Marlborough LitFest’s patron, Sir Simon Russell Beale CBE, is spending lockdown at his Marlborough home after the suspension of the Broadway performances of ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ in which he starred.
He told Marlborough.news, “I love Marlborough and I love LitFest.” In order to encourage people to come along to LitFest, whenever it can take place, he has recorded some readings from the local Victorian Wiltshire nature writer, Richard Jefferies. He hopes the readings will bring listeners “a little cheer in these strange times” and also encourage people to read Jefferies. They are available at https://www.marlboroughlitfest.org/litfest-speaking/
“I was not familiar with Richard Jefferies before the LitFest project but I’m a huge fan of the White Horse Bookshop and discovered that they, together with the Richard Jefferies Society, award an annual prize for nature writing.”
Simon has made four recordings. In the second reading Jefferies describes visiting his favourite place – Liddington Hill. Jefferies speaks to these troubled times of the solace that can be found in nature. “Moving up the sweet short turf, at every step my heart seemed to obtain a wider horizon of feeling; with every inhalation of rich pure air, a deeper desire. The very light of the sun was whiter and more brilliant here. By the time I had reached the summit I had entirely forgotten the petty circumstances and the annoyances of existence. I felt myself, myself.”
It is however, the fourth reading, where Jefferies describes a walk in the Savernake Forest, which is Simon’s favourite.
“I thought it was beautiful, not self-conscious but spontaneous.” Spending some of his formative years at the family home in Avebury, Simon has always appreciated walking in the Savernake Forest. “It’s just so beautiful.” However, the lockdown has given him the opportunity to start walking and to explore more of Marlborough’s surrounding countryside. He has enjoyed discovering the beauties of Minal and the Grey Wethers or Sarsen Stones on the Downs.
Simon is also using lockdown to write a book analysing the great roles from Shakespeare plays he has performed during his career. He has also very kindly offered to Skype with any St John’s A-level English students who would like to discuss a Shakespeare play they are studying. If you are a student who would like to participate please contact Hayley McLaren at St John’s.
He is, he admits, “Scared witless about the future of the theatre. I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone does. It’s a real fear. Some friends are more optimistic; people will find a way. There are lots of writers writing at the moment and projects are backing up. I do believe people will always want live entertainment.”
Meanwhile he will continue to enjoy his time in Marlborough,” I see nobody and like asking the nice people at Waitrose to help me when I’m shopping. It’s one of the few chances I get to speak!”
He will also finish painting his house. “Until now,” he ruefully explained, “I had never painted a single wall but it does me good. I love Rainbows in The Parade!”
All being well, Simon Russell Beale will play Borkman in the Ibsen play ‘John Gabriel Borkman’ at the Bridge Theatre, London in Spring 2021.