One of the most memorable pieces of theatre I was privileged to see was Roy Dotrice in his solo show BRIEF LIVES many many moons ago at the Regent Theatre in Dunedin, New Zealand. For two and a half hours, including him sleeping on stage during the interval on an amazing set that resembled a dream antiques collection, complete with cobwebs, Roy was mesmerising as the gossip columnist of the 1600’s John Aubrey. The play was written and directed by Patrick Garland based on The Memoirs, Miscellanies, Letters and Jottings of John Aubrey, the bitchy 17th century writer and antiquarian who collected biographical material on luminaries such as Francis Bacon, Sir Walter Raleigh, Oliver Cromwell, William Shakespeare and even the Virgin Queen herself, Elizabeth 1.
BRIEF LIVES premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1967 followed by West End runs at both the Criterion and Mayfair Theatres and worldwide tours. Roy still warrants a mention in the Guinness Book of Records as the greatest number of solo performances totalling 1782. He won the Tony Award for his performance as Phil Hogan in Eugene O’Neill’s A MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN in 2000 and has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, the latest for his narration of Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID. Roy’s screen appearances include playing Mozart’s father Leopold in AMADEUS, and Hallyne in the HBO hit TV series GAME OF THRONES.
I was talking to Roy’s daughter Michelle, who is currently in NELL GWYNNE, at the Apollo stage door a few weeks ago and told her how memorable BRIEF LIVES was and I wanted to get a sketch signed I drew of her dad as John Aubrey. She told me the best way to contact him and Roy, who is now 92, sent the drawing back with a nice dedication.