More on Judi Dench

2011-02-09 00:00

THIS autobiography of sorts gives a broad overview of Dame Judi Dench’s illustrious career, from stage to TV and film, detailing her various roles and major life events.

Sadly, it gives very little new insight into the woman herself, I thought, as she tells aspects of her life story to a writer. A huge Judi Dench fan, I was thrilled to begin the book, hoping for a glimpse of the essence of the remarkable actress, and the answers to at least some of the predictable questions we want to know when we are awestruck by a celebrity in their various guises.

But I found the first parts of the book almost excruciating, because as she details her early stage career I knew very few of the people she speaks of, and the style is just not all that engaging. I recognised her voice in the narrative but it was just not saying the things I was most hoping to hear. As she got to later works and actors and actresses, and I had seen the series and films she spoke of, it became more appealing.

The best paragraph in the book was one in which she relates how she wrote to a critic about his bad review. “I used to admire you, but I now realise you are a C.S., Charles Spencer — Complete Shit.” At least that showed some insight into her pluck and highlighted her sense of humour. She glosses over her wedding, the birth of her daughter and her husband’s death, with no details and no insight provided into her experiences of those events.

In all fairness, this is a second autobiography, and I have not read the first, so perhaps the first is a more personal account and this fills in the drier bits of her life. But I learnt nothing much more about the soul and intelligence of the woman. Maybe that’s just the way she wants it, but I felt cheated, because it was not what I had hoped for. I hope other fans, more interested in the technical aspects of the craft of acting, will get more out of it.

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