Famous and not so famous Brits (part3)
Dame Judi Dench, “National Treasure”
The satirical magazine “Private Eye” has a column named “National Treasures”, which collects examples of the term as used in the British media. In recent years, journalists have applied it to more and more individuals in the media spotlight from entertainment, sport, the arts and other fields.
The qualifications for being described as a national treasure are unclear; inspiring a degree of public affection, perhaps, or overcoming adversity, or sustaining a long show business career – but the “Eye’s” readiness to mock the concept suggests that “National Treasure” is used too frequently and indiscriminately. However, one person who could well be described as such is the actress Dame Judi Dench (b.1934). Indeed, in 2008 she was chosen as a National Treasure in a poll organised by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper and the British Library. Born in York as Judith Olivia Dench, to parents with a keen interest in the theatre, she was educated at a Quaker school in the city and became a Quaker. She made her debut in the theatre in 1957, playing Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and has remained loyal to the stage throughout her career, working with the main British theatre companies – among them the Old Vic Company, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre – in a variety of leading roles. Her range encompasses everything from Shakespeare to twentieth-century classics and musicals (in which she occasionally sings) such as “Cabaret” and Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music”. She has received many awards for her stage work, and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1988.
The non-theatre-going public in Britain and abroad know Judi Dench for her work in television and film. The BBC TV comedy series “A Fine Romance” (in which she starred alongside her husband Michael Williams) and “As Time Goes By” were both highly popular. She also appeared in many television plays and, as her fame grew, became an increasingly sought-after film actress. In 1995 she was cast as James Bond’s boss, M, in “Golden Eye”. It was the first time a woman had played the role, but coincided with the era of Stella Rimington, the first female head of MI5, the real-life British security services. She has continued to play this role in Bond films, most recently in “Skyfall” (2012). But this was untypical; her filmography contains few blockbusters and many smaller, less commercial films, some of them surprise hits, like “Mrs Brown”, in which she played Queen Victoria in a story portraying the queen’s relationship with her Scottish servant John Brown. The older cinemagoing audience, who watch films in art-house cinemas rather than multiplexes, see her presence in the cast of a film as a guarantee of quality – although not every film she makes is a success. Yet at 78, she still drew critical acclaim for her performance in “Philomena” (2013).
NOTE: Seeing Judi Dench, Jude Law or Daniel Radcliffe on stage rather than on screen could be a great excuse to make a trip to London. Check out: http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre
Colin Ellis, NaukaBezGranic