In a cursory search for recent commentary on Augustus John yesterday I came across this amazing story.
English actress Norrie Woodhall died just a few days ago, at the age of 105. She knew John; noteworthy, but she is certainly not the last witness to his life. But…Norrie once performed in a production of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles – under the direction of Thomas Hardy.
I had to read that twice for it to sink in. Like Paulette Howard-Johnson, who died in 2009 having met Proust, Montesquiou and Monet as a young girl, Norrie Woodhall was a link to a world so distant from our own as to seem spectral, unreal.
Norrie was one of the Hardy Players established by the author in Dorset which dispersed on his death. But…(hang on, let’s italicise that for emphasis) but…at the age of 100 she put together the New Hardy Players to realise her dream of returning to the stage, a dream which had been in abeyance for well over half a century.
So if you ever think it’s too late to write that novel, run that marathon or undertake that confrontational blood-soaked performance piece in front of a horrified crowd of Saturday shoppers, think of centenarian Norrie Woodhall treading the boards.
Here’s the Telegraph obituary, and below is an interview with Norrie from earlier this year. It’s a very moving testimony, but like a true pro she leaves ’em laughing.