When he shall die
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine.’

‘Romeo & Juliet’ (Act III, Scene II)

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the Royal Shakespeare Company commissioned artist and designer, Steven Follen, to produce the largest permanent artwork, to date, for its Stratford-upon-Avon theatres.  Entitled ‘For all Time’, the work – which takes the form of a 3m tall human face made of 2,000 stainless steel stars suspended from the ceiling by fine steel wires – was revealed to the public on the 23rd April, 2016, marking Shakespeare’s birthday in 1564.  It hangs in the re-furbished Swan Wing Theatre in the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon.

For all Time’, the title of Follen’s work, is a quote from fellow poet, Ben Johnson’s eulogy to Shakespeare: ‘He was not of an age, but for all time.’.  The power of words …  On the wall below, there is a ‘label’ giving further information about the commission, the ‘whys and the wherefores’.

Ten thousand metal stars shimmer in this sculpture exploring Shakespeare’s obsession with time.  Each individually made star hovers on a strand of wire, creating a mask-like face.’

Shakespeare was captivated by stars.  In his plays and sonnets, the stars and night are often associated with an individual’s destiny, the passing of time and the inevitable path to death.  Romeo and Juliet were the original ‘star-crossed lovers’ and, in this work, Follen ‘has taken inspiration from Juliet’s imaginative impulse to turn her beloved Romeo’s face into a constellation.’ Ben Johnson, too, referred to Shakespeare as ‘our Star of Poets’

Be clearly aware of the stars and infinity on high.  Then life seems almost enchanted after all.’ 

The words of Vincent Van Gogh.  Is it that the genius must forever look to the stars for his muse or is it that these celestial objects, twinkling in the night sky, merely feed the imagination, offering an escape from a harsh reality?

Steven Follen’s ‘For all Time’.  The 3m tall mask-like face created of stars …  No words can do it justice.  So striking.  So evocative.  An ingenious way in which to commemorate Shakespeare: a mask of stars.  I was lucky enough to see it, in person, in the summer of 2018 and it is something I have never forgotten.  The sculpture, itself, the concept … truly magnificent.  I am reminded of it often, none more so than this week.

Steve Wright was found dead in his flat on Monday, suddenly and unexpectedly.  He was 69.  No reason, no explanation.  Ever more common in this post-Covid climate, regular readers will know exactly where my mind went.  However, drip-fed more images and information as the week progressed, it has become clear that the happy-go-lucky persona of this extremely popular, funny radio presenter was exactly that, a persona.  In other words, a mask.

Each and every one of us wears one, belying the truth.  “How are you?”, to which the standard response is, “Fine, thank you”.  Immediate, yet saying nothing.  Expected, yet rarely questioned.  Each of us, in fact, has a recognised persona, whether it be serious or fun; one becomes known for behaving in a certain way – regardless, really – and that is a comfort.  Most in this world have enough to deal with without taking on