This unfinished grisaille fire-screen sits in the dining-room fireplace at our cottage. Few people notice it or pass comment on it, perhaps because it’s so clearly an unfinished object. It dates from the period after my career in the theatre, and yet before I’d met Peter. I painted it in the little hut at Tretower Court that was my place of work for seven long years.
In 1983 I’d written, designed, choreographed and directed a production of Humpty Dumpty at the New Theatre, Cardiff. The following year it transferred to the Dominion Theatre in London, where I re-staged it with a slightly changed cast. The production had been magnificently realised in the scenic and costume workshops of the Welsh National Opera and the Bristol Old Vic. My friend Liz Sangster, who regularly comments here on the Artlog, supervised the painting of the sets and cloths.
In the Prologue of the production the Fairy Godmother entered the stage on a unicorn. The part was played in Cardiff and in the West End by my friend and long-time colleague Ann Morris. I wrote the role and designed the character’s wardrobe with her in mind.
During the long winter days of that first year at Tretower, I set myself the task of conjuring something tangible from my memories of the production. (I think I needed to remind myself that I’d done it!) The screen was cut from wood by my cousin Eric on his jigsaw, using a template I’d supplied. However Ann’s likeness didn’t appear in the painting. Instead I drew on memories of my late mother as a young woman.
Behind the equestrienne a ribbon un-scrolls. All these years on the Fairy’s opening words inscribed on it are almost too faint to read. But that doesn’t matter because I wrote them, and know them by heart:
“We are the stars in the sky, and we only come down to visit those who have been very, very good.”