Profile -News Article-Emma -Thompson-The -Third -Act

Ashley Bryant

The actress And screen writer Emma Thompson takes on a musical.
Emma Thompson has What she calls the “habit of continuity,” an impulse hard wired into her parents by , Phyllida Law And Eric Thompson who were both actors And children from broken families. Thompson had been dubbed a Presbyterian in the high church of a celebrity , still lives on the West Hampstead street where she grew up.

She shutttles between London And a lush remote glen above Loch Long in Scottland _where in 1959, her parents paid three hundred pounds for a cottage_which was the rural idyll of her childhood. Those two places provide her with a unsassaible context that protects her, she said from her capacity for self-deception. She added i’m surrounded by people Iv’e known since I was a child They’re are not going to put up with me been grand.

Her road in London is a sloping quarter mile of comfortable semidetached houses, a football field away from the swankier dwellings across noisy Finchley Road. Among those currently residing There are Thompson’s extended family : her now ninety year old mother her informally adopted son Tindeybwa Agaba,And his wife Zhang;And a collection of A-team actors most of whom’s shes worked with through the years Jim Carter Derek Jacobi Jim Broadbent.

We’re terrible gossips but gossip in the sense that Phyllis Rose described it the first step on the ladder to step-knowledge Thompson said adding Gossip is discussion about life’s detail . And in the life’s details are all the little bits of stiching that you need to hold it togather
The somnolent street has no distinguishing architectural features until you come to a house whose overgrown front garden is dominated a eye pink and white bathtub full of plants with a mannequin’s shower caped head protruding at one end And a paor of shapeley woden legs dangling over the edge at the other.

The gesture of a cap price _a whimsical raspberry blown at the sedateness of the surroundings sets amoung a equally drool colllection of miniature stone animals frogs cats turtles And a lone bird affixed to the garden wall . The tableua which is Phyllidia Law playful creation offers a clue to her daughters blithe spirit . Asked once was the most important thing her parents had taught her’ Thompson replied to laugh in the face of the disaster .
The first of fourteen axioms in Thompson’s Theatrical Laws a typed memo composed by Thompson’s father which hangs in his daughters guest bathroom is it better to have a hit than flop . On the overcast October Day in 2021 When Thompson welcomed me into her big living room for the the first time she was hard at work concocting a comercial stage collecting extravaganza A musical verzion of Nanny McPhee 2005 And Nanny Mcphee And the big bang 2010 which were based on the Nurse Matilda book series by Christina Brand And grosed Two hundred sixteen million dollars at the box office . She had now spent five years deveoloping the musical with the composer Gary Clark of Sing Street who had proved a kind of Victorian punk sound which she described as a cross between tiger lillies And Tom wait’s Swordfishtrombones.

Thompson was writing the book And co-writing the Lyrics with Clark. As she handed me a mug of tea feauturing a photograph of the Queen And the motto I ate swans she said that she was considering whether to direct the production herself . It would be a herlculean task made even more daunting by the fact that Thompson never directed a musical or anyrhing else. She’d been seeking advice from an array of theatrical high rollers including Stephen Sondheim or the Old Man of The Mountain as he referred to himself in the correspondence . Whatever you decide good luck Sondheim-Email her a few weeks before he died the November . And remember What Larry Gelbart said:What I would wish Hitler is that he be out of town with a musical.

Why did Thompson want to climb the particulary forbidding theatrical Mountain? She didn’t need the money or acclaim. Her obsession seemed to be personal. The idiom of Thompson’s storytelling in the musical which involves pupppets And possibly ventriloquism as well as winking Outlandishessness was directly linked to her fathers work decades earlier on the succcessful BBC children’s program The magic Roundabout Eric Thompson begin working as a butchers apprentice at thirteen before finding his calling as a actor And director was a autodidact . He reimagined a french stop motion series feuturing a collection of animal charecteristics creating new narratives for them And injecting dry wit daily five minute installments that aired form 1965 to 1977.
The show attained cult status in Britain at its peak reaching eight million viewers at night. Eric believed that children were adults who just hadn’t lived as hoist on your own petard And would get letters from irate parents going you shouldn’t use this sort of language with children. He would say i’m not writing for children I’m writing for people. With Nanny McPhee Thompson had the same mission.
While her daughters cat napped on the window seat she played me a snatch of one song which asked a question surely not raised before on the musical stage: Is it wrong to eat a baby? The song continued, cause they’re pointless little creatures And they just get in the way . Their doughy little feautures Will depress you everyday. Thompson let the rolllicking number play then closed her computer. I’m telling my agent i’m not doing any filming she said i’m just going to focus on this .