No Time For Memoirs

“Joan gave us a lot of rope. 

And sometimes we did hang ourselves!”

Maggie Bury Walker

 

Maggie 3

The Low Down

The official blurb for the documentary, NO TIME FOR MEMOIRS – which is still chomping at the bit, to release itself from captivity – reads:

“This is the story of a woman who spent fourteen years working in a variety of roles with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop, before setting up and running East 15 Acting School – where she applied the philosophy and practice of Joan’s unique methods into a new approach to actor training”

Maggie Corbett

Photograph Courtesy of Margaret Sheehy

The Game Was Afoot!

In the Summer of 2010, on a wave of nostalgia, fuelled by a night on the sauce, Ruth Urquhart and I set off in pursuit of Maggie Bury Walker – an enigma, wrapped up in a riddle who had been director at East 15 Acting School whilst we were students there some years earlier.

After a bit of searching we located Maggie in the South of France.

So off we set on a night ferry…

 

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I do wander everywhere, swifter than the moon’s sphere – Cobweb (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Located, Located, Located!

After a long car journey, we finally arrived in a small village near Rochefort in the South of France.

In true East 15 fashion, Maggie was standing waiting for us on an upstairs balcony – she clearly hadn’t lost her sense of the dramatic moment as she called out our names from above like a long-forgotten Juliet.

 

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Ruth with Maggie

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Maggie & Me 

As If No Time Had Passed At All…

We were warmly welcomed into Maggie’s home – she had prepared a meal and stocked up on wine supplies. So, an evening in her back kitchen commenced and soon it became clear that we wouldn’t get much in the way of sleep that night.  We chatted into the wee small hours of the morning about life, theatre and the importance of keeping a sense of fun about yourself.

We also chatted about the love of her life, Wilf Walker, who’d passed away just a couple of months before we arrived. She told us how much he’d been looking forward to seeing us. It was all still very raw.

By the time we crawled to our rooms it felt as if the years had disappeared and time had barely passed at all.

What followed was a wonderful three days of anecdotes, stories, philosophies and memories.

We’d struck gold.

 

Hatfields 1

East 15 Acting School 

E15 Survival 2.jpg

Survival for Actors!

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Courtesy of Margaret Sheehy

Sheriff Show Ian C

Chekhov at Sherriff Hutton

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Courtesy of Margaret Sheehy

Archery at sheriff

Archery at Sheriff Hutton Park (1980s)

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Courtesy of Margaret Sheehy

Rumours

Later that year, Maggie travelled to Essex to visit her grandchildren.  Whilst she was in the country, she arranged for us to do a follow up shoot, this time at the home of East 15 alumni, Maureen Sweeney.

Maureen gave us another warm welcome and we enjoyed a night of fun and laughter recalling some of the rumours about the school that had now passed into legend!

Wild stories about the goings on at East 15 used to run rife back then.  One in particular was very popular – it was widely believed that we’d all go naked into the woods to rehearse plays!  I informed Maggie that I’d heard this rumour when I was a student and taken myself off into Epping Forest where I’d hung about in the buff for a while.  I claimed I’d wandered around in the nude in character and nobody else came.  Although I did startle several squirrels.

The laughter continued as we shared some of the other rumours we’d heard back in those days.

 

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IMG_1377.jpgMaggie’s words from an E15 prospectus

 

 

 

photo-15Me up a tree 1990

photo 10Woman up a tree 1976

The dream 2

A Cast up a tree (1980s)

If we shadows have offended

Think but this, and all is mended

That you have but slumbered here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding, but a dream

Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

 

And in the end…

Our time spent filming in France was unforgettable – as young women back at East 15, we’d both been in awe of Maggie, but now, having been welcomed into her home where she generously shared the story of her life with us, discussing how she used and developed Joan’s methods for actor training and recounting precious memories about her school through the years, we felt we now knew Maggie the woman. And what a woman she was!

The resulting documentary NO TIME FOR MEMOIRS will also include the voices of many alumni from each decade of Maggie’s directorship at East 15 and will build up a picture of what it was like to be an actor in training in this unique environment.

 

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“Tomorrow there is always more to learn” 

Maggie Bury Walker

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Free For All

I find myself constantly inspired by the work & legacy of Joan Littlewood. All the best people have an MI5 file!

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