Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Derek Jacobi: Needlepoint Whiz

A fine portrait of actor Derek Jacobi as he stars in the west End revival of A Voyage Round My Father. (If only I were rich, I'd be off to London four times a year and swallow up all the theater I could.) Bedridden as a lad, Jacobi became a whiz at needlepoint and embroidery and tells of how moving it was when his father recently passed away and Jacobi found a stash of pillowcases all cross-stitched when he was ten. But the kicker is a puzzling, witty anecdote involving Noel Coward, with whom a very young Jacobi spent a charming evening at dinner and then drinks in Coward's hotel room:
It was half-past one in the morning. Green as grass, young Mr Jacobi rose to leave. "Derek," said the great man, "might I ask you a very personal question." All atremble lest the lovely evening be spoiled by a lunge, he stood his ground. "Are you circumcised?" "No, no, no," he answered. "Why do you ask?" Coward replied: "What a pity. What a great pity. You're a very fine actor, Derek, but you'll never be a great actor until you're circumcised." "Why?" he asked, edging for the door. "Freedom, dear boy," Coward explained, mystifyingly. "Freedom!" Jacobi was out the door and away.

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