David Benson

David Benson - actor, writer, singer, director

david benson

Journals, diaries, letters, sketches and photographs

INTRODUCTION

"I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful; for not only every man has, in the mighty mass of the world, great numbers in the same condition with himself, to whom his mistakes and miscarriages, escapes and expedients, would be of immediate and apparent use; but there is such a uniformity in the state of man, considered apart from adventitious and separable decorations and disguises, that there is scarce any possibility of good or ill but is common to human kind...
We are all prompted by the same motives, all deceived by the same fallacies, all animated by hope, obstructed by danger, entangled by desire, and seduced by pleasure"
Samuel Johnson 
I started my first attempt at a diary for a few weeks in the summer of 1980. I made brief attempts to renew the habit in the late 1980s and only kept sporadic notebooks on specific projects until November 1994, when I was given a copy of Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way and began to write a daily set of 'morning pages', as she terms them. This is a practice I have maintained consistently since then and so have a library of memories to draw upon, most of then unread since the mornings they were written.

At the time of writing (21st May 2020) the UK and much of the world remains in 'lock-down' as a result of the crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This has given us all a chance to reflect on our lives, at whichever point in our journey we find ourselves; and since there is at present so little comfort to found in speculating on the future, it seems natural to rummage in the past, to revisit the undulating hopes and fears, pleasures and pains of a life recorded as it happened, for what other purpose than to bestow solid permanence on the evanescent present and to break through the mists of fading recollection with the resistless light of hard evidence.

I intend to present here a timeline of journal extracts and other items from my archive, detailing my private and professional lives, with comment and background information from my present perspective, as much for my own benefit as for that of the general reader. A journal is a form of autobiography and I compile these extracts here as an exercise in collecting the materials that might one day serve as my epitaph. 

These will not be unedited, raw transcriptions of the journals. I consider each day's entry to be a private letter to myself, intended for my eyes only, and I write what is of particular interest to me, with no thought ever given to the unthinkable prospect that other eyes might survey its pages without my consent. The style is often clumsy and ungrammatical but has at least the vivacity of extemporisation, since one of the injunctions from The Artist's Way was that you should write freely, without hesitation though with all the deviation and repetition you like. It has always been written and will continue to be, not for publication but for private use. The extracts I publish here are, therefore, mediated by tact and moderated by shame.

Much of what I do publish must be subject to a general disclaimer: this is how things appeared at the time. Judgements made of others that were later reversed or became the cause of regret are recorded here with the visceral sting of the first cut and the throb of wounds left to fester. Just as an infection burns itself out in fresh air, so painful memories are soothed by the flow of time. But a journal entry written on the morning after a troublesome day, with vexation splashed in livid immediacy across the page, exposes the wound in its rawness and allows you a detailed examination of an event which distance has caused you to generalise into a neat summation: 'a fun show', 'in interesting person,'  or 'a bad year'.

I shall throw items into the timeline as they come to my attention during this current period of reflection and whilst there is little else to occupy me during this summer of redundancy. I shall attempt to transcribe items from particular productions or events in my life, so as to build as full an account of each one as I can from the materials available to me.