Home. Introduction. News. Career. One Man shows. Books. Reviews. Articles. Contact.

The Graving Tool: Michael Pennington in conversation with Philip Franks

Podcast recorded at the Freud Museum on 8th January 2012:


This year playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker is Writer in Residence at the Freud Museum, generously funded by theLeverhulme Trust.

Timberlake Wertenbaker is an acclaimed and prolific playwright whose works have been performed and studied all over the world. Her play Our Country’s Good is an A level text and won the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year award in 1988. She is also a translator, translating and adapting plays for performance from French (examples include Marivaux’s False Admissions, Anouilh’s Wild Orchids and Racine’s Phedre) and from classical Greek (examples include Sophocles’ Elektra and Euripides’ Hippolytus.) Her recent translation of Racine’s Britannicus received rapturous reviews at Wilton’s Music Hall.

She is using her residency at the Freud Museum to complete her latest play, The Suicide of Colonel A. Ajaxinspired by Sophocles’ Ajax.

Timberlake is organising The Graving Tool, a series of conversations between herself and leading theatre practitioners probing how they create complex characters. Timberlake will ask how actors and directors explore the physical and mental makeup of a character on stage. How does an actor enter into the psychology of a character, particularly in a new play? What physical manifestation, including habits or tics do they come up with and how is this used in the performance? What do they read, particularly when acting a disturbed character? Where do they find this in themselves? How are actors affected by the personalities they inhabit?

Michael Pennington is a British director and actor, most of his career has been on stage in works such as Hamlet(RSC), Oedipus the King, The Entertainer and Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde. In 1986, Pennington and director Michael Bogdanov together founded the English Shakespeare Company. As joint artistic director, he starred in the company's inaugural productions of The Henrys and, in 1987, the seven-play history cycle of The Wars of the Roses, which toured worldwide. He appeared in the 2005 film Fragile, co-starring Calista Flockhart and is the author of the book Are You There, Crocodile? which combines biographical material about the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov with a narration of Pennington's efforts to write a one-man play about Chekhov.

In April 2004 he became the second actor, after Harley Granville-Barker in 1925, to deliver the British Academy's annual Shakespeare lecture. The lecture was entitledBarnadine's Straw: The Devil in Shakespeare's Detail.

Philip Franks is an English director and actor, he has directed many plays including Kafka's Dick and The Kiss of the Spiderwoman (Nottingham Playhouse), Hamlet(Greenwich and tour), The Duchess of Malfi (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Greenwich and West End), Private Lives and The Heiress (Royal National Theatre) and The White Devil(Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith).

Franks is best known for his roles as tax inspector Cedric "Charley" Charlton in the British sitcom The Darling Buds of May, and Sgt. Raymond Craddock on Heartbeat. He has also made guest appearances in Absolutely Fabulous andFoyle's War. Other appearances include the TV miniseriesBleak House, Martin Chuzzlewit, The Buddha of Suburbia, The Green Man and To Serve Them All My Days. Franks is also a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Return to Introduction