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Charles Lewsen In
How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear


Redgrave Theatre, Percival Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3LE
5.30 pm. 16th July, 2000
in aid of the Friends of the Bristol Oncology Centre


Charles Lewsen gave the first performance of his highly praised show in 1968, with a run at Hampstead Theatre followed by appearances at two Edinburgh Festivals, numerous venues throughout Britain and festivals in Israel and the United States. The show has also been broadcast twice on Radio Four.

It is appropriate that Edward Lear is the subject of a show given on behalf of a cancer charity. Lear was a lifelong invalid, subject to epileptic seizures from the age of five; and his painting, his music and above all his Nonsense represent his triumph over disability - and they lift the spirits of anyone who surrenders to their magic.

It is appropriate too that the performance is taking place in Bristol, home of John Symonds, father of the child, Janet, for whom Lear wrote 'The Owl and the Pussycat'. And it is in the Bristol Channel, of course, that Lear's Pobble lost his toes.

Bristol is also the home of the poets Helen Dunmore and Philip Gross, and the scholars Rowena Fowler and Ruth Pitman who have all contributed to the beautifully illustrated souvenir programme - which also has poems by Charles Causely, U A Fanthorpe, Tom Paulin, Adrian Mitchell, and Roger McGough; and essays by Lear's biographer, Vivien Noakes, and Professor John Swales of the Department of Medicine at Leicester University - the first medical authority to write on Lear's epilepsy. The illustrations come from rarely seen 19th century chapbooks which inspired Edward Lear to write limericks; from a volume of sixteenth century woodcuts which seem to be an inspiration for Lear's people with long noses and heads inhabited by birds; and from Lear's own landscape paintings, natural history illustrations and, of course, his Nonsense.

Charles Lewsen is an actor (most recently seen as the Pope in the film of Evita) whose other one man shows have been inspired by music hall, the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and the suicide of Robert Fitzroy of the Beagle. He has been artistic director of the Itinerant Orchard Company in Devon, and a script reader for the Arts Council and the BBC's radio and tv script units; he has had his short fiction broadcast on Radio Three, was part author of the famous Consumers' Guide to Religions on That Was The Week That Was; and for four years he wrote dramatic criticism for The Times. He is giving his performance as a way of expressing his thanks for the care that he enjoyed during treatment last year at the Oncology Centre.

For the performance at the Redgrave Theatre he is joined by Neil Rhoden, music director of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, who will accompany him in 'The Yonghy-Bonghy-B' and songs which Edward Lear composed to poems by his friend Tennyson. Their efforts are a welcome contribution to our never ending drive for funds.

The Bristol Oncology Centre cannot rely on the National Health Service for all its needs; and with 150,000 to be found for new space in which to conduct clinical trials, and 100,000 for the technology which will bring the Ray of Hope Appeal to a successful conclusion, capital costs this year amount to 250,000; and with a regular commitment to raise 65,000 for salaries, 4,000 to send nurses and radiographers on courses and seminars, and 3,000 to keep the library abreast of the rapidly changing world of cancer treatment, a further 72,000 must be found -so that the Friends urgently need 322,000 this year alone. And with the increasing incidence of cancers, and advances in therapies and technology, the need for funds is likely to increase over the years.

So the performance next month is a chance both to encounter one of the best loved figures of the 19th century, and to contribute towards research and the provision of equipment from which - one in three of us being liable to suffer a cancer of some sort - any of us may some time benefit.

If you have further questions please contact the Friends' office at The Bristol Oncology Centre, Horfield Road, Bristol B52 8ED, phone or fax 0117428 3432; or Charles Lewsen, phone 0117-942 3640


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