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jisforjudi:

A magnificent year for grandes dames like Judi Dench and Maggie Smith

Many of our leading actresses are turning 80 – but age has not withered their box office appeal or ability to tread the boards

By Michael Thornton

7:10AM BST 29 Aug 2014

'When I was seventeen,” as Frank Sinatra used to sing soulfully, “it was a very good year.” What is it about certain years that usher in a high percentage of extraordinarily charismatic babies destined to amaze and electrify us with their talents, and staying power?

In 1934, was there some magic glitter-dust in the air? If so, it must have been very widely disseminated, for that year has provided us with a thriving generation of spectacular octogenarians, most with eerie links banding them together.

Perhaps it was nature’s reaction to Adolf Hitler becoming the Führer of Germany that August? In answer to his screaming harangues, Hollywood produced the six-year-old Shirley Temple as the most popular star in the world.

By courtesy of 1934, the year of their arrival, two of the greatest actresses in the English language, Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith, are about to clock up their 80th birthdays without a sign of faltering, in spite of both being challenged in recent years by health problems: Dame Judi through macular degeneration, which now requires helpers to read scripts to her, and Dame Maggie with breast cancer.

Great actresses do not always co-exist in perfect harmony. But ”Mags’’ and ”Jude’’ have always been the greatest of friends. They have also worked together, memorably and felicitously, without stealing each other’s light or thunder, adding their lustre to a number of remarkable films, including E M Forster’s A Room with A View, Tea with Mussolini, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel to which, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, is on its way to our screens.

Our most prolific playwright, Alan Bennett, who has created material for Dame Maggie in A Bed Among the Lentils, part of his Talking Heads season, and on stage in The Lady in the Van, and for Dame Judi in Two in Torquay, part of Bennett’s Triple Bill, arrived at his own 80th in May.

An equally distinguished British dramatist, Sir Ronald Harwood, who wrote the play Quartet, in the film version of which Maggie Smith starred in 2012, with Hollywood’s Dustin Hoffman making his directorial debut, also arrives at 80 in November.

Both Smith and Dench are blunt, down-to-earth, no-nonsense characters, not given to prevarication. Who but Dame Maggie, on inspecting bras in Fortnum and Mason in the company of the late Kenneth Williams, would have shrieked aloud: “How much? Cheaper to have ’em off!”.

But Dame Judi, a Quaker, and a piercingly forthright M in the Bond films, does not take kindly to being described as a national treasure: “I don’t like that very much, I’m afraid. That sounds pretty dusty to me. It’s Alan Bennett and I behind glass in some forgotten old cupboard. I don’t like it at all.”

A third great English actress, Dame Eileen Atkins, the equal of Dench and Smith in terms of talent and forthright style, clocked up her 80th birthday in June. She is a close friend of Dame Maggie, and I saw them together on stage in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance, in which Atkins displayed nerves of steel. At the climax of one scene, her bracelet suddenly broke, showering the stage with bouncing pearls. Many an actress would have been disconcerted by this mishap, but Atkins kept her cool as impeccably as the character she portrays as Martin Clunes’s aunt, Dr Ruth Ellingham, in television’s Doc Martin. Shading her eyes, as if warding off tiresome sunlight, she bent down and calmly picked up the pearls one by one, receiving a round of admiring applause from the audience.

Atkins, of course, is associated in the public mind with another of this year’s octogenarians, Jean Marsh, who was her co-creator and the star of the massively successful television series Upstairs, Downstairs, in which Marsh brilliantly played the central role of the housemaid Rose Buck. The recent attempt to revive Upstairs, Downstairs was an unhappy experience for both ladies. Atkins disliked the scripts, and it was widely felt that her character, the redoubtable Maud, Lady Holland, was a not very skilful attempt to upstage Dame Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the rival series Downton Abbey.

Atkins withdrew from Upstairs at the end of the first series, and the domineering Maud had to be killed off. This reportedly upset Jean Marsh, who had returned to her original role as Rose, and who suffered a stroke. The revival was axed, and there were suggestions that, for a time, the long and close friendship of Atkins and Marsh was under some strain.

