My essentials: Caroline Clegg’s cultural picks

94 | Caroline Clegg, Stage Director

1. Book

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

A Christmas present from an artist friend this is Garmus’s triumphant first novel. The main protagonist, Elizabeth Zott is a scientist in 1960s America when equality in the home and workplace is still decades off! But Zott triumphs with her blend of science and cookery on daytime TV inspiring legions of housewives to kick out the status quo. It is life affirming, refreshingly honest and a great lesson in perseverance for anyone of us no matter what age!

2. Film

Mrs Harris Goes to Paris by Anthony Fabian

A charming film about widowed cleaning lady Harris (Lesley Manville) in 1950s London who falls madly in love with a couture Dior dress and decides she must have one of her own.  Cinematography is exquisite with lingering scenes not excessive sharp cuts. It urges us to hold onto and work for our dreams; the scene back home at the dance with friend Violet, (Ellen Thomas) reminding us of that family and community really matter.

3. Internet/TV

I don’t follow a particular blogger or social media influencer, but I am an avid supporter of wildlife and environmental conservation following Sir Richard Attenborough, supporting Greenpeace campaigns, Compassion in World Farming and I am a committed vegan. Blue Planet on TV is inspiring and frightening in equal measure, but my guilty internet pleasure is being distracted with cute cat videos and animal rescue happy endings.

4. Music

I love dramatic music and great storytellers: Miriam Makeba, Lady Gaga, Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy, and Bruce Springsteen. Rachmaninov, Bernstein, Kurt Weil, Puccini and my favourite Verdi opera ‘Rigoletto’ - end of act 2 Si Vendetta Tremenda Vendetta always chilling me to the bone. I’m currently learning the Liverpool Oratorio by Paul McCartney and Carl Davies for my production in Cincinnati in 2024 but the song I can’t live without is What A Wonderful World by Louie Armstrong – sheer beauty.

5. Place 

Teatru Manoel, Old Theatre Street, (with coffee from De Bono café at no 33a). Built in 1731, Manoel is stunningly beautiful and steeped in an inspirational and rich cultural history. If you are as lucky as I am to stay in the apartment whilst working there you can almost hear the voices and music of the past influencing great shows for the 21st Century. The main-stage innovator Adrian Mamo and the Toi Toi programme from Kate Fenech are world class.