I Capture the Castle

I Capture the Castle
I Capture the Castle based on the novel by Dodie Smith Book and lyrics Teresa Howard music Steven Edis

Monday, 26 November 2007


I received an email from the Arts Council asking me to answer three questions concerning the application we have submitted for a grant for the musical. We only have until 3rd of December to come up with the answers, which is not long. I am going to do my best.

I have started the round of phone calls, emails and script sending out again.

I had some very nice emails from the director Guy Retallack, who works for Bill Kenwright's company, but I think it very doubtful that the Kenwright Company will take us on. He has asked to see the next draft of the script so I shall send it to him.

It isn't easy, making art!!

Friday, 23 November 2007


The Writers' Guild held their inaugural Encouragement Award Lunch in the Pit bar at the Old Vic Theatre today. I nominated Clive Paget for his unstinting support for POSSESSED, and wonderfully he received one of the awards. We had a very jolly time at the lunch, which was superb, both for conversation and food! I met some really nice people, and it was especially good to meet David the chairman of the Guild Theatres Committee, and hear his stories about New York.

It is so wonderful to be able to "officially" thank someone for having stood by you and your work for years. We all had to give impromptu speeches and I think I said something about him being my "security blanket", which he has been. What he saw in that first draft I sent him when he was Artistic Director at the Bridewell, I really don’t quite know, it bears very little resemblance to the musical play now sitting on my desk. But without his belief in it I would never have got this far. It was fantastic that he was able to direct the Greenwich showcase, even though he was working at the National by then. Working at the National Studio with Steve at my side was an amazing experience, especially because we had such brilliant actors bringing the characters and the songs to life and Clive's insightful direction .

Clive and I talked with David about that special teacher people often have, the one who inspires you and believes in you. To be honest I think Clive has given me more than any of my teachers and I will carry that with me always.

Monday, 19 November 2007


Jane was born in 1839 in St Helen’s Passage just off Holywell, in Oxford. It was a slum area known as Hell’s Passage. There are numerous descriptions of how she first met the Pre-Raphaelites but they all say that she met them at the theatre in Oxford in 1857.

Jane was eventually persuaded to pose for Rossetti at his lodgings in George Street. He wanted her to sit for a sequence of studies of Guenevere for the Arthurian frescoes he was creating at the Oxford Union with his new acolytes, including the young William Morris. Rossetti did not remain painting Jane for long - his fiancĂ©, Lizzie Siddal called him to her sick bed. Morris took over where his friend left off and began painting Jane as Iseult, but had little aptitude for figurative painting. On the back of the painting he wrote “I cannot paint you but I love you”. Whatever Jane may have felt for Rossetti, he had a fiance and Morris was a wealthy man who seemed to love her passionately. As a poverty stricken girl who was only considered a beauty by Rossetti and his friends and who had compromised her reputation by modelling for artists there was nothing else she could do but accept Morris’s proposal, whether she cared for him or not.

Jane and Morris’s engagement was announced in the spring of 1858. Morris went off on holiday to France with Philip Webb and Charley Faulkner for some months after the engagement, during which time it has been thought that Jane went through some sort of grooming to prepare her for life as Morris’s wife.

Jane and William were married at St Michael’s Parish Church in Oxford on 26th April 1859. There is no record of the Morris family attending the wedding. Jane’s father and sister signed the marriage register. From that day forward her life was changed irrevocably.

Above is a view of the corner of Holywell Street, Oxford, photographed in 1880. William Morris would have seen Oxford just like this on 15th August 1880, when he stopped over for the night on his journey down the Thames on a boat he called “the Ark”. Jane had travelled down to Kelmscott by rail where she waited patiently for him to arrive.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Steve is rehearsing for the new Hackney Empire panto. This year it is “Dick Whittington and His Cat”, and promises to be a spectacular barrel of laughs. It runs from 1st December until 12th January and bookings can be made via the website at www.hackneyempire.co.uk

The cast includes Olivier award-winning Clive Rowe, playing Sarah the cook and Hannah Jane Fox (most recently seen playing Scaramouche in We Will Rock You) playing Dick.

I will be there, cheering and clapping in all the wrong places as usual, and enjoying every minute, much to the embarrassment of my children!

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

Stephanie Pina has a wonderful blog site dedicated to the Pre-Raphaelite women at: http://preraphaelitesisterhood.com

I discoverd on her site that a blue plaque went up on 22nd October, to mark Jane Burden's birthplace. This is Stehanie's quote from the Oxford Mail:

"The beauty of an Oxford “stunner” will be celebrated for all time - following the unveiling of a plaque in her honour.

