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Sidmouth Manor Pavilion Theatre - An Inspector Calls (with James Pellow)

Folks who know me very well often say, kindly I think, that I should get out more. I’m a grumpy old sod at the best of times and in the ...

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Dear Daddy - Letters to a Late Father (Roz Farmer)


Dear Daddy – Letters to a Late Father

Derek Farmer was, for over twenty years, one of my best friends. Indeed in Harpenden he was my finest neighbour and my best friend. We shared a passion for theatre and horseracing and an unhealthy interest in malt whisky. We came from different backgrounds but had a disconcertingly similar oblique sense of humour. Basically we gelled. Tragically, in awful circumstances still not understood, he killed himself in the Spring of 2006. He left behind a loving family who still revere his memory and still, thankfully include him in many of their conversations. One of those left behind was his 12 year old daughter Rosalind and she has spent the last ten years coping with an event you cannot comprehend and consequences you cannot explain. She has had all the normal teenage problems writ large but she also has talent. Both as an actress and a writer. All she lacks is confidence. In the month of May, for a charitable cause and laudable self denial of certain pleasures, she wrote to her father every day. Her diary is funny, sad, courageous, and revealing. And it shows that passion for theatre that her father instilled in her from an early age. The Beags referred to is her mother, and no I have not a clue where the name comes from. You can find a link to the whole at http://deardaddy93.tumblr.com I am posting here the last two days. A piece to Derek illustrating her obvious love of theatre, and the last letter where she says goodbye again. Wherever she goes in life it is clear from these two days and all the rest of the diary that this young lady can write. I think, in fact I know, her dad would have been proud of her. Roy Hall

Dear Daddy,
This might be quite long and maybe a bit tedious but I really want to tell you some of my favourite theatre that I’ve seen. If I told you everything I’d seen in the last 10 years then it would take 9 hours to write this. Thanks to you, I love going to the theatre and I’ve seen all sorts over the years. Musicals, Shakespeare, modern plays and I’ve loved all of it. Well, there’s been the odd fail but overall I’ve seen some amazing things. (As you may have noticed, I like to categorise things and this is no different).


Les Miserables; this is my very favourite musical. I learnt some of the songs in primary school in singing lessons and just fell in love with the music. We have a recording of the original production and I get shivers just hearing the overture, (I’m so jealous that you actually saw the original production). I’ve seen the show 3 times and “One Day More” always makes me cry. We were lucky enough to see the 25th anniversary concert which had special guests and they were joined by the original cast at the end. It was glorious. I think I know the entire score off by heart but I will never tire of it.

Evita; I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I just really love the music. It’s got some great solos for Evita and she’s such an interesting character. Plus I love a bit of Argentine Tango!

Wicked; this is the story of before, during and after the “Wizard of Oz” but from Elphaba, the wicked witch of the west’s point of view. The music is stunning and so exciting. It is a story of friendship and however much you try, things just sometimes don’t go your way. There’s a particular song called “Defying Gravity” which is extraordinary. It gives me shivers and is so powerful. I can sing it on a good day and it’s so much fun if I hit all the notes!

Once; this was an interesting one. It’s not so much a musical as a play with music in it. The story is about struggling musicians who have this incredible relationship in a moment through their music. All of the actors sing and play instruments. It’s a beautiful love story without being soppy. There’s a duet called “Falling Slowly” which is just breathtaking, I can listen to it over and over again.

Sweeney Todd; now this was amazing. Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, need I say more? They were AMAZING! I never thought I could find Michael Ball scary but he was. They were both unhinged and creepy. I remember at the interval, I turned to Beags and just looked gobsmacked. It was incredible.

Kiss Me Kate; I’m so glad that we saw a good production of this as it’s a big ensemble cast that need to all be good. Everyone was good and my God was it funny. It was quite hard not to get up and join in with “It’s Too Darn Hot”.

Top Hat; Beags introduced me to the movie when I was quite young and since then I’ve always wanted to basically be Ginger Rogers. Seeing the show live was so magical. I know it sounds weird but it was strange seeing it in colour! But the costumes were so beautiful, that’s how you dress. I love the plot and the songs and I wish I could tap dance like that.

Privates on Parade; I guess this is technically a musical, I mean there is singing. When we saw it, it was starring the wonderful Simon Russell Beale whom we adore (more of him later). Of course he was brilliant, camp and silly one minute and then doing a moving monologue the next. I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing him dressed as Marlene Dietrich though.

Straight plays:

Hamlet; I’ve actually seen 2 Hamlets but the best was at the RSC in 2008 starring David Tennant as the Dane. He is my Doctor so I’m a tad biased but it was amazing. No one in the production was weak which is quite unusual. I loved the staging, it was in the round and used minimal scenery. But the way they used lighting was great. They had a double mirror at the back of the stage and used torches to bounce light off of the floor. It was all very effective. It was nice to see something actually at Stratford upon Avon. When the theatre was renovated, you could sponsor a seat and have someone’s name on it. We got one for you, it says ‘In loving memory of D. J. Farmer’, now you can always be at the theatre.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; I first went there on a school trip when I was 15. We saw Macbeth which was pretty rubbish but I loved the theatre. It’s outside! I find this fascinating, I think because you can’t hang any scenery from above and there’s something magical about seeing something outside. We’ve seen some amazing things there. My favourites are; “Into the Woods”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Lord of the Flies”. I think they’re my favourites as they are all actually set outdoors so the setting really lent itself to the show. “Into the Woods” had an incredible cast, including Dame Judi Dench as the voice of the giant. It had simple scenery but was so effective. “The Dream” is my favourite Shakespeare play and it’s so magical to see it in the woods once it’s gone dark. You really feel like you’re a part of it. “Lord of the Flies” had a similar feel, as it grew dark you could really feel their paranoia and frustration. They had half a plane on stage as part of set and they used the space so well. I always look forward to seeing what the staging is like at Regent’s Park as its always fascinating,

National Theatre

You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve seen MANY things at the NT over the years. It’s one of my favourite places and it was hard to narrow down my absolute favourite productions. You’ll also be pleased to know that whenever we go, I have to have a look in the bookshop.

