With grateful thanks to Harriet, who stops by here, for sending me a copy of her book Being George Devine's Daughter which I've been picking up in between my Hamilton-Horatio fest and which I have really enjoyed.We exchanged views on here some time ago about how our minds were imprinted with monochrome images from our childhood before colour TV had made its entrance, and this book cover says it all.
What follows is an engagingly honest and personal look at a fascinating life.
I'm not sure how many people were conceived on the sofa at the home of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh but Harriet was one of them and was then blessed with Peggy Ashcroft as a godmother just to really seal the deal.Her father George Devine was the first artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre and her mother Sophie one of the talented stage designers working under the famous name of Motley.
Harriet's formative years were spent in the company of some of the greats in the theatre world and the pages of this book just drip famous names.The Redgraves, Arnold Wesker, John Osborne, Joan Plowright. among them, to say nothing of the famous owners of the sofa.Harriet must have seen more first nights than the rest of us put together and probably the first act of more plays than you and I know existed.This because her father famously rarely sat through any production for a minute longer.
But this was all normal every day life for Harriet and beneath all this apparently glitzy and exciting life were the usual rigours of childhood and adolescence going on much as they probably did for any of us.
Harriet and I had quite a few things in common in that case.Not only the coat and furry gloves and the unfathomable mysteries of Mathematics,but we certainly share a school dinner refusal moment.
Hers was the grey mashed potato, mine the prunes.Both of us in our respective educational establishments sitting out an entire afternoon in front of a dish of poison.I didn't need to eat a prune to know it was vile and to this day I can safely say I have never knowingly eaten one.
A vow never broken, not even in those desperate moments post-natally when you are assured prunes are exactly what you need.No thank you, bring me the All-Bran.
With the precision of a child's eye and one gradually moving through adolescence and the pain of her parent's marriage break-up and into adulthood, Harriet provides a fascinating window on a world that remains largely unknown for many of us which is what makes this such a rewarding read.Different perspectives on seemingly known worlds are getting harder and harder to find and they need to be recorded.
I'm sure Harriet won't thank me for calling her a primary historical source but here you have an insider first-hand view of the exciting world of theatre land in the immediate post-war era plus a good deal of the pain and anguish too.
It's another of those books that matter.