Ken Branagh’s film Belfast is an overwhelming and moving experience. It reminds us that the human spirit is resilient. That there is a flame of goodness and decency and compassion in all of us that can flicker and fade but will never be blown out.
Because of the events that Branagh deals with, the vicious sectarian violence and the heavy handed military response which followed, Belfast became a city to avoid. A city synonymous with grief and anger, with lives and hopes cut short.
In 1981, when I was asked to put on a one-man show at the Arts Theatre Belfast during the Festival, I readily agreed. Friends were guarded about my decision. There were bombs going off, and killings and reprisal killings were still a regular feature of life in the city. But the rationale for my travels has always been see it for yourself. If you want to know what people think you have to meet them.
This was the first time I’d ever done a one-man show, and I’d loaded myself with a paraphernalia of costume and prop changes which I knew had to be done fast otherwise I’d lose my audience. So well-rehearsed was I that I ran out of material after 35 minutes. I threw myself on the audience, announcing an early interval (‘ Drink as much as you like’) and a whole second half of Q and A.
The response was fantastic, including a suggestion I try and break the Arts Theatre record for running from the stage, round the auditorium and back onto the stage again which I was told had been set by Sir John Gielgud at 19.5 seconds. ( I beat it by three seconds !) I learnt a valuable lesson in Belfast that night. Listen to the audience. Hear what they say about where they live.
I returned to the Festival two years later with a show called More Than Thirty Five Minutes with Michael Palin. I went back there throughout the 80’s. Though I was offered the Grand Opera House I always preferred the shabby intimacy of the Arts Theatre. It was twenty years before I ever felt the need to do my one-man show anywhere else.
On 22 November highly acclaimed film director, writer and animator Terry Gilliam turned 80 years old!
The BFI marked the occasion by celebrating his film career with the man himself in conversation with writer and broadcaster Jason Solomons. With some exclusive clips, many a tale to tell & some special guests, join us as we raise a glass to a film making legend in true BFI style.
Featuring surprise messages from Michael Palin, John Cleese, Lily Cole, Jonathan Pryce, Mike Edmonds, Charles McKeown, Richard Lagravanese, Christopher Plummer, Olga Kurylenko, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Tilda Swinton.
This weekend two people who I admired very much died. Jan Morrisand Hamish MacInnes. Both were in their 90’s, both had lived quite extraordinary lives, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with both of them. Jan Morris was the author of Venice, one of the best travel books I ever read. It made me want to go to Venice and when I went there, with Helen, in 1967, it made being there even better.
Before she underwent gender reassignment (or ‘changed sex’ as Jan always called it) she was James Morris, the reporter for the Times on the Everest expedition of 1953, and it was he who not only broke the story of Hillary and Tensing’s success, but made sure the news got through on the day of the Queen’s coronation. Continue reading →
Michael Palin heads for rural Pennsylvania and Maine to explore the extraordinary life and work of one of America’s most popular and controversial painters, Andrew Wyeth. Fascinated by his iconic painting Christina’s World, Palin goes in search of the real life stories that inspired this and Wyeth’s other depictions of the American landscape and its hard grafting inhabitants. Tracking down the farmers, friends and family featured in Wyeth’s magically real work, Palin builds a picture of an eccentric, enigmatic and driven painter. He also gets a rare interview with Helga, the woman who put Wyeth back in the headlines when the press discovered he had been painting her nude, compulsively but secretly for 15 years.
Sir Michael Palin joins us to talk about how he’s working to save theatres in lockdown. The Monty Python star tells us what life in lockdown has been life for him and his family, and how he has been coping since fellow Python Terry Jones passed. Broadcast on 26/06/20