Thursday, March 03, 2005
The Bard on Bainbridge
Arts News and the excellent BIAHC remind me of the Bard on Bainbridge "inquiry" (sic) running 'til April 2. The memories flood back.
I can't actually remember a time during my schooling when I *wasn't* 'inquiring' into the Immortal Bard.Even as early as my preparatory school, outings were arranged for the literate pupils to Shakespearean productions.. I still remember my first taste of "live" Shakespeare - Julius Caesar - The Old Vic, October 1956.
It always amuses younger theatre buff pals of mine to hear that, in late 1960s London, a whole generation of red-blooded males discovered the Bard thanks to the drawing power of two talented actresses, also rocking the conservative theatre scene as majorly hot babes of a beauty rarely seen on the classical stage: mesdemoiselles Judi Dench and Helen Mirren.
At St Peter's school in York, his academic prowess was immediately evident.The great Mary Visick, my own tutor in Hong Kong who did such a fine job bringing me up to Balliol standard for the entrance exam, told me another - no doubt apocryphal - that I actually put to good use myself once among the dreamiing spires.
It is said that, when Hill was 16, the two Balliol dons - Vivien Galbraith and Kenneth Bell - who marked his entrance papers agreed to award him 100%, before travelling to York to capture him for the college and prevent him going any further with a Cambridge application.
As the anecdote goes, the undergraduate Hill was returning worse for booze one dark night and bumped into a tree in the quad. Leaning heavily on it in his inebriated state, Hill gingerly felt his way round the hefty trunk before sinking to the ground with the woeful cry:
"Trapped - in an impenetrable forest!"
I never confirmed the truth of this: suffice it to say that by the time I met Dr Hill as Balliol's Master, his towering intellect and somewhat pugnacious appearance made him a forbidding figure to a gangly freshman like me.
Oxford memory #1:
In fact, I don't even remember the name of the central figure, a young don at Merton College who kept reminding us that his Finals papers were "unsullied by a beta".Memory 2:
He would set us essays on Shakespeare that we would real out loud for comment. Having spent some time in France and fancying my accent, I deliberately tracked down some impressive quotes by the eminent critic, Henri Fluchère.
It came my turn to read and I delivered the lines with suitable aplomb. At the end there was a pause.
"Good. Very good," muttered the tutor, "And well done you, tracking down Fluchère ... but ... "
To the amazement of the room, he then recited the closing sentences of what I had just quoted, rising as he did and making his way to his bookshelf where he took down the volume in question:
But doesn't he go on to say "... "bienqu'il soît ... " "Although this may be the case ..."
Blow me down if the beta-less bugger didn't know it off by heart.
Taking tea and crumpets on Broad Street after a buying spree at Blackwells bookshop.Good times.
Suddenly, who should be peering in but actor Lee Marvin.
Grabbing my newly purchased book - Wilson Knight's learnèd Wheel of Fire - I dashed outside and asked Marvin if he would sign the fly leaf.
He gave me a very odd look, then smiled and signed. And I tell you, his voice was as from a subterranean cavern.
I knew her in - I don't know - 1950 - 1951 - when she lived in Ashford. My father had worked with her in WEA - I was too young to appreciate her - but she and Harold left 100s of books in our attic when they went to Hong Kong. I read my way through them all - and I've still got some of them today.
sorry to be intrusive
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