Frears, Stephen (2 of 11).  The legacy of the English Stage Company.

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  • Recording date

    2008-08-27, 2008-09-02, 2008-09-30, 2008-10-14, 2008-11-10, 2009-02-20, 2009-04-07

  • Interviewees

    Frears, Stephen, 1941- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Devine, Harriet (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: [Session 2: 2 September 2008] SF best man at RF’s second marriage [to ME], in Finsbury Town Hall, two days after JoF’s grand wedding. ChF and JoF not present. History of RF’s relationship with ME; visit of SF to Strasbourg; RF leading new life, learning French, with ME. Marriage in 1962. ME in rep at Nottingham Playhouse; her son Chris Bond at wedding; a bit younger than SF. Julian Bond her older son. SF no memory of being told about RF’s new relationship. SF’s memory of rows, relief that they were over; his romanticised view of RF. Content of rows; banality. SF’s intoxication with idea of more romantic life. SF’s year in Nottingham after school; his failure to get into Cambridge; his teenage withdrawal, lack of thought for the future. Sitting and failing Cambridge Entrance in Dec 1958. In Sept 1959, Hugh Willet [HW], friend of RF, arranging SF’s attendance at local grammar school, taught by wonderful headmaster Harry Davis. SF’s introduction to life. Sat Cambridge Entrance exam in Dec, passed. SF’s view that he should have been at grammar school, a more relevant education. Link to ‘Look Back in Anger’, its relevance to real life. SF’s membership of amateur theatrical company; discovering the working classes, as was happening at RCT. Plays done at theatre group [15.44]; SF’s desire to act, to be part of theatre life. Seeing actress Ann Bell in street in Nottingham. Meeting Lindsay Anderson [LA] in 1960. SF’s school friendship with Robin Culver, son of Roland Culver and Daphne Rye [DR], visiting DR’s house in Majorca. Description of DR and her house; her husband Sam Ainley [SA], his romantic background. Other visitors: John Gieigud, Daniel Massey, LA. Brilliance of LA; his RCT connections. Activities at DR’s house; exotic food; conversations. SF’s theatre-going, fortnightly in Nottingham, and on visits to London; plays seen. Cambridge Entrance; SF’s choice to read law; selection of Trinity College, where RF and ChF had been; his passivity. Taking job (early 1960) at Players cigarette factory. 2 months in Grenoble learning French; seeing ‘nouvelle vague’ films; importance of films seen in Nottingham, ‘Room at the Top’, ‘Saturday Night Sunday Morning’; living in place they were about; a contributory factor for future career [31.02] Opening up of European cinema; a good time to be alive. Digs in Grenoble; socialising with foreign students. Friendships in Nottingham; older friend Paul Woddis. SF’s early ineptitude with girls; bad behaviour with girls in Cambridge; his first wife his first proper relationship. Going to Cambridge, October 1960; driving with RF; living in digs. Familiarity of going away from home. Lack of interest in academic life; sense of doing wrong subject. Advantages of Cambridge: meeting future rulers of Britain; fulfilling the programming. Getting to know interesting people: Richard Eyre [RE]; Footlights Company, working at ASM with John Cleese; seeing Ian McKellan at Arts Theatre in Cambridge, with Corin Redgrave [CR], SF’s terror of sophistication of CR’s background; Trevor Nunn [TN]. Joining Amateur Dramatic Society [ADC] [45.15]. SF’s production of a musical, ‘Expresso Bongo’ [EB], as deliberately vulgar gesture; wanting to be a theatre director, until discovery of film; his lack of acting talent. Cast of EB; it success; its relation to SF’s later films, combination of vulgarity and intelligence, a wonderful formula, precise description of SF’s best films. SF’s irritation with dulness of TN’s Cambridge productions. University vacations; stopping going home. Cambridge digs; walking to lectures with John Cleese; racy digs in Portugal Place. Lack of plans on graduation; applying to TV trainee schemes; being turned down by Granada TV and BBC. Sent by Arts Council, via HW, to Farnham Rep; working as ASM, acting, making scenery; directing. Director Joan Knight. Living out of town with theatre carpenter. HW, a solicitor, married to painter Evelyn Gibbs; meeting HW mid-50s, a neighbour; HW becoming a trustee of SF’s inheritance; chairman of board of Nottingham Playhouse; political dispute over building of new theatre; SF painting graffitti slogans [1:00:54]. HW becoming secretary general of Arts Council; SF’s continued relationship with him; seeing him at Hammersmith funeral; HW’s own funeral. SF’s production at Farnham; meeting actor Alfred Lynch; introduction to Anthony Page [AP]; getting job at RCT. Nature of Farnham rep. RCT in 1964; renovations going on; AP running theatre; SF and Peter Gill [PG] as Assistant Directors; PG looking after SF. PG constantly on phone to his family, organising their lives. SF’s lack of sophistication; frightening people. Hearing Nichol Williamson’s lines. Casting. Being championed by LA. Later compliment by Bill Gaskill on SF’s TV film, ‘The Deal’. SF’s offices at RCT. Working for AP on ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’; criticising casting; going out to see plays in London and elsewhere, talent spotting. GD’s occasional presence; SF’s admiration for him; his wisdom; his scurrilous stories.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Stephen Frears, film and television director.

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