venue here cancelled and so we are given three precious days
of sea and sun. A friend of Gabby's, our Titania, went to the
venue today to ask about tickets and was told the bad news…
apparently we were cancelled because the cast has a virus!!!
News to us! Soon we will embark on a thirty day section that
will give us only one day off and have us traveling from here
up to Green Bay near Canada before winding our way down to Texas,
and then across to the West, New Mexico and California. So this
is time to enjoy…
am looking out through my hotel room's picture windows on the
third floor. Now I am flying across the top of a couple of palm
trees, traveling now over lush vegetation, before swooping low
over the white sands… and out to the sea… the constant of time…
and on to oblivion.
can seem irregular. Some Times seems to go much quicker, other
Times can drag… This last year, has had its moments of stillness,
but all in all it has flown by. Was it really a year since we
left the paradise that is Bermuda? It didn't seem like it, and
yet there we were again… flying in low over the bluest sky,
the clearest seas, to this little group of islands, alone in
the Atlantic, warmed by the Gulf Stream, and that make up Bermuda.
takes its name from the Spanish sea captain Juan de Bermúdez,
who sighted the uninhabited islands around 1503. The Spanish
did not claim the islands, but they soon became an important
navigational landmark for galleons crossing the Atlantic between
Spain and the New World. Since Bermuda is surrounded by dangerous
reefs, nautical misadventures cast the Spanish ashore on several
occasions and littered the sea bed with enough booty for some
people to consider scuba diving more than a recreational sport.
1609 Admiral Sir George Somers was en route from England with
supplies for the recent British settlement at Jamestown, Virginia,
when his ship, Sea Venture, was wrecked off Bermuda. Finding
it a rather pleasant place to be washed up, the admiral built
replacement ships of fine Bermuda cedar, sailed off and left
a couple of men behind to establish a British claim to the islands.
The experience of these temporary British castaways is thought
to have inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest. Somers returned
to Bermuda later that same year but died soon after arrival.
The British renamed Bermuda the Somers Islands in honor of the
admiral, but the name failed to stick.
Virginia Company took a keen interest in the islands after hearing
of their suitability for colonisation, particularly in light
of Jamestown's hostile relations with the local Indians. Only
three years after Somers' misadventure, the company organized
60 settlers to establish a permanent colony on the islands.
Unfortunately the islands were not as abundant as was first
thought. The shallow topsoil limited agriculture and the lack
of water prevented commercial crops like sugar cane from being
introduced. The settlers soon became reliant on food imports
from the American colonies, which they paid for by supplying
sea salt secured from the Turks Islands.
many years the Virginia Company, and then the Bermuda Company,
ran the islands like a fiefdom. This wearied the settlers so
much they sued to have the company's charter rescinded, and
in 1684 Bermuda became a British crown colony. Slaves were first
introduced in 1616, most of them brought forcibly from Africa
though some were American Indians. They lived in degrading conditions
but were generally employed as domestic servants or tradespeople
rather than agricultural laborers. The skills they learnt were
to stand them in good stead when slavery was abolished in 1834.
At the time of emancipation 5000 of the 9000 people residing
in Bermuda were registered on the census as black or 'coloured.'
Bermuda's reliance on trade with the American colonies, political
bonds with Britain proved stronger during the American War of
Independence when Bermuda remained loyal to the crown. During
the War of 1812, the British Navy used Bermuda as a base from
which to ransack Washington, DC. The
Americans responded by confiscating the unprotected cargo of
Bermuda's merchant fleet, devastating the local economy. The
US Civil War proved more lucrative for the island. When the
north blockaded southern ports, cotton traders employed small,
fast vessels to outrun northern naval gunboats. These vessels
were not capable of an Atlantic crossing, and Bermuda blossomed
as a trans-shipment center on the blockade runners' route to
England. Good at picking losers, the island's shortlived prosperity
collapsed with the defeat of the South.
Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, is credited with putting
Bermuda on the tourist map after paying an extended visit to
the islands in 1883. The princess was the wife of the Governor
General of Canada and was keen to escape the long Canadian winter.
