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(No details I’m afraid of where or when this article originated - although date would be late 1976)

One man’s week

Michael Pennington has been playing Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), Hector (Troilus and Cressida), Edgar (King Lear) and Major Rolfe (Destiny) in the Royal Shakespeare theatre’s Stratford-upon-Avon season which ends on Saturday. A volume of his songs appeared in 1972, and his account of a journey through Siberia is in preparation.  (Rossya)


‘King Lear’ is the last word on everything, and an afternoon spent amidst its extremities is quite enough for one day. But this is Stratford; and compound logistics require of me tonight a fluent transition to the barracks and high-rise offices of ‘Destiny’ at The Other Place, a few hundred yards up the road.

As a boy I remember a theatrical knight describing a day in the typical actor’s life as 10 hours in a film studio, then a hire car to the West End to play – ‘King Lear’. I wouldn’t mind, I thought then, becoming “typical.” Well, perhaps this is it, in the style of the Seventies: stumping through the Waterside gardens with a carrier bag, adjusting double fast with hardly a cup of tea between. Not complaining mind; just being typical.


London. Salaam. Things feel so good in Stratford that the call of the capital seems stern. The Earl of Kent stays behind in Chipping Campden, but the more metropolitan-minded hit the A40 in column by midnight on a Saturday. The road is dangerously familiar by now and Woodstock goes by in a dream.

The day of rest spent making shelves and learning ‘How Yukong Moved the Mountains.’ Workers whose parents could probably not read discuss ideological a priorism in a Shanghai generator factory. So? Much of my unoccupied time these days is spent sifting for the purposes of publication through the perplexities brought on by a visit to the soviet Union; and the impassiveness of the urban Soviet worker seems currently to add up to as much or as little as the comprehensive cheeriness of the Chinese – a proletariat whose propaganda springs unforced from the heart.


Finally agree contract for RSC’s Newcastle season in March. A number of actors are still declining to renew their contracts unless offered ‘Titus Andronicus’ next season, but mostly stayed together for what may turn out to be a positive pleasure. A wealth of extra-curricular projects being aired, to fill in the acres of spare time we shall have between putting on eight shows in four weeks. I offer a Thomas Hardy programme and a new version of Gogol’s ‘Diary of a Madman.’ I must be crazy.

The theatre dark on Mondays now, as a concession to the fastnesses of winter; though the popular plays are still doing such good business it’s probably not necessary. This gives me a full, though displaced weekend. Evening therefore spent doing anything but getting started on the Gogol – and restraining a literary agent from commissioning a new translation.


Working elevenses at Moo Movies, design home of the new book, and the best cheesecake in town. Then, fortified, back to Stratford for the last performance of ‘Troilus and Cressida’ preparing for Hector used to take me two hours; now, by some extension of Parkinson’ Law, the same make-up takes an hour and three quarters.

Stratford’s welcome is sparsely warm: bright frost on the trees, the Avon swollen and fast. Fairy lights on the horse chestnuts in front of the theatre. The streets still thickish with visitors, though mostly from Birmingham and Bristol – I’ve not had to discuss the Queen Mab speech in Finnish for some time now. I miss it; public feedback here is instantaneous and unforced in a way it rarely is in London.

Returning home after the show, fetched myself a crippling blow on ye olde low wooden beam in my cottage. Mercy, will I never learn?


A full day on the trans-Siberian. Have pulled the manuscript back from the brink after re-reading it and not liking it quite enough. Time presses. The new corrections will have to be in green – the top copy begins to look like a travelling lease. Roger Rees’s marvellous drawings of the journey cover the walls; hard to believe he’s never been near Siberia and they all came out of an evening’s talk and a bottle of Tequila. The self-inflicted setback is a small one, and, by evening, am confident again of having done some justice to an unforgettable journey.

No show for me tonight, and the adrift imagination has planned supper for six on a scale altogether inconsistent with available resources. Good though, and many matters discussed quite unsuitable for publication in ‘One Man’s Week.’


‘Destiny’ tonight, and a group of black schoolchildren in for a play about racial politics. Quietly received.

Almost season’s end; time to pack up and emerged stunned into the bright light of a month’s holiday. I reflect on a nearly completed journey, a terrific year. Strangers last January, we now have quite a lot in common. Unpredictable nights, overwork, and finally more leisure; £70 telephone bills, failed vegetable plots, and the end-of-term party. There were periods when the permanent set – part-timbered barn, part bullring – seemed the natural hub and one sure home. Springtime, the swans, rare autumn colours; Mercutio in a heatwave, Poor Tom naked in mid-winter. And of course the standard green crockery and those brainshaking wooden beams. It’s what living in Stratford is all about.

To bed, and hit my head again.

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