Drury Lane Centenary Celebrations of Noel Coward's Birth
The following text was written by Richard Ellis a member who attended the Drury Lane commemoration of Noel Coward's birth on 16th December 1999. It has been reprinted from the Marvellous Party email list archive and is put here with photographs sent in by Judy Shakespear, a member of the Society. Our thanks go to both of them and Marvellous Party.
Richard says ...
" If I'm not too late, may I publicly thank all involved for arranging the Drury Lane 'do'. It was a marvellous experience - particularly for me as I had not been able to make it to any of the other local celebratory events. As if a chance meeting with Michael Imison over a bacon sandwich in the coffee bar opposite the theatre were not excitement enough, the small ceremony is something I shall long remember with great happiness. As people arrived, there was a suitably informal air about the theatre foyer with The Master's Voice piped in ("Something To Do With Spring" is all I actually remember hearing, but I couldn't help humming along with others).
It was a great shame that Messrs Payn and Mills were unable to attend that morning, and I wish both well in their respective recuperations. Vanessa Redgrave's speech was personal and touching, dealing with her childhood memories of Noel Coward (he was the only one of their parents' friends, she said, who took the time to talk to the children as individuals, asking about their thoughts and opinions instead of merely acknowledging them and returning to 'grown up' conversation with the parents), and his later visits
to her dressing rooms, during one of which he apparently gave her a special piece of advice which fortifies her at times of difficulty. A piece of advice so special, she said, that she would take it to her grave. Well I say, we're a select little band here at the Marvellous Party. You can surely share it with US?? Ah well, party-goers... I tried.
I was particularly taken by Judy Campbell's speech. She reminisced eloquently about parties she and Noel had attended, troop concert tours, a picnic in Hyde Park during the war when she had invited some sailors to join them - around the time Noel was writing 'In Which We Serve'. As she continued, I believe I saw nostalgic tears in her eyes, which immediately prompted them to my own.
After the flowers had been laid on the statue, we adjourned upstairs for drinkies. I believe I was able to chat to some extent with almost everyone present - a particular thrill for me as there seemed to be very few people there who had not at some time worked with or for him, or been in some way directly connected to Noel. Possibly for the first time in the 30 years or so since I first became interested in Noel Coward the icon, I really believe I began to get a feel of Noel Coward as a person.
Great to meet Gareth of course - congrats again on forming the society. It was wonderful to hear the various ideas you have for the future. Count me in!
My only regret of the day is that I did not get to chat with Miss Campbell as she was whisked away for interviews, etc. - none of which I saw because, to use Michael I's terminology, I read neither the 'right' nor 'wrong' papers, and haven't had the luxury of being near a radio or TV for days!! So any postings about those would be warmly received in the Ellis household. By the way, after the ceremony, I went to the matinee of 'Song At
Twilight' - the Regraves' family outing. I believe it has had mixed reviews, but I was delighted by it, and have been advising actor friends to pop along to see how the job ought to be done.
Well, there it is. The piece I've been meaning to write. And wouldn't you know it, I haven't done justice to the day as I'd hoped to, but it's the best I can come up with when I really ought to be wrapping presents and putting tinsel on trees. I hope those who couldn't make it to Drury Lane will at least have a sense of the atmosphere from this. It was a happy, happy day for me and it's been lovely catching up with the party emails today, to see the many varied ways in which the Master's birthday has been celebrated around the world." - Richard Ellis and Judy Shakespear
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 Copyright - The Noel Coward Society - May 2001