Fox as Betjeman on Brighton stage

Edward in rehearsals
Edward in rehearsals
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Edward Fox continues to explore the life and work of John Betjeman in the one-man play Sand In The Sandwiches (Brighton Theatre Royal, June 27-July 1).

The piece celebrates a man famous not only for light verse and laughter, but for his passions, his sense of purpose and his unforgettable poetry. Through boyhood, his adolescence, to life as Britain’s Poet Laureate, Sand in the Sandwiches promises an entertaining insight into the world of a much-loved and irreverent writer.

As Edward says, there’s huge responsibility as the sole performer in a show about someone who actually lived and breathed.

“But then again my father always used to say to me ‘No one forced you to do it, duckie!’”

Was the thought much comfort?

“No, not an awful lot. But he was absolutely right!”

The good news is that Edward finds himself in the hands of playwright Hugh Whitemore.

“Hugh is a lovely man and he is a magnificent playwright. I am lucky enough to have done things that he has written before, A Letter of Resignation, about when Profumo resigned. He wrote the wonderful part of Harold Macmillan which I played.

“Hugh is a very experienced writer. We are both of an age now, and he has spent his life writing. He has always said to me that he can’t spend a day without getting down to writing something. Hugh’s writing is tremendously honest, and he is a great craftsman and a great constructor of plays. He takes an idea and he lives with it all day long, day after day.”

Edward has done a one-man show before: “It was a programme that the director and I devised based on episodes from the Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope. We took it on tour and to the Riverside Studios in London. It didn’t come off frightfully well at the Riverside because it was one of those theatres that was on the way to being abandoned.

“But yes, I have done a one-man show before. I don’t think there is a particular technique. It is just that you have got to think of yourself as an actor for an hour and a half solidly rather than just in bits and pieces.

“But the great thing about this particular programme with the Betjeman is that you have got to feel that there is a valid reason to be doing it at all, and I do. You have got to feel that it is useful and important and helpful and above all entertaining. Entertainment is the absolutely-crucial thing, and John Betjeman would have voted for that. John Betjeman’s poetry looks to entertain.”

And his poetry could be on the way back.

“I suppose the thing about even the greatest artists, whether they are musical or literary, is that time takes its toll everywhere you will. The thing about the really important writers and musicians is that they find a way of coming back. I don’t know quite how, but how is less important than the fact that the less important ones fade away over the course of time, but there is a funny, magical way that the best ones survive.”

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