Earlier this month, the good folk at the BFI Southbank hosted a glorious evening celebrating the work of Joan Littlewood. It was one of the best evenings out I’ve ever had in London. The audience was packed with Joan Littlewood luminaries, including everyone’s favourite Eastender, Barbara Windsor. Barbara’s special appeal is that she has genuine star quality and yet is somehow resolutely down to earth. In a sense she’s the English Anna Magnini. She doesn’t have Magnani’s range as an actress (who does?) but she eclipses Magnani for glamour.
Barbara introduced a screening of Joan’s authentic, richly creative film, Sparrows Can’t Sing.
The other hosts of the evening included Murray Melvin, whom you all remember as the priest in Ken Russell’s The Devils, and as the ‘art student’ in A Taste of Honey - the film which won Murray the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Murray shone in a round table discussion about Joan’s work (signed copies of his book on Joan's theatre work were available in the BFI bookshop - it is thoughtful details like that which make the BFI Southbank the best place in Britain to see films).
The discussion was accompanied by screenings of clips from films which have never been seen before - unedited footage from Stratford East rehearsals and happenings, including a bizarre wrestlers and fashion-models mix-up attended by Sean Connery!
All in all, an evening so good I thought I'd died and gone to Heaven.
(If only all cinemas had programmes like this).