Back in my student days I used to live behind a library which was owned by an ex-Polytechnic University. One day, library staff decided to have a spring-clean and filled a skip with lots of old books, slides, tapes and records from the 1970’s. Gleefully, I joined several other students in rummaging through the contents of the skip much to the amusement of the Security Staff.
Among the booty was this fantastic record from 1978 – ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour’ – a play for actors and orchestra by Tom Stoppard and André Previn. Among the cast were Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen.
I enjoyed listening to it and thought nothing more of the record until the opportunity arose to go and see Patrick Stewart in Macbeth at the Gielgud Theatre in London in 2007. I took the record along with me hoping to catch Sir Stewart after the show and would ask if he could sign it?
While waiting outside the stage door after the show, a group of women glanced over at what I was carrying and started to talk among themselves; ‘Well, you do know that he won’t sign any old tat don’t you? I’ve seen people ask him to sign things before and he gets quite angry. He won’t sign anything apart from programmes and maybe the odd headshot.’
With this in mind, I couldn’t decide whether to ask him to sign the record. I did have a programme – so maybe I should just stop at that? While I was trying to decide, he emerged from the theatre wearing a baseball cap pulling it down over his head and started to sign programmes. Someone tried to take a picture of him prompting a shout of ‘Why did you have to do that? There was no need to do that!’ – Maybe the gaggle of women were right? Reaching a compromise, I decided to put my programme on top of the record to give Patrick Stewart something to lean on while he was signing.
When he came round to sign my programme, Patrick removed it and looked in astonishment at the record underneath; ‘My! What’s this? I haven’t seen one of these for years! I’ve got two at home myself you know! Take care of it – they’re very rare!’ and with a flourish he signed both the record and my programme. I temporarily forgot how to talk, mumbled something which sounded vaguely like ‘Thank You,’ and ran off skipping like the little excited girl I’d suddenly become.
Time passed and another opportunity came up to go and see both Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen in a production of Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2009. Bearing in mind that I already had Patrick’s signature on the record, I fired off this letter to the theatre ahead of the visit to see the production.
Unfortunately I didn’t hear anything back before seeing ‘Waiting For Godot’, but I still waited by the stage door in the hope of meeting some of the cast. As it was a matinee, the staff told everyone that was waiting that Sir Mckellen wouldn’t be coming out as he was resting between shows. 10 minutes later, Patrick emerged and started to sign the programmes.
He was patient and made sure that he signed everyone’s programmes before going on his way. I went on my way and added the programme to the growing collection of his signatures.
Again I settled into my daily routine and the latest theatre adventure settled into the cloudy confines of my memory. One day I received a letter through the post, it was handwritten – but in my own handwriting. ‘Oh, no,’ I thought ‘I’m beginning to lose it. Why I am I sending myself letters?’ I tentatively began to open it but the contents caused a big smile to sprout across my face –
I’d enclosed a self addressed envelope and some writing paper when I fired that letter off to the theatre. Even though I’d stated that I had his signature on the record, lovely Patrick Stewart had taken the time to write back with a signed photo and signed the blank writing paper.
Happy 70th birthday Patrick Stewart!!