By the turn of the century, Bermuda was well on the way to becoming
a fashionable winter destination for 'snow birds,' who flocked
aboard steamers crossing regularly from New York to Hamilton.
strategic location in the Atlantic secured it a role in Allied
military and intelligence operations in WWII. However, its proximity
to the US mainland made it inevitable that the US take primary
responsibility for developing bases on the island. Much to the
locals' consternation, the British subsequently signed a 99-year
lease handing over substantial portions of Bermuda's territory
to the US military. The US constructed an air base on St David's
Island, where the international airport is now located.
In the wake of WWII, women were given the right to vote and,
after boycotts, some of the franchise qualifications restricting
the power of black voters were removed. In 1963 the Progressive
Labour Party was introduced, in part to represent the interests
of nonwhite Bermudians in the face of a government almost totally
made up of white landowners. The rest of the parliamentarians
united to form the United Bermuda Party. The two parties worked
together to produce the 1968 constitution which provided for
full internal self government, while leaving security, defense
and diplomatic affairs to the crown.
Bermuda had long prided itself on the relative harmony of its
race relations, riots and race antagonism in the 1970s resulted
in the removal of all de facto discrimination and the beginning
of talks on independence from Britain. In the decades that followed,
the independence movement became the dominant political issue,
but a referendum in 1995 failed by a two-thirds majority as
Bermudians became apprehensive about the political and economic
cost of independence. Two weeks later they did, at least, regain
control of 10% of the island's land mass when post-Cold War
military cutbacks resulted in the closure of the US base on
the island. In 1998 the PLP's Jennifer Smith was selected as
premier, replacing the UBP's Pamela Gordon, who was Bermuda's
first female premier and the youngest person ever to hold the
Once again, a trio welcomed us with gentle music, and a picture
of the Queen gazed down… along with the usual suspicious looks
from immigration. We were however better prepared this time
with all the appropriate documentation, and despite carrying
our set and costumes as extra personal baggage - this meant
that we were all assigned an extra Aquila trunk, or in Guy's
case, two rolled lengths of grass! - we were out in front of
the airport in no time at all and were given an extremely warm
welcome from our Bermuda ladies. These are the wonderful women
who last year drove us to and from the airport, showed us around
the island and catered to our every whim. It was particularly
special for me to see Sally Madden again. On my day off last
year, she had driven Nate Flower and I up to St George's where
the shipwrecked crew, made so famous by The Tempest, had come
ashore, and where Sir George Sommers had supervised the building
of the two ships which eventually would take them to Jamestown
a year later. Sally and I had kept in touch by email throughout
the year, and immediately she was wanting to know all the latest
details about my children and Brooklyn and the rest of my life
that I had poured out to her.
were four of us who had been on the island last year including
Peter, our producing artistic director. For the rest of our
cast and for Robert, our director, this was their first trip.
Robert was unable to come last time because of green card delays,
and I was especially happy that he had been able to make it
this time as it meant that Peter wouldn't go making any unilateral
changes… well, not without conferring with Robert first. The
Bermuda Festival starts in January and is performed over two
months. They have all sorts of arts groups who come over, including
the English Chamber Orchestra. We are the only acting troop,
and our arrival had been apparently eagerly anticipated. The
four shows had been sold out and people were searching around
for tickets that might be unwanted. Once again we were ensconced
in The Harmony Club resort, and as soon as I had settled in…
sharing with Guy for this particular week…. I took off for the
ten minute walk down to the wonderful stretch of sand known
as Elbow Beach.
was invited to play at Bermuda last year by the Bermuda Festival
because the wife of the chairman had seen a performance of Much
Ado About Nothing at Sarasota, Florida. This was the 60's homage
version that Aquila first performed on tour and then took for
a six month off-Broadway run. She had told her husband that
we were wonderful and perfect for the festival, and so the arrangements
be because it's the mixture of American and British actors.
