Self portrait

… by JOHN TURNER, Adam Knight of Granada’s Knight Errant ’60

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From the TVTimes for week commencing 10 April 1960

OF all the things I dabble in, drawing cartoons gives me aa much fun as any — probably because of a knack I have of isolating a person’s most telling characteristic.

Now, in trying to single out a clue to my own character, I cannot do better, I think, than borrow the immortal words “Sometimes I sits and thinks; sometimes I just sits.”

There it is in a nutshell. The fact is I have an inexhaustible capacity for doing nothing. I am lazy about anything that smacks of work. But acting, because it was something I once did for fun, is excluded.

I was a member of three amateur dramatic societies while still at school in Nottingham. Since then, I have never thought of acting as anything but fun.

My family having no theatrical connections, however, (my father was in the decorating business until he started teaching), it never occurred to me to take up acting professionally.

The idea of my doing so came from Leigh Crutchley, then Drama Adviser of Nottingham Council. He started me working for my Royal Academy of Dramatic Art scholarship, giving me unlimited coaching and encouragement.

Until then, my fondness for animals had made it seem more natural for me to try to become a veterinary surgeon. But as Latin did not come naturally to me, I gave that idea up. Figures baffled me, too. Science interested me at school (and astronomy still does) but the maths involved, the theories and principles, have always been a stumbling block.

I am also rather impractical, and the combination of all these drawbacks seemed to rule out all the usual jobs.

I suppose I could have become a photographer — I have always enjoyed getting an unusual picture. The snag was that I knew I should never have the application to master the technicalities, or cope with the routine work.

Once I decided to go on the stage, though, I knew for certain that it was the only job for me — the only one where I could be wholeheartedly happy.

I realise now that long before this I had been unconsciously conditioned to my present way of life. We lived in London until the outbreak of war when my father took up a teaching appointment at the Nottingham School of Arts.

My memories of those early days are a bit disjointed, but it was undoubtedly as a child that I assimilated from my father a great deal that was to give me tremendous satisfaction. For instance, I developed a feeling for texture, and an eye for line and colour.

I like to see good design in common household things like pots and pans, tables and chairs. And — right in character – the line of a motor car means much more to me than what is under the bonnet.

Recently, however, I did paint our old cottage near Stratford-on-Avon. Mind you, it was only my anxiety to see a job finished that kept me at it. Another time I would be only too glad to hand over the interminable business to an expert.

But we would still do the designing ourselves. Thisbe and I (my wife is a Stratford girl and named after Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream) have a lot of fun with colour schemes.

The simple lines of the cottage called for white walls, dark floors and white rugs. Our soft furnishings are in plain, light colours and we like to vary contemporary furniture with what I believe to be the only antique that goes with it – Elizabethan.

For ornament I am fond of brass, particularly old telescopes. I have several 18th century ones and they make pleasant decoration. I also use them to look at the stars.

When I was working in London we used the cottage only for occasional weekends. It might happen again but Stratford will remain our permanent home.

We both know Stratford well. Thisbe was brought up here — her father was born in the adjoining cottage — and as a schoolboy I often visited the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. Then after leaving the Academy I joined the company, and the three years I was there cemented my liking for Warwickshire — the heart of England. From Stratford I returned to Nottingham — this time as a professional actor in the repertory company. In 1955 I went to London, and later to Moscow, with Peter Brook’s production of Hamlet. I had already toured Australasia with the Stratford company.

After this came two plays in London — with our marriage sandwiched between them. One of these, No Time For Sergeants, ran for 18 months.

It was then that I did a lot of drawing. Flatteringly, people sometimes ask why I never try to sell my drawings. But, even if I thought there was a market for them, I should never have the necessary drive and ambition.

With music it is the same. I wish I played some instrument, but I know I would never practise. Oh, I tinkle away at the piano sometimes, but nothing much comes out. So I have to get my music — jazz preferably — from the gramophone.

But to make a professional job of anything one’s heart must be in it, and acting is the only thing that really counts with me — the one really constant and absorbing interest.

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