My first letter of appreciation to performers was in the late 1980s, to a Cambridge Theatre Company production of Moliere’s “The Misanthrope“, with Tessa Peake-Jones as a very good Celemine. There are various ways to do the end of the play: for example, ambiguous, leaving the possibility that Alceste and Celemine may be reconciled (optimistic, and I like optimism). But in this production it was fairly clear that there wasn’t going to be a reconciliation: a perfectly valid way to end, but when in the bus station I discovered I’d just missed a bus and had to wait nearly 30 minutes on a fairly cold night for the next bus, I wasn’t exactly feeling happy. So I went back to the Poole Arts Centre bar to wait in the warm, and there I observed the actors from “The Misanthrope” talking with a young woman with calipers on her legs who was collecting their autographs. They were simply talking with her as someone interested in the theatre, not patronising her, and my mood lightened, both from what I was seeing, and from remembering an article Derek Malcolm (then the Guardian film critic) had written in the Guardian some years before.
When he was a young boy (in the late 1940s or early 1950s) his mother had taken him to the Coliseum (now the base in London of English National Opera) to see a live performance by Laurel & Hardy. This was long after their film successes of the 1930s, and I assume they didn’t need the money (any evidence to the contrary will be considered) and were simply performing because they liked performing. Anyway, after the performance Derek Malcolm’s mother took him backstage to meet Laurel & Hardy in their dressing room. She managed to get herself and Derek in to see Laurel & Hardy (I suspect she’d have much more difficulty these days), and for a considerable period of time (maybe half an hour?) Laurel & Hardy entertained and put on a performance for just one young boy.
I’m not particularly fond of Laurel & Hardy’s films, but I think that story shows them both in a very good light, and I wrote to the Cambridge Theatre Company, saying how much I’d appreciated their production of “The Misanthrope” even though it had a pessimistic ending, and then saying what I’ve just set out above.
(It’s not important to finish that story, but for completeness: I had simply wanted to express my appreciation, and I wasn’t expecting any reply. But a month or so later, I did get a letter from the administrator of the theatre company apologising – quite unnecessarily – for her delay in replying, but she had wanted all the cast to see my letter before she replied, adding that the ending had been something the director and Tessa Peake-Jones had thought about, and they had made a conscious decision to have that downbeat ending. So whilst I hadn’t been expecting a reply, I was relieved to learn that my letter had been well received.)