Another of this year’s thriving octogenarians is the Scottish character actress Annette Crosbie, the long-suffering Margaret Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave, and the retired schoolteacher Jessie in the film Calendar Girls. In 1975, she played Queen Victoria in the ITV period drama Edward the Seventh in which she co-starred with Timothy West, who will be 80 in October, and who, in spite of the recent decline in health of his actress wife, Prunella Scales, is still working at full throttle as Stan Carter, the father of the host of the Queen Vic in EastEnders.

Sylvia Syms, the star of countless films since her first, as Dame Anna Neagle’s troubled offspring in My Teenage Daughter, in 1956, was 80 in January. She continues to work, and memorably portrayed the late Queen Mother to Dame Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth II in The Queen, in 2006. But she says: “People who see me in all these films on television think I must have earned a fortune. The truth is very different. For Ice Cold in Alex, I received the glorious sum of £30 a week!” When they filmed Victim, in 1961, Syms was the only British female star brave enough to play opposite Dirk Bogarde as the wife of a homosexual barrister.

This year ushers in a galaxy of 80-year-old superstars. They include Shirley MacLaine, Dame Maggie Smith’s American protagonist in Downton Abbey; Richard Chamberlain, who came to fame as television’s dashing Dr Kildare, but was compelled by studio pressure to remain a closet gay until he bravely came out in his autobiography, Shattered Love, in 2003; Barry Humphries, creator of the immortal Dame Edna Everage; John Standing, still such a fine actor that few people know that he is a baronet; the original ”sex kitten’’, Brigitte Bardot; and Sophia Loren, who arrives at her 80th birthday on September 20 with her lustrous Italian beauty remarkably unscathed.

But this amazing bunch of survivors have more than longevity going for them. There was a time, not that long ago, when a film like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, about an establishment that caters for troubled senior citizens, would have been regarded by film financiers and distributors as “uncommercial” and “not box office”. Yet it earned a cool $135 million worldwide. Now we await the sequel, in which Smith and Dench are joined by the 65-year-old Richard Gere, once the heart-throb hero of Pretty Woman. A further blockbuster is anticipated.

Suddenly it is cool, and no longer unfashionable, to be old. The ancient cinematic bastions of ageism are being systematically dismantled.

The later lyrics of Sinatra’s song – “But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year. And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs” – are being spectacularly rewritten by Dames Judi, Maggie, Eileen and their magnificent band of indestructible contemporaries. 

"You’ve finally done it, you’ve written the unlearnable and you’ve written the unplayable." Billie Whitelaw on ‘Not I’.

zenfabulous:

Billie Whitelaw’s 1973 performance of Samuel Beckett’s Not I [x]

“Whitelaw has described the ordeal of playing Mouth, how she was totally cut off from others, high above the stage, clamped, swathed in a black hood, subject to panic attacks; after the dress rehearsal she was for a time totally disoriented. Yet this stage experience came to seem her most meaningful one. She heard in Mouth’s outpourings her own ‘inner scream’: ‘I found so much of my self in Not I. Somewhere in there were my entrails under a microscope.’” [x]

Via unecatastrophe:

