Dame Judi to set the stage at The Times Cheltenham literature festival – Times Online

9 10 2009
From
October 9, 2009

The prospect of an actress giving an interview is one that often offers nothing more enticing than the inanities of the chat show or the fawning idolatry of the glossy magazine piece. But when the actress is Dame Judi Dench, and her interlocutor Sir Richard Eyre, something of an altogether higher class is promised.

Sir Richard will be talking to Dame Judi — who starred in two of his recent films, Notes on a Scandal and Iris — when he appears as a guest director at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival tomorrow.

“It is not often that she goes in public and talks about her work,” he said. “In fact it is very, very rare, so it is something of a special occasion.”

Sir Richard, who spent ten years as artistic director of the National Theatre, said that he would try to delve into the areas left unexplored in most interviews. “I will try to unearth the psychology of an actor [with] someone I know very well, and try and make her talk about things that she normally does not like to articulate or rationalise — her approach to a part, how she rehearses and how she regards an audience, and her insecurities. Also, to describe the things that she has found difficult and easy.”

Sir Richard will also be talking to the playwright Christopher Hampton, whose screenplays include Atonement and Dangerous Liaisons. “It is particularly interesting because he really crosses over from theatre to film to television,” he said. “He also works in France and in Germany, and has done a number of translations of French and German pieces.

“People often misjudge him as this urbane man without strong feelings. But in all his plays there is really quite a fiery temperament under a calm and reticent exterior.”

The festival, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary, features nine other guest directors, including Sandi Toksvig, the novelists Monica Ali and Jonathan Coe, Rageh Omaar, the foreign correspondent, and the children’s writer Anthony Horowitz.

The biggest festival to date, it has more than 440 events and organisers say they have already sold more than 100,000 tickets — a number equal to the total ticket sales last year.

One of the more popular events is The Times Debate tomorrow, in which this year the PR consultant Max Clifford, Evan Davis, the Today presenter, the philosopher Ray Tallis and Caitlin Moran of The Times discuss “Is Celebrity the Curse of Our Age?”. The event is chaired by James Harding, the Editor of The Times.

Other writers making an appearance include Sebastian Faulks, Ruth Rendell, P. D. James, John Irving, Sarah Waters, Stephen Fry and Kate Mosse. Alastair Campbell will interview Bertie Ahern, the former Taoiseach of Ireland, about his life and his critical role in the Good Friday agreement, while Jeremy Paxman will talk about the birth of modern Britain and his book The Victorians. Comedians appearing include Jack Dee, Mitchell and Webb, Jo Brand, Rich Hall, Al Murray, The Now Show cast, Ronni Ancona and Alistair McGowan.

The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival runs from October 9 until October 18. Bookings and further details on 0844 5767979; cheltenhamfestivals.com ; TV Partner Sky Arts and www.skyarts.co.uk .

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