We also have that slightly avant Garde image, which seems to
cater to the Bermuda populace and the feeling that they are
somewhat outside the normal boundaries.
and Robert, producer and director, appeared to enjoy being away
from the office. They have a curious friendship. Basically it
is a marriage… they are chalk and cheese, but they compliment
each other in a way that seems to work and bring results. It
was quite touching to see them walk along the sand together,
planning their next steps in the five or six productions that
they are working on this year. Robert, who is like Eyore most
of the time, a very hard man to make happy. seemed to physically
relax and glow in the beautiful surroundings.
of all we needed to try and remember the plays, and except for
a couple of days in New York with some of the cast, we hadn't
touched them for nearly two months… There were changes as well
to incorporate. In May, we go to New York for a three week run
at the New Victory Theatre. Although this is a famous theatre,
right in the heart of Broadway, on 42nd street and Times Square,
it is slightly unusual as it is geared towards the families
of New York. Consequently, the Aquila contract with them stated
that our production of the Dream had to come in at around 2
hours plus an interval. This meant that we were looking to cut
around 15 minutes off our current show. Obviously some painful
readjustments were going to have to be made. I had suggested
to Robert that it might be better to wait until the rehearsals
in New York in April to make the cuts, but he told me the boss
lady of the New Victory was coming to see the show in West Palm
Beach, and although they could have told her that we had a longer
show for the tour, they thought it best to cut it down as much
as they could for her… viewing of the goods.. as 'twere!
on the Tuesday, we knuckled down to rehearsals. Bottom escaped
most of the pruning, although I had suggested various little
snippets. Robert consoled as best he could the ones who lost
some of their favorite speeches, whilst Peter, as usual, took
over every single technical aspect of the show. In fact most
of the day was taken up with satisfying Peter's demands to various
lighting and sound changes. David Dunford, who is actually the
lighting designer, wore his saintly mantle in the company's
eyes, by calming acquiescing to every change and adjustment
to his lighting plot.
say this for, Peter:" said Kenn, "He always comes up with good
changes. He's got a great eye."
when a change resulted in the cast not being able to see to
pick up their umbrellas for the change into the forest, Robert
pondered a while and was obviously trying to avoid asking Peter
to change his new lighting plots.
"May be we can have glow tape…"
that moment Peter appeared out of nowhere.
tape, Glow tape!!! We're having no fucking glow tape on MY floorcloth.
I HATE glow tape. No fucking glow tape anywhere. Over my dead
body, or, better yet, one of you fucking actors! It looks absolute
shit. Glow tape? Bollocks! Glow tape… my ass!
opening night of the Dream went well as can be expected. The
audience were very appreciative and the response at the end
was enthusiastic. This was encouraging as they are probably
one of the more knowledgeable audiences we will see before New
York. It was gratifying to hear that the comedy was working
well… I had a hairy moment trying to remember the fairies names.
They are now fairy lights that fly in like a cobweb festooned
around an umbrella. (Umbrellas are the theme symbol of our Dream)
I had always had my fellow actors enacting them in the past.
Now I had to say their names and then go into the speeches.
It always seems strange to me how sometimes the most simplest
of speeches can become an absolute minefield.
day, two very good reviews appeared in the local papers. I and
Lindsay received honorable mentions in dispatches, I think mainly
because the Northern accent that I use, drifts backwards and
forwards across the Pennines between Yorkshire and Lancashire,
and made the Brits nostalgic for that rustic bit of home.
the Friday night it was time to face the fear, as once again
we tackled Wilde and The Importance of Being Earnest. We have
never really been happy with it as we have not performed it
nearly enough. This time, all we had was a line run by the pool
and one very nervous dress rehearsal, before launching ourselves
out in front of the public and the Governor of Bermuda. We wondered
how the Brits in the audience would react to our updating of
The first half was a little frantic… and very very hot, both
for us and the audience. However, with the A/C having been switched
on, and our ex-pat audience rolling in much the merrier after
their interval drinks, the second half bounded along pretty
happily. Kenn, as Lady Bracknell, did flounder at one stage
and suddenly started talking about "entertaining the troops."
A comment that would have had Wilde scurrying to his manuscript
as at the same time endeavoring to remember which person he
had stolen from. Guy looked startled, but when Kenn started
in on a speech a page further on, and realizing that a huge
amount of his own dialogue was about to be lost, Guy stepped
in manfully and rescued the situation! Apparently the Governor
laughed all the way through and the general feedback was that
the liberties that we had taken were delightful and great fun.
To be honest, I found the whole evening pretty stressful, although
wonderful to play again, and told everyone we deserved to give
ourselves a huge pat on the back for actually remembering the
damned thing after so long a break.
I mentioned it to Peter.
"It's what you're paid for, isn't it?"
I had to agree with him.
After each performance we were invited to a party. Last year
we had just one on the last night, and I wasn't sure that actually
I would have the stamina or be inclined to go to every single
one, but the houses turned out to be so spectacular and the
parties so lavish, that we all intrigued to see where we would
go next. The welcome was also so generous that it would have
been very churlish not to go. The first party was a 45 minute
car ride from the theatre - cars are only allowed to travel
at 25mph here - and we arrived 11.30pm. After driving down a
palm-tree-lined driveway we pulled up in front of a beautiful
white colonial house radiating warmth from its open windows
through the darkness. The garden had been festooned with fairy
lights of all colors… all was magic and light. A couple of dark
and stormys later - that's dark rum and Bermuda ginger beer
- I was in deep conversation with the owner, Kitt. In his 70s,
Kitt was a little coy in describing what he had done for a living,
but it seemed to involve having run 29 companies and being a
Bermuda Cabinet Minister. His family had been on the island
360 years, one of the first families to arrive here - the areas
of the islands were split between various lords and earls, and
the parishes still retain their surnames. His wife, Denise,
who was considerably younger, it turned out, had been at RADA,
leaving there in 1969. So we swapped stories and spoke fondly
of Hugh Crutwell. She hadn't heard about his death, and it was
interesting to hear that she had felt the same as I had about
our first experiences of Hugh. We both felt that he hadn't liked
us, but that we had perhaps won him over in the end.
Kenn walked past.
"Denise, this is lovely food. Did you cook all this?"
"Well yes… well, at least my housekeeper did."
Kenn, the socialist, smiled winningly.
at dinner in conversation with the chairman of the Festival
and Tony, a wonderfully erudite old gentleman and still a rebel.
"You're looking well, Geoffrey," said Tony… and indeed for a
man of 68, Geoffrey did appear extremely well.
"I have to. That's what a younger wife does for you. Your wife
is quite a bit younger, isn't she?"
"Oh… well, yes, she is."
"Well there you are… a young wife keeps one fit. They're good
for keeping you on your toes."
And then the conversation shifted back to Yorkshire and Rugby
- Geoffrey's other passions.
And so the parties continued. On Thursday night we were entertained
by one of our ladies. Pam, in her 70s, had a beautiful home,
and her family had been on the island since the early 1800s.
Friday, we were welcomed by Robert, one of the island's top
dentists, which confirmed that I would stay away from dentists
for a while longer, as I could see around his uxorious home
where all the money went.
came to see Earnest and pulled me to one side.
"Jolly well done. So great what you did with it. Get so bored
with bloody actors who just act the fucking costumes. I last
saw this at the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake. This was
much better. I didn't want to come, and I'm bloody glad I did.
Mind you, thought you were absolutely wonderful. You really
stood out… you know, in that way that when an actor comes on
stage, well… you get that feeling that… you know it's all going
to be alright. This company's lucky to have you, aren't they
I thought for a moment.
"No… fortunate may be, but I'm the lucky one I feel. I go to
beautiful locations like this one, and I get to do what I want,
in brilliant parts, around some beautiful young talents, whose
energy I suck on like some grotesque vampire! I feed off them
and grow strong!!"
final party, and another beautiful home. I sit at the head of
a lavish dining table and day- dream for a moment of being rich
and owning somewhere… but quickly break off as I realize that
I would never want a walnut dining table complete with silver
candlesticks. I have a long conversation with the lady who books
the companies for the Festival and do sterling work for Aquila
pitching for Othello and The Man Who Would Be King for next
year's festival. She asks whether I know any English theatre
companies that she could bring over. I mention Shared Experience
Theatre Company, but add that I am a little out of the loop
these days. Once again, I feel completely confused about which
country I actually live in at the moment.
Robert wanders over.
"Any notes for Earnest, Rob?"
"No… um… no… really very good…. very good. Were you happy?"
"Yes, although a bit scared."
"Yes… of course… oh, one thing: Do you think if you dyed your
hair you'd look any younger?"
I immediately fast forward…age 92! "New York, Rob… if the show
runs to New York, then I'll dye it for you… but at the moment,
people are paying small fortunes to have these gray highlights
put in! And I have to tell you, every single silver strand has
back by Tony that night, who rather alarmingly at one point
drives on the wrong side of the road. His wife, rather sweetly
I thought, gently reminds him that they drive on the left. It
seems there are no worries about the drink-driving laws over
here. I get a flashback to the 1950s and 60s and suddenly realize
that this is what it must have been like for a good deal of
the 20th Century, where people soaked themselves in cocktails,
smoked happily, unaware of the dangers, and that drinking and
driving were common place.
On our penultimate day I went to have lunch with Sally Madden.
She has a lovely apartment with a huge balcony overlooking the
sound and the harbour of Hamilton, where one can see the constant
boat traffic go about their business. Sally tells me a little
of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones who live on Bermuda.
The Douglas family own Ariel Sands one of the most exclusive
resorts on the island.
"I saw him recently. I don't know what he's done… plastic surgery
may be… but with her, he is so happy, and he looks so damned
good. Or may be its being a new father."
A huge tanker carrying new cars sounded its horn as it entered
the sound. Sally told me that all the ships did that. It's a
tradition, but probably most of the skippers don't actually
realize why they do it. Apparently, it was all started by the
skipper of the ship that traveled between Bermuda and the States.
He and his wife lived on the edge of the sound, and so, dead
on 8pm, on his return, for many many years he would sound the
ship's horn to let her know that he would soon be home.
It was good to spend time with Sally and to catch up. We crammed
our life stories and present lives into the afternoon. I felt
pleased that we had managed to keep our friendship alive. This
is what the touring life does. There are no tomorrow's, because
tomorrow you will probably have moved on to another venue, so
moments and experiences have to be grabbed immediately.
The next day Sally drove us to the airport, along with Pam,
and the lady who cooked a lot of our party night meals and who
glorys in the name of Delight Goodfellow. Before we faced the
inevitable rigors of customs and immigration and the questions
about our very strange luggage, Sally pulled me into a hug.
"You've all been adopted, you know."
I felt completely overwhelmed.
As we finally took off and banked steeply, looking down for
the last time on the clear crystal and shimmering sea and the
white roofs of the parishes of Bermuda, I remember…
the Friday exertions of Earnest and the copious amounts of rum
consumed to welcome the relief of having got away with it once
again, we stepped out of the party and arrived back at the hotel
at around 2.30am.
The night is moonlight and star-spangled. This had to be the
time and the place. We had talked about it often enough, and
had been threatening to do it ever since we knew we were coming
here. Only Kenn, Robert and Peter are absent as we make our
way down to the moonlit Elbow Beach. Ryan and Lindsay rather
nervously say that they are virgins of the act, and others are
taking swigs of the rum that Andrew has bought along to fortify
us for the coming experience. A surreal sight greets us at the
beach. On the steps, looking over the sand, floodlights from
the hotel light up the beach in constantly changing colors.
The beach is bright blue at this moment. The sea itself is noisy
and bubbling. Down by a huge rock that screens us from the hotel,
we gather in a group and nervously look at each other. I start
to take off my clothes…. slowly. Others pick at buttons and
Suddenly a white flash and a squeal, and there is Renata, naked….
and running across the sand. We laugh helplessly. She screams
and then cartwheels across the beach. Andrew, Guy and I, as
one, tear off our clothes and run hell for leather across the
shore, asses glowing white in the moonlight, and dive straight
into the crashing surf. We bellow in shock as the first waves
hit us, but this is immediately replaced by exhilaration as
we feel the water around our naked bodies. I look towards the
shallows. Everyone is naked and in the water. Our skin tingles.
Salt water in our eyes, the spray sticky in our hair. Nipples
harden. Other extremities shrink. But we are warm as toast from
the madness of it all. We feel tremendous joy at sharing this
as a group… a company. One or two of us are surprised at the
depth of emotion that is surfacing. For a moment, we are a company
completely together and there is something more: There is a
love, an affection, and a recognition that none of us will forget
this one moment… ever.
laugh helplessly. We are children once more… shouting at the
heavens, riding the white horses, diving fearlessly into the
deep… the sea batters us, a huge moon shines, a carpet of stars
wink… and the floodlights colors us purple.
I am looking out through my hotel room's picture windows on
the third floor. Now I am flying across the top of a couple
of palm trees, traveling now over lush vegetation, before swooping
low over the white sands… and out to the sea… the constant of
time… and on to oblivion.
can seem irregular. Some Times seems to go much quicker, other
Times can drag… and other Times just replay in your mind over
and over… and on to oblivion.