MOUTH: … . out … into this world … this world … tiny little thing … before its time … in a godfor– … what? . . girl? . . yes … tiny little girl … into this … out into this … before her time … godforsaken hole called … called … no matter … parents unknown … unheard of … he having vanished … thin air … no sooner buttoned up his breeches … she similarly … eight months later … almost to the tick … so no love … spared that … no love such as normally vented on the … speechless infant … in the home … no … nor indeed for that matter any of any kind … no love of any kind … at any subsequent stage … so typical affair … nothing of any note till coming up to sixty when– … what? . . seventy?. . good God! . . coming up to seventy … wandering in a field … looking aimlessly for cowslips … to make a ball … a few steps then stop … stare into space … then on … a few more … stop and stare again … so on … drifting around … when suddenly … gradually … all went out … all that early April morning light … and she found herself in the—– … what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 1.] … found herself in the dark … and if not exactly … insentient … insentient … for she could still hear the buzzing … so-called … in the ears … and a ray of light came and went … came and went … such as the moon might cast … drifting … in and out of cloud … but so dulled … feeling … feeling so dulled … she did not know … what position she was in … imagine! . . what position she was in! . . whether standing … or sitting … but the brain– … what?. . kneeling? . . yes … whether standing … or sitting … or kneeling … but the brain– … what? . . lying? . . yes . . whether standing … or sitting … or kneeling … or lying … but the brain still … still … in a way … for her first thought was … oh long after … sudden flash … brought up as she had been to believe … with the other waifs … in a merciful … [Brief laugh.] … God … [Good laugh.] … first thought was … oh long after … sudden flash … she was being punished … for her sins … a number of which then … further proof if proof were needed … flashed through her mind … one after another … then dismissed as foolish … oh long after … this thought dismissed … as she suddenly realized … gradually realized … she was not suffering … imagine! . . not suffering! . . indeed could not remember … off-hand … when she had suffered less … unless of course she was … meant to be suffering … ha! . . thought to be suffering … just as the odd time … in her life … when clearly intended to be having pleasure … she was in fact … having none … not the slightest … in which case of course … that notion of punishment … for some sin or other … or for the lot … or no particular reason … for its own sake … thing she understood perfectly … that notion of punishment … which had first occurred to her … brought up as she had been to believe … with the other waifs … in a merciful … [Brief laugh.] … God … [Good laugh.] … first occurred to her … then dismissed … as foolish … was perhaps not so foolish … after all … so on … all that … vain reasonings … till another thought … oh long after … sudden flash … . . very foolish really but– … what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all the time buzzing … so-called … in the ears … though of course actually … not in the ears at all … in the skull … dull roar in the skull … and all the time this ray or beam … like moonbeam … but probably not … certainly not … always the same spot … now bright … now shrouded … but always the same spot … as no moon could … no … no moon … just all part of the same wish to … torment … though actually in point of fact … not in the least … not a twinge … so far … ha! . . so far … this other thought then … oh long after … sudden flash … very foolish really but so like her … in a way … that she might do well to … groan … on and off … writhe she could not … as if in actual agony … but could not … could not bring herself … some flaw in her make-up … incapable of deceit … or the machine … more likely the machine … so disconnected … never got the message … or powerless to respond … like numbed … couldn’t make the sound … not any sound … no sound of any kind … no screaming for help for example … should she feel so inclined … scream … [Screams.] … then listen … [Silence.] … scream again … [Screams again.] … then listen again … [Silence.] … no … spared that … all silent as the grave … no part–… what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all silent but for the buzzing … so-called … no part of her moving … that she could feel … just the eyelids … presumably … on and off … shut out the light … reflex they call it … no feeling of any kind … but the lids … even best of times … who feels them? . . opening … shutting … all that moisture …but the brain still … still sufficiently … oh very much so! . . at this stage … in control … under control … to question even this … for on that April morning … so it reasoned … that April morning … she fixing with her eye … a distant bell … as she hastened towards it … fixing it with her eye … lest it elude her … had not all gone out … all that light … of itself … without any … any… on her part … so on … so on it reasoned … vain questionings … and all dead still … sweet silent as the grave … when suddenly … gradually … she realiz–… what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all dead still but for the buzzing … when suddenly she realized … words were– … what? . . who?. . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 2.] … realized … words were coming … imagine! … words were coming … a voice she did not recognize at first so long since it had sounded … then finally had to admit … could be none other … than her own … certain vowel sounds … she had never heard … elsewhere … so that people would stare … the rare occasions … once or twice a year … always winter some strange reason … stare at her uncom-prehending … and now this stream … steady stream … she who had never … on the contrary … practically speechless … all her days … how she survived! . . even shopping … out shopping … busy shopping centre … supermart … just hand in the list … with the bag … old black shopping bag … then stand there waiting … any length of time … middle of the throng … motionless … staring into space … mouth half open as usual … till it was back in her hand … the bag back in her hand … then pay and go … not as much as good-bye … how she survived! . . and now this stream … not catching the half of it … not the quarter … no idea … what she was saying … imagine! . . no idea what she was saying! . . till she began trying to … delude herself … it was not hers at all … not her voice at all … and no doubt would have … vital she should … was on the point … after long efforts … when suddenly she felt … gradually she felt … her lips moving … imagine! . . her lips moving! . . as of course till then she had not … and not alone the lips … the cheeks … the jaws … the whole face … all those– . . what?. . the tongue? . . yes … the tongue in the mouth … all those contortions without which … no speech possible … and yet in the ordinary way … not felt at all … so intent one is … on what one is saying … the whole being … hanging on its words … so that not only she had … had she … not only had she … to give up … admit hers alone … her voice alone … but this other awful thought … oh long after … sudden flash … even more awful if possible … that feeling was coming back … imagine! . . feeling coming back! . . starting at the top … then working down … the whole machine … but no … spared that … the mouth alone … so far … ha! . . so far … then thinking … oh long after … sudden flash … it can’t go on … all this … all that … steady stream … straining to hear … make some-thing of it … and her own thoughts … make something of them … all– … what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all the time the buzzing … so-called … all that together … imagine! . . whole body like gone … just the mouth … lips … cheeks … jaws … never– … what?. . tongue? . . yes … lips… cheeks … jaws … tongue … never still a second … mouth on fire … stream of words … in her ear … practically in her ear … not catching the half … not the quarter … no idea what she’s saying … imagine! . . no idea what she’s saying! . . and can’t stop … no stopping it … she who but a moment before … but a moment! . . could not make a sound … no sound of any kind … now can’t stop … imagine! . . can’t stop the stream … and the whole brain begging … something begging in the brain … begging the mouth to stop … pause a moment … if only for a moment … and no response … as if it hadn’t heard … or couldn’t … couldn’t pause a second … like maddened … all that together … straining to hear … piece it together … and the brain … raving away on its own … trying to make sense of it … or make it stop … or in the past … dragging up the past … flashes from all over … walks mostly … walking all her days … day after day … a few steps then stop … stare into space … then on … a few more … stop and stare again … so on … drifting around … day after day … or that time she cried … the one time she could remember … since she was a baby … must have cried as a baby … perhaps not … not essential to life … just the birth cry to get her going … breathing … then no more till this … old hag already … sitting staring at her hand … where was it? . . Croker’s Acres … one evening on the way home … home! . . a little mound in Croker’s Acres … dusk … sitting staring at her hand … there in her lap … palm upward … suddenly saw it wet … the palm … tears presumably … hers presumably … no one else for miles … no sound … just the tears … sat and watched them dry … all over in a second … or grabbing at straw … the brain … flickering away on its own … quick grab and on… nothing there … on to the next … bad as the voice … worse … as little sense … all that together … can’t– … what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all the time the buzzing … dull roar like falls … and the beam … flickering on and off … starting to move around … like moonbeam but not … all part of the same … keep an eye on that too … corner of the eye … all that together … can’t go on … God is love … she’ll be purged … back in the field … morning sun … April … sink face down in the grass … nothing but the larks … so on … grabbing at the straw … straining to hear … the odd word … make some sense of it … whole body like gone … just the mouth … like maddened … and can’t stop … no stopping it … something she– … something she had to– … what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 3.] … something she had to–… what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all the time the buzzing … dull roar … in the skull … and the beam … ferreting around … painless … so far … ha! . . so far … then thinking … oh long after … sudden flash … perhaps something she had to … had to … tell … could that be it? . . something she had to … tell … tiny little thing … before its time … godforsaken hole … no love … spared that … speechless all her days … practically speechless … how she survived! . . that time in court … what had she to say for herself … guilty or not guilty … stand up woman … speak up woman … stood there staring into space … mouth half open as usual … waiting to be led away … glad of the hand on her arm … now this … some-thing she had to tell … could that be it? . . something that would tell … how it was … how she– … what? . . had been? . . yes … something that would tell how it had been … how she had lived … lived on and on … guilty or not … on and on … to be sixty … something she– … what? . . seventy? . . good God! . . on and on to be seventy … something she didn’t know herself … wouldn’t know if she heard … then forgiven … God is love … tender mercies … new every morning … back in the field … April morning … face in the grass … nothing but the larks … pick it up there … get on with it from there … another few– … what? . . not that? . . nothing to do with that? . . nothing she could tell? . . all right … nothing she could tell … try something else … think of something else … oh long after … sudden flash … not that either … all right … something else again … so on … hit on it in the end … think everything keep on long enough … then forgiven … back in the– … what? . . not that either? . . nothing to do with that either? . . nothing she could think? . . all right … nothing she could tell … nothing she could think … nothing she– . . what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . [Pause and movement 4.] … tiny little thing … out before its time … godforsaken hole … no love … spared that … speechless all her days … practically speechless … even to herself … never out loud … but not completely … sometimes sudden urge … once or twice a year … always winter some strange reason … the long evenings … hours of darkness … sudden urge to … tell … then rush out stop the first she saw … nearest lavatory … start pouring it out … steady stream … mad stuff … half the vowels wrong … no one could follow … till she saw the stare she was getting … then die of shame … crawl back in … once or twice a year … always winter some strange reason … long hours of darkness … now this … this … quicker and quicker … the words … the brain … flickering away like mad … quick grab and on … nothing there … on somewhere else … try somewhere else … all the time something begging … something in her begging … begging it all to stop … unanswered … prayer unanswered … or unheard … too faint … so on … keep on … trying … not knowing what … what she was trying … what to try … whole body like gone … just the mouth … like maddened … so on … keep– … what? . . the buzzing? . . yes … all the time the buzzing … dull roar like falls … in the skull … and the beam … poking around … painless … so far … ha! . . so far … all that … keep on … not knowing what … what she was– … what? . . who? . . no! . . she! . . SHE! . . [Pause.] … what she was trying … what to try … no matter … keep on … [Curtain starts down.] … hit on it in the end … then back … God is love … tender mercies … new every morning … back in the field … April morning … face in the grass … nothing but the larks … pick it up–

[Curtain fully down. House dark. Voice continues behind curtain, unintelligible, 10 seconds, ceases as house lights up.]

davidmorrisseyfan:

 Nash’s House: Top 10 Characters Exhibition

via @ShakespeareBT .

www.shakespeare.org.uk :

"We asked the public to vote for their favourite Shakespeare character and now you can discover who the top 10 most prized heroes, heroines and villains are!

Visit the exhibition at Nash’s House to find out more about their stories, their deeds and their often grusome ends… See our characters brought to life with humorous contemporary illustrations by Ailsa Burrows.

You will also find fun facts, an interactive quiz and a selection of 16th Century treasures on loan from the RSC Collection such as props, costumes and historical items relating to each of our top 10 characters.

Normal opening times and admission prices apply. Entry to exhibition is included in your ticket to Nash’s House.

Click here to read a review of the exhibition by Kids in Museums, an independent charity dedicated to making museums open and welcome to all famillies.”

Tumblr shakespearebt

Ailsa Burrows illustrations:

http://elizabethroy.co.uk/illustration-galleries/ailsa-burrows-illustrator.php

We were told by theater people that we wouldn’t find any blind actors. We attended all three days of Theater Bay Area general audition, and there was indeed not one blind actress. We decided to knock on every door of every blind service organization in the Bay Area. It took three months, but we found six blind actresses. We decided that if we were going to confidently promote our show as starring a blind actress, we should cast two and make sure we had a built in understudy at all times. We also want to show that there’s more than one blind actress in the Bay Area.

Circle of Life’s “Wait Until Dark”: Theater Company Casts Blind Actresses in Blind Role

A Bay Area theatre company has done what Hollywood so often claims is impossible: casting not one, but two disabled actresses to play a disabled character.

(via longmoreinstituteondisability)

Sorry I can’t hear you over my THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE

(via fuckyeahgreatplays)

blacksirensolo:

idrawgood:

solar-citrus:

I’ve received a lot of letters from artists asking to check out their artwork and their blog, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them openly write unhealthy amounts of negative comments about their artwork, it was super depressing, honestly.  :(
Confidence plays a very very important role as an artist, it’s what helps us learn and grow without the constant feeling of doubt and jealousy!  You are a unique individual who must go down your own unique path, and as scary as it sounds, you can’t rely on others to hold your hand all the way through.  You are the only one who can get yourself to where you need to go, and beating up your artwork is not the way!  Trust yourself and your abilities to make a change, and you can do anything!!

Love your art, love yourself!

I was actually going to write a long post about this yesterday, but this lovely comic sums up all my points perfectly! Artists, please read this! It can be hard to break out of your bad “my art sucks” habits, but you gotta try. I used to do that ALL THE TIME, but a few years ago I made a conscious effort to change and I feel my art is much better for it. It’s not easy, it’ll take practice, but it’s worth it. Love your art!

Another goodun!

Useful advice for all types of art :)

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