John Bell to narrate Lord Tennyson’s tragic poem Enoch Arden


John Bell.
John Bell.

JOHN Bell has been surprised by how little spare time he has since stepping down as founding director of Sydney-based theatre company Bell Shakespeare in 2015.

“I’ve got this program I’m doing with Simon Tedeschi, Enoch Arden, and then I go into rehearsals for a play with Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company and that goes through until Christmas,” Bell said.

“And next year is getting busy already, so there’s no sign of retirement yet.”

Enoch Arden will bring Bell to Perth as he and pianist Tedeschi begin their Australian tour presenting the melodrama, composed by Richard Strauss to the words of Lord Tennyson’s 1864 poem, which Bell will narrate.

“It’s a tragic story Lord Tennyson wrote while working as Queen Victoria’s poet laureate and it was a very popular poem,” Bell said.

“People used to recite it in parlour entertainment and public performances, then Richard Strauss found it and wrote music to go with it for an actor friend of his; they used to perform it together.

“It’s ok just as a poem to recite, but when you have the music playing underneath, alongside it and between the verses, it gives it tremendous power and the music is simply wonderful.

“I think people will enjoy it because it’s a very interesting story and the combination of actor and piano is not very common these days.”

Bell said Enoch Arden was a story about a man’s sacrifice after he is shipwrecked at sea and away for 10 years.

“When he returns he finds a new husband with his wife and family,” he said.

“Rather than reveal himself and destroy their happiness, he just lives in the village alongside them and never reveals his identity.

“We’ve recorded it for the ABC so spent three days getting used to each other, recording it and rerecording it, so it’ll be in good nick by the time we get to Perth.

“It’s a real collaboration and it’s a bit like a singer and a band, where you have to work along with the music. It’s a chance to let rip with some good old-fashioned verse.”

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Enoch Arden

Where: His Majesty’s Theatre

When: June 14

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au