by Cynthia Wands
Judi Dench as Titania in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, 1962
Judi Dench says that failure is important.
I think about this as I’m watching an interview with Judi Dench, as she and Brendan O’Hea talk about a new book that is being published in 2024: “Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent.” (Here’s the link to the book that they’re talking about:)
Watching this interview brings all kinds of reactions as I listen to the backstage history and anecdotes with these accomplished and articulate artists. (Although I admit to bursting out loud with laughter at the theatrics of creating a stage sneeze at the 19:50 mark.)
I love the esteem and recognition that this older actress has accrued – for me, personally as an artist of some advanced years, it’s gratifying to see her given her due.
A dear friend of mine graduated with her from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 1957, and he didn’t recognize her talents at the time. He has since, in the last sixty years or so as he has worked as an actor and director, changed his mind about her artistry.
Some years ago, my brother-in-law acted with Judi Dench in a London production of “The Royal Family”, and I when I had the opportunity to go see them on stage together, I was wowed. I’d seen her in film and tv; but she is even better on stage. I can’t explain it – but she has a magic about her.
But to the point of “Failure is Important”: during this interview, Judi talks not only about the generosity of spirit in actors/theatre – and also how the rhythm of iambic pentameter is akin to the beating of your heart (I loved that), but especially she talked about failure. Mistakes. And how important they are to find the parts that work.
One another comment that resonated with me, was her counsel that actors are “servants to the story”. As a playwright, having been an actor, being a fan of women who write roles for all ages, I found her to be generous and wise in this interview.
So here it is. It’s 38 minutes long. It’s a chatty, illuminating, funny and intimate conversation. I hope you enjoy it.