Costume design for Ann Casson as Nurse/Chorus ELECTRA
A curious moving tale of serendipity
I thought I’d write this because it inspires me to trust that I have no control over or way of knowing how things will unfold. There is mysterious energy at play with its truth to tell
I feel this codicil will interest the many people from that time at Leicester Haymarket who, like me, had great affection for Michael
This October completely out of the blue I got an email from a French address saying ‘I acquired your original costume design from a house clearance whilst living down in The Charente’
Caroline Harris had found me via my website in a google search, she was ‘making choices about letting go of loved pictures’ and thought she’d return my drawing to me!
I got very excited, a blast from the past my life in the late 1970’s
After graduating from Central St. Martins as a theatre designer, my first professional job was as one of the three resident designers at Leicester Haymarket
and I designed ELECTRA directed by Michael Meacham
Orestes NIGEL BENNETT
Mentor ROBIN WENTWORTH
Electra HEATHER SEARS
Chorus (nurse) ANN CASSON
Chrysothemis ELIZA McCLELLAND
Clytemnestra JANE HYLTON
Aegisthus BRIAN JACKSON
Michael took a liking to my drawing of Ann Casson as the nurse and had insisted that I gave to him. In those days I had great difficulty parting with my work, so I probably did it with little grace.
With hindsight I see how treasured it was and how dear to his heart the production was.
That period in the history of Leicester Haymarket had a seminal impact on my life and shaped many careers
In the early 1980’s Michael went from directing the shows that interested him to leading the artistic policy of the Haymarket. The politics that came with the role had little appeal for him and by the mid 80’s he retired from theater and moved to Charente
After his move to France I never heard from him, nor did anyone else that I knew from those days, he had turned over a new page, leaving behind this part of his life
Fast forward 30+ years and as I exchange emails, with the lady in France who had a costume drawing with my name on it, I discovered another a piece of the jigsaw
Caroline Harris (herself an actress for 35 before moving to France to paint and restore derelict houses) wrote that in 2015 she ‘was taken to this dust encrusted abandoned house…. every room was piled high with the memorabilia of two theatrical lives and I wanted to save it all. I couldn’t of course, so I decided to save one thing – and it was your Nurse who was whispering Save Me.’ Michaels lifelong partner, the writer and translator Derek Coltman died in 2012 and Michael ‘the survivor had let the house and garden go around him for the three years that he out lived the other. Such a sad, sad story and I can still recall the smell of grief that pervaded the place.’ Reading these lines, it makes me tearful all over again, the deep sadness of loss. In tune with the melancholy of this autumn and my own sense of letting go as the season is laid bear and winter takes hold
As I sit at my computer ‘the nurse’ is back and all the more precious for the beauty she has inspire in the people she has touched.
I’ll leave you with Caroline’s words
‘I came to have your design and I have loved her on your behalf for the three years since that unforgettable day’
Michael, bless you and the lovely Caroline for her open heart.
Michael Meacham was born on June 4, 1931 and died on April 25, aged 83.
Obituary by Michael Quinn – Jul 14, 2015