Old Rage: 'One of our best-loved actor's powerful riposte to a world driving her mad’ - DAILY MAIL

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Old Rage: 'One of our best-loved actor's powerful riposte to a world driving her mad’ - DAILY MAIL

Old Rage: 'One of our best-loved actor's powerful riposte to a world driving her mad’ - DAILY MAIL

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The book opens well with some cracking stories and I settled down for what I thought would be a really good read. Old Rage" is a beautifully written and inspiring book full of profound wisdom, kindness and razor-sharp awareness. This book however is like a diary, where Sheila has mixed what has happened within that year and flips back to her past younger years of what happened. Her proudest achievement is still the RSC tour she directed in the early 80s – Roger Allam played Mercutio to Daniel Day-Lewis’s Romeo – but she has no sense at all of a trajectory, nor even of much success. I bought this as I have enjoyed Sheila Hancock's other books and the premise of this appealed to me.

She is kind and doesn’t have a bad word when speaking of people she knows and has met over the years. She had weathered and even thrived in widowhood, taking on acting roles that would have been demanding for a woman half her age.She also worries, in the book’s opening pages, that she is undeserving of the damehood she was awarded in 2021.

Around her neck is a chain, on which there are five rings: her wedding ring, those of both husbands, and of her parents. I really enjoyed the book but found it really quite angry and sometimes found that hard to merge with Sheila Hancock's Quaker faith but then I guess I learnt something there too - being a pacifist most definitely doesn't mean you're a walk over.

As Billie was in a ward of her own Sheila sat with Billie day and night singing to her and saying a childhood prayer to her, one that I truly loved, that was one my favourite parts in the book for loving the prayer.

It was the best thing for her that he left, because she went to university and became a very reputable scholar. I enjoyed this, although I'm not a fan of celebrity autobiography, which is often very self indulgent. It’s 20 years now since Hancock’s second husband, John Thaw, died of oesophageal cancer – the same disease that took her first, the actor Alec Ross, 31 years earlier – and I wonder if the isolation born of Covid-19 painfully reinforced the state of widowhood.I right away looked up the movie "Edie" which gutted me in the first few minutes (if you watch nothing else see Edie's confrontation with her midlife daughter) and what came after was awfully sweet. Sheila Hancock definitely isn't letting things pass her by if they frustrate her or, as a country, we haven't learnt from previous experiences.

But six months later I went to a place where I used to get my nails done, and there it was, hanging on the peg, as if to say: how dare you leave me behind? Talking about all this, her life seems wonderfully replete: however complicated, it bulges happily and satisfyingly at the seams, and when she needs a little peace, there is the “gathered stillness” that comes courtesy of her beloved Quaker meetings. Following the death of her husband, John Thaw, she wrote a memoir of their marriage, The Two of Us , which was a no.

In her gut, though, she knows where she belongs: “If I see a gang of kids in the street I’m not a bit frightened. Hancock as Mrs Lovett, with Denis Quilley as the demon barber, in Sweeney Todd at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 1980.



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