Much Ado About Nothing; Simon Russell Beale and Zoe Wannamaker, heaven. I didn’t know the play before hand but now I love it. It’s really accessible and funny and heartwarming. I mean laugh out loud funny. And at the end when Beatrice and Benedick declare their love for each other, it’s so lovely. I really don’t do 'lovey dovey’ but this was wonderful.

Treasure Island; we know the plot. It’s the staging that captivated me. The revolve turned round and the ship rose up from below. It looked like a ship sliced in half with all the different compartments. It was a hell of a design job. The actor who played Long John Silver is called Arthur Darvill. His mother is Ellie Darvill who is a puppeteer. She played Why Bird in Playdays! It was a kids show that I loved when I was little. So when Long John Silver had an animatronic parrot on his shoulder, I was kinda distracted.

Everyman; this was a modern take on an old classic. It was awesome. It was funny and moving and thought provoking. The design was great, the costumes were great. I couldn’t tell you the plot as it’s kinda complicated but I can tell you that it had the best ending that I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen some modern theatre which is too abstract to the point that you can’t understand it. Not this. This was modern theatre at its very best.

As You Like It; being named after the main character, I’ve always wanted to see this. It’s not done very often but luckily this was on last year. I don’t know why it’s not done often because I loved it. It’s really funny and has one of Shakespeare’s greatest female characters in it. Rosalind (that’s me!) sorts out everyone’s love lives, as well as her own, and has the last word of the play. It was so funny and I’m so glad that I’ve finally seen in the flesh my namesake in all her glory.

The greatest moment of all my theatre experiences has to be the 50th anniversary of the National Theatre. They did a televised show that had snippets of their best shows throughout their history and clips and interviews and all sorts. If you were a member, you could pay for a ticket to see the camera rehearsal the day before. We were 2 of those lucky people. I will never ever forget that night. To witness some of the finest actors of several generations perform some the NTs greatest hits was an absolute honour. I cried. A lot. Judi Dench set me off. She sang “Send in the Clowns” which was stunning and made me a bit teary. Then she did a section from “Anthony and Cleopatra” which made me a bit more weepy. But at the end, when everyone took their curtain call, the flood gates opened. I balled. I had this extraordinary feeling. It was this pure appreciation, respect and LOVE for what I had just witnessed. My love for theatre all came to a head and I had this strong moment of pure love. It was visceral and real. I will never forget that moment and what that evening meant to me.

My love for theatre is all thanks to you and will never wane. I feel privileged to have seen the productions that I have and I can’t wait to find out what I will see in the future. Thank you for this passion, it means a lot to me.

Love you,


May 30th, 2016

So here we are, it’s the 31st of May and it’s my last blog. I’ve spent all month planning these and thinking about what to say to you and now I’m on the last one I don’t know what to say.

I was going to talk about the future, my future. But it’s weird as you’re not a part of it. Well, you are in a way but I have so many things I want to ask you that I’ll never know the answer to.

When I was younger, I had such an idea of what my life would be. I would do my GCSEs, then A levels, then university and then whatever career came my way. This hasn’t happened and I find myself in a ‘quarter life crisis’. At 15 you’re asked what you want to do with your life so you can choose your GCSEs. At 15! Who knows what they want at 15? Well I did. I’ve always, ALWAYS wanted to perform. To act and sing. But I’ve always been too scared to tell people about it. It’s so precious to me and I take it so seriously. It was such a big deal to go to college to try it.

But it didn’t work out and that hurts. I still really want to go to drama school and I know that if I push myself, I can do anything. But I have a voice in my head saying,

“But it’s so scary, you’re not any good, your body can’t take it”.

I have such bad stage fright which I know is common but it puts me off. At college I hoped to gain confidence and it was shattered which I find so sad. I told you I’m hypermobile and I struggle with such basic things. Just getting off the floor is hard! But I have passion in my heart, a vast knowledge of the arts and I KNOW that I have some talent.

But I also love writing. I have so many ideas and a writing course could help hone my skills. I know I have good ideas, even if they are Doctor Who based. Writing would be physically easier but it takes me a while to make myself sit there and write.

So what do I do? I wish you were here to help me with these decisions. I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t even try to make it as an actor. I’d hate to look back on my life and think, “but what if I had tried?”

These are big life decisions and I can’t even decide what box set to watch next. You are meant to have careers advice at school but it’s always rubbish. I know I could never work in an office, I’d get so bored. I HAVE to work in the arts in some capacity as I just adore it.

If all else fails I could run a cat hotel.

Anyway I guess this is goodbye. That sounds weird. I said goodbye 10 years ago. But in another way, I never said goodbye as I think about you and talk about you often. I think about how similar we are which is great. I’ve never believed in heaven or any other equivalent but I hope that somehow you can see me and approve of how I’ve turned out. It’s not all been plain sailing but I’m here to tell the tale. I don’t have the best luck in the world but I always tell myself that I could be far worse off. I’m rambling now. I don’t know how to finish this. Hmmmmmmmmm. I’ll resort to my default setting which is humour.

So long and thanks for all the fish.

Love you,


“You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart”.

May 31st, 2016