellent restaurants in Royal William Yard near to where we are staying.

Was it in another life that I played the Ghost and Player King in Hamlet, Master Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor and King Cymbeline in a Royal Shakespeare Company residency in the Theatre Royal Plymouth, some 15 years ago? Certainly there is only green sward where the old Hoe Theatre used to stand, a kind of aircraft hanger in which in 1973 I played Prospero in The Tempest on a tiny makeshift stage. It was a rather well-designed production, brought from the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and crammed economy class against an adapted set which, for some unknown reason, was like an enlarged detail from an upended yellow-and-white chessboard. After a particularly dull children’s matinee, I rushed out to a DIY store and bought a great deal of Dulux white matt and a brush, believing that an abstract set would be better. As the cast returned for the evening performance, they saw I would be hard-pressed to finish in time for the curtain up, so I wasn’t alone in my scene painterly transgression as members of the cast hove to. As a matter of fact, it occurs to me that I shall be doing something equally anarchic on a nightly basis in My Perfect Mind. Perhaps fate has forged this unexpected link between my very young Prospero and my elderly Lear.

Wednesday Here you see the glories of 1960s Plymouth as glimpsed from the green room window:

Photo by EP
Photo by EP

And some of the glories of Plymouth’s 1830s Royal Naval grandeur and its victualling yard, adjacent to our digs, now swishly converted to a complex of bars, restaurants and galleries:

Photo by EP
Photo by EP

Thursday

This worthy scaffold, blank page at a slope
I now presume to mount, yes strut and fret
To claim this ground and leave my mark, in hope
That this rectangle, though confined, will let
Us use it as a launch pad; levitate
Float free and yet retain a gravitas
So even our charades will never vitiate
But make a show in limbo veritas.
Perforce like you we’ll mingle fact with fiction,
Kings of our castles – commoners and fools.
Perhaps we’ll falter, muddle our depiction,
Journeymen mishandling our tools –
But in this game we vow to play our best;
Prepared to see ambition face its test.

Model set for My Perfect Mind, designed by Michael Vale.
Photo by EP

Posted from the dressing room of the Drum Theatre, Plymouth where we have our first performance tonight.

Photo by KR
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