The blue plaque marks the site of the former slum where Jane Burden was born in 1839.

Jane, wife of the artist, poet and designer William Morris, became the 19th century equivalent of a pin-up girl, after posing as Queen Guinevere in the paintings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and others.

The plaque was unveiled in St Helen’s Passage, which leads from New College Lane to the Turf Tavern, in Oxford city centre."

If you want to find out anything about the Pre-Raphaelite women please go to this site, it is absolutely fabulous!

Saturday, 10 November 2007


I am interested to find out any more evidence of what took place on that first meeting between Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Jane Burden at the theatre in Oxford. From what I have read it is assumed that Gabriel saw her in the gallery, from his place in the stalls. It would be difficult to see anyone in the gallery very well, even if they were tall, especially with the dim victorian gas lighting. All eyes would be on the stage, not looking back towards the gallery. Although biographers presume that Jane was probably in service at the time of their meeting, there is also no actual evidence to back this up, as far as I know.

I had an idea, like a thunderbolt, this morning - perhaps Jane was not a member of the audience - was she perhaps involved with the theatre in some way? Did she secretly long to be an actress? Did she watch every play on at the theatre?

Having the talent of an actress would explain so much - her ability to perform so well in social situations, her linguistic skill in both changing her Oxfordshire accent and learning other languages, and the breadth of her literary knowledge in Shakespeare and Dickens from the very start of her relationship with Morris. She even called Morris a Philistine because he did not like opera or music very much. She was described as "queenly", which seems odd for a woman who began life as a maid, even Nelson's Emma Hamilton never made such a brilliant transformation.

Jane, sits as women from history in so many of Gabriel's paintings... more than any of his other models. Some of the characters she portrayed were: Bruna Brunelleschi, Astarte, Aurea Catena, Beatrice, Proserpine, Desdemona, Isolde, Guenevere, Mariana, Mnemosyne, Pandora, Gretchen, Lady Macbeth and Princess Sabra.

Jane Burden's acting skills seem to be one of the things that drew Rossetti to her, for only she could bring to life so many of the women from history who inspired him. Above is a pencil drawing by Rossetti circa 1875 entitled The Death of Lady Macbeth. In the Catalogue Raisonne no name is given for the model in this drawing, but it is clearly Jane.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

LEGATURI DE SANGE - Spirit of the Muse in Romania

In my quest to understand the nature of the muse I recently found myself in Romania at an amazing art exhibition which is running until 30th November in Bucharest at the Libraria Carturesti on Str. Pictor Artur Verona nr. 13. On the right is a multimedia painting by Ilinca Cantacuzino, from the exhibition, entitled "Ghost" and is the face of her grandfather.

The exhibition is called LEGATURI DE SANGE (In the Blood) and is a joint exhibition between British born Romanian multimedia artist Ilinca Cantacuzino and her grandfather George Matei Cantacuzino. Ilinca never met her grandfather, a Romanian aristocrat who spent many years in prison. "He died when I was six years old. In a way this has enabled him to become my muse" she told me. Looking at her work in the exhibition, it is clear that his spirit not only haunts her paintings in the form of his image but also the colours, the concern with time and memory and the enormous depth of feeling which emanates from these works bond them together with more than blood. This exhibition is unique - two artists, but one is dead and neither knew each other.

Ilinca says that it is "a symbiosis - through which another phenomenon appears: the muse! It actively demonstrates the subconscious dialogue an artist always has in order to create - but here it is with another artist from another time. It proves the undeniable fact that artists operate in one sense from a deeper level which is beyond the immediate time."

Ilinca's relationship with her grandfather has helped me to understand Rossetti's relationship with Lizzie Siddal, whom he continued to paint long after she was dead. Her spirit haunted his work and his mind for the rest of his life. Rossetti was well aware that he always wanted what he could not have. This sense of longing and yearning affects the artist in a creative way, helping them to transform uncontrollable emotion into art and thereby coming closer to the love they long for. Rossetti could never truly have Jane Burden but this helped her to become the channel through which he could connect to the images of women like Proserpine and Astarte - women from another time. For as Ilinca says, this connection is timeless.

The muse produces a "crystillization" process in the artist. In the darkness of yearning, something bright and beautiful appears, almost as if by magic.