Sunday, 18 June 2017

"Frying tonight!"



We've had a bit of a hectic weekend, all told - topped off by spending five-and-a-half hours in the blazing sunshine (the hottest day of the year so far) revisiting the magnificence of Kew Gardens today...

But yesterday afternoon was spent in far different surroundings - the Phoenix Artist Club, a gloriously atmospheric (and "typically Soho") basement members' club under the Phoenix Theatre. And what would possibly draw us away from the delights of hot'n'steamy London in midsummer?

An audience with the timeless siren Miss Fenella Fielding, of course!

Now in her 90th year, Miss Fielding is one of the most captivating of "English eccentrics", and, although frail, remains utterly composed, witty and adroit. Most famous for her on-screen "posh vamp" roles in such movies as Drop Dead Darling, The Old Dark House, and, of course, her most famous role as "Valeria Watt" in Carry On Screaming, nevertheless her long, long acting career has encompassed many stage roles of a "weightier" (if wildly disparate) nature - including in plays by Ibsen, Shakespeare and Henry James, a one-woman show on the life and works of Collette, a musical version of Ronald Firbank's Valmouth, a dramatised performance of the letters between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, and revues written by Harold Pinter(!) and Peter Cook.

And it was for her sumptuous reading of chapters from her memoir (named after the most-quoted line from Carry On Screaming - "Do you mind if I smoke?") that we devoted our Saturday. She has all the gen" on many of the famous names of theatre and film - she turned Fellini down for a role he was chasing her for; and worked with numerous stars of her day including Ron Moody (who encouraged her early career), Kenneth Williams, Dirk Bogarde, Tony Curtis and Janette Scott. Yet, had her parents (particularly her father) had their way, she would never have got to RADA, nor landed the parts in revue that began her career. One of the anecdotes she gave us was of her experiences of running away, ending up in rather swanky yet Bohemian digs in Mayfair, and how her mother and auntie finally caught up with her (as she was in the bath!).

Other pieces she read included her time as a tutor for drama students - imparting such invaluable advice on "technique" as how to sit in a chair on stage without fumbling, performing in panto, and how to successfully do an "audience aside"; and she also treated us to some little vignettes of Fenella the naive schoolgirl, such as this one:


This was a superb event, and we loved it!

Facts:
  • Miss Fielding was turned down the role of the first female "Avenger" opposite Patrick McNee, in favour of Honor Blackman.
  • In The Prisoner, hers was the voice of the Village Announcer throughout the series.
  • She was the voice of "the Blue Queen" in cult children's classic Dougal and the Blue Cat.
  • Her older brother (also still alive) is the Tory peer Lord Feldman.
Fenella has one further date in the series of readings to promote her memoir, but she has many more plans up her sleeve and shows no sign of stopping - all the news is, or will be, on her official website.

6 comments:

  1. How fab. I would have loved to have been there.

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    Replies
    1. She was wonderful - and there's still time to book for Saturday :-)

      Jx

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  2. Well! That was a stunning evening!Lucky you.

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