You know cousin Angela, George’s granddaughter, acts
- Credit: Archant
It was the realisation of a long-held dream.
George Lansbury, politician, pacifist and social reformer was born in north Suffolk. There’s a bit of iffing and butting about the exact location of his birth but Halesworth seems to be the preferred choice. Consequently, I have always thought of his granddaughter, the fabulous Angela Lansbury as an almost-relative. In Suffolk and Norfolk cousins can be more than just friends.
George was also grandfather to Oliver Postgate which probably explains why I have such an affinity with the Clangers.
Anyway, as a result of Angela being a treasured aunt I have followed her career closely. When she starred in Bedknobs and Broomsticks in the Seventies I was working as an usherette at the cinema. I watched the film some 50 or so times but never tired of her performance. Indeed, I can still repeat most of it.
As a Broadway star she fell off my radar for a while but then came Murder She Wrote, the tales of crime-solving sleuth and best-selling author of whodunnits, Jessica Fletcher. Angela Lansbury was the star. Over the years, we saw Mrs Fletcher graduate from a manual typewriter to an electronic keyboard, from neat two-piece suits to shoulder pads big enough for helicopters to land on. As a detective, her unerringly correct conclusions were always prompted by a chance remark.
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In the latest New Year’s Honours, Angela Lansbury, an American citizen, became a Dame.
When I read that she was to appear in the West End as Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s comedy, Blithe Spirit, I knew I had to see the show. It also reminded me that age should be no deterrent to ambition. It would be indelicate to mention her vintage but she is easily old enough to be my mum. And I am 59. I assume it is not immodest to mention my own age. (Shouldn’t think so, Lynne, you do it every week. Ed)
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Madam Arcati is a psychic medium and mystic who attends a seance and conjures up the ghost of a man’s first wife, Elvira. Charles, now married to Ruth, can see her but no one else can.This causes some acute marital friction between Charles and both his wives. Madame Arcati, hugely excited by this rare success, is then summoned to dispel Elvira.
Now, I’m not a demonstrative type in the theatre, except on stage. I don’t like it when people make noises or move. If I was ever to be arrested for assault the most likely victims would be members of a theatre audience who, during a performance:
(a) unwap sweets with sellophane wrappers;
(b) exit from the middle of the row in the middle of a scene;
(c) look at the illuminated screens of their mobile phones;
(d) talk during the overture;
(e) cough the whole time;
(f) whoop inappropriately during course of a play; (especially Shakespeare: see Stephen Fry first entrance, Twelfth Night);
(g) dig their knees into the back of my seat;
(h) spread their legs or elbows into my space, which I have paid for;
(i) turn up late with a McDonalds;
(j) Or stand up to ovate directly in front of me when I want to stay seated.
Not that I’m especially picky.
When Miss Lansbury made her first entrance there was applause and though I couldn’t quite bring myself to join in – unnecessary noise – I was delighted to see her.
It’s a brilliant play; so witty, so well observed, and cousin Angela was consummate. I don’t know if the lines that sounded as if they were direct from Cabot Cove were in the script or not. It didn’t matter. The curtain came down on the first act and I clapped as enthusiastically as the next man, the one taking up most of my arm rest... quell the red mist, Lynne.
We spent the interval eating wine gums and there, a few rows more expensive, stood magician Paul Daniels, eating an ice cream. The lovely Debbie McGee remained seated.
Act two and the inimitable Miss Lansbury was, well, inimitable. That’s the East Anglian in her.
At the end, her final bow prompted a wave of love and a standing ovation. And yes, for her, I stood.