In making Vivienne – my show about TS Eliot’s first wife and, unavoidably therefore, about their difficult marriage – I was aware that different people might respond very differently to the work, according to their feelings about Eliot himself. It was very interesting and pleasing to discover that the subtleties of the text and of the musical setting in fact leave room in the piece for a range of sympathies and interpretations. I am especially delighted that the TS Eliot Society is supportive of the piece and has invited me to perform it at its festival this summer at Little Gidding.
I have found Eliot’s and Vivienne’s relationship so fascinating precisely because it is so complex. It is impossible to separate out the strands of his Art, their respective mistaken ambitions for the marriage, their expectations of each other and the pressures of the Bloomsbury set in which they moved. We are learning more as the project to publish all of Eliot’s written words progresses, covering not only many volumes of letters but also his prose, poems, plays and other as-yet-unrevealed treasures from the Faber archive. There are definitely gaps in the story, and some of these are the result of Valerie (the 2nd Mrs Eliot) ‘tidying up’ the story of Tom & Viv after Vivienne’s death. The assumption is that certain correspondence has been destroyed but there may yet be discoveries to be made. Fingers crossed.
I’ll be taking Vivienne in July this year to the TS Eliot Festival at Little Gidding.