Friday, July 25, 2003

The annual Ludlow Festival in June-July is built around Shakespeare plays performed outdoors in the castle. The event throws this family into a month of midsummer madness because my wife manages the wardrobe backstage. Actors work peculiar hours after the evening performance they end on a high and like to socialize in the nearest pub until they are turned out in the early hours. Then its off to bed until around mid-day. After a few weeks of this normal mortals find it impossible to come to terms with the real world – hence the long gap in my blog entries.

What makes our involvement worth while though are the friends we have made through meeting the cast every year. Most actors when not performing generally have mild and sensitive personalities which is contrary to what their public expects. I was struck this year by how much thought professional actors give to how they are going to perform the role they are playing. For most it involves a deep study of the text of the play and I have learned far more about Shakespeare by listening to them than I ever did at school.

This kind of commitment has a general application to all creative activities. One of the traps which painters fall into is that in the desire to loosen up and paint freely their work becomes badly constructed and superficial. Ruskin knew this ‘the hand of a great master at real work is never free:’ he wrote, ‘its swiftest dash is under perfect government.’ Good painters give as much thought to where they place their marks as the best actors do to how they recite their words.

The photographs were taken backstage at this year’s festival.

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