Sunday, 27 January 2013

Guest Post: Sarah Vernon writing about Ellen Terry

Image © Sarah Vernon
Starting with an old theatrical photograph in her possession, Sarah Vernon penetrates the world of last century's professional actresses, their dedication to truthful interpretation of character and to stage-craft, and also their friendships with one another, that linked generations. Sarah has always believed in the importance of passing on the lessons of past actors and actresses' performances. This extract from her post quotes from Ellen Terry's memoirs, containing invaluable insights into playing Volumnia and deploring the non-existent or, at best, underwritten mother-daughter relationships in Shakespeare:

'"The critics who wrote their notices at the dress-rehearsal, and complained of my playing pranks with the text, were a little previous. Oh, how bad it makes one feel to find that they all think my Volumnia ‘sweet’, and I thought I was fierce, contemptuous, overbearing. Worse, I felt as if I must be appearing like a cabman rating his Drury Lane wife!” By 20 April, however, she feels she is “beginning to play Volumnia a little better.”

The actress later comments on parents in Shakespeare’s plays: “How many times Shakespeare draws fathers and daughters, and how little stock he seems to take of mothers! Portia and Desdemona, Cordelia, Rosalind and Miranda, Lady Macbeth, Queen Katherine and Hermione, Ophelia, Jessica, Hero, and many more are daughters of fathers, but of their mothers we hear nothing. My own daughter called my attention to this fact quite recently, and it is really a singular fact. Of mothers of sons there are plenty of examples: Constance, Volumnia, the Countess Roussillon, Gertrude; but if there are mothers of daughters at all, they are poor examples, like Juliet’s mother and Mrs. Page.”
Reblogged from First Night Design with many thanks to Sarah Vernon