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Alan Howard

10 November 2003

I was talking heretofore about heroes, and how I'm not supposed to have them any more, and yet I do; and, what, just a couple of weeks after I do the Steve-Bell-and-Terry-Jones thing, suddenly I'm doing it again. And you'll forgive me, I know name-dropping is supposed to be a bad thing, but what the hell. Into each life a little excitement's gotta fall, and there's no point keeping a log if you don't log the fun stuff.

Preamble: this is not the name-dropping, we haven't got there yet, but Sean O'Brien has been a mate of mine for years now, I've known him the better part of a decade. He's a friend, a drinking-partner and someone to have an intellectual argument with any time I fancy losing in that very thorough way that leaves you mentally lying sprawled in the gutter with your teeth knocked loose; but he's also - in my estimation - the leading poet of his generation, and on his way now to becoming a genuinely important playwright also. So I was something more than flattered a couple of months back, when he asked me to go round to his place and help with a read-through of his new play, Keepers of the Flame.

I love to read aloud, other people's work as well as my own, poetry or drama as well as prose. This was both, it's a play in blank verse about art and fascism and Mephistophelean deals; it was a pleasure and a privilege to be a part (well, several parts) of the read-through, and I entirely enjoyed myself.

I also got invited to the guest night when the play opened at Live Theatre in Newcastle this week. Which meant I got to go and have a drink first, and then watch real actors go where I had gone before (and treasure a little private whisper in the back of my head that just knew that I was better...), and then hang out again after while the cast came through to party.

Which meant - and so we come to it at last - that I got to speak to Alan Howard. Who has been my idol of a classical actor these twenty-some years, since I saw him play Richard III with the RSC; and he's still the best Richard I've ever seen, and this was my chance to tell him so. I am, of course, not worthy, but sometimes you've just got to go there anyway.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.