(Nigel Farndales’ article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/8.)
Wherever Sir Trevor Nunn turns in Stratford-Upon-Avon, he is assailed by ghosts. He doesn’t mean apparitions as such, but whispered memories of conversations with actors. “They are waiting on every corner,” he says, as we sit at a table in the theatre’s upstairs restaurant. “So many wonderful friends connected with the Royal Shakespeare Company have died recently — Donald Sinden, Barry Ingham, Richard Pasco, Alan Howard, Richard Johnson, who was my Antony in Antony and Cleopatra.”
Nunn has a gentle, measured voice, as if his batteries are running low and he is conserving energy. As well he might: his thick hair and goatee beard seem suspiciously dark for a 75-year-old and, in a blue denim shirt, he doesn’t seem to dress his age. (Amusingly, during a libel trial in 2011, he was described in court as looking like “a scruffy geography teacher” who wears “battered plimsolls”. Nancy Dell’Olio had sued a newspaper after it accused her of being a “serial gold digger” for having a fling with him, shortly after he separated from his third wife. She lost.)
But time is relative, especially when you consider that Nunn first became a director with The RSC back in 1968, aged 27, later becoming its artistic director, before moving on to The National. He is back in Stratford now, in the Swan Theatre, with a new production of Ben Jonson’s Volpone, starring Henry Goodman “who was wonderfully three-dimensional as my Shylock in Merchant of Venice”.