London: Reading Judi Dench`s autobiography, ‘And Furthermore,’ feels like having tea a second time with a charming companion. She seems more at ease now, funny and engaging, and comfortable enough to chatter away.
Among the memories: Appearing in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ early in her career, she spoke the line "Where is my father, and my mother, nurse?" with such emotion that her real father was moved to call out, "Here we are, darling, in row H."
As she toured West Africa in ‘Macbeth,’ Dench noticed that the vultures perched above the outdoor stages were gazing with interest on the "bodies" below. On a different occasion, she became so cozy in her onstage bed that she fell asleep during the play.
In another production, she sprained her ankle in her first scene but, after aid from a doctor in the house, finished the performance with the assistance of a stick.
Dench also notes how she approaches a role. "The real difficulty is working out why the character says the line, and what is going on between the lines, which is often more important than the line itself," she writes. "I think what you leave out is more important than what you put in."
What she leaves out of ‘And Furthermore’ does indeed say a lot about her.
Professional disappointments — an injury forced her to drop out of rehearsals for the landmark musical ‘Cats’ — are noted briefly. There is no dishing on divas or settling old scores. She is stoic in describing the illness and death of her husband and frequent co-star, Michael Williams.
Instead of deep introspection, Dench focuses on her career and provides light anecdotes about people and performances. There have been many of both since she first appeared professionally on the stage in 1957.
The story she chooses to tell is that of a dedicated actress. Except for her family, the play`s the thing that has anchored her and nourished her over the years. Nearly all the memories Dench shares, not just her views on the craft of acting, spring from those experiences.
The film and television roles that marked the more recent years of her career receive less attention than her heady days with the Royal Shakespeare Company and other troupes. A movie like ‘Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown’ or ‘Shakespeare in Love,’ for which she won an Oscar, or a series like "As Time Goes By" is remembered fondly but, in the end, is just another day at the office.
That`s what work is for a pro, and Dench, now 76, has few peers. Between the lines of ‘And Furthermore’ hide the pride and the comfort that she takes in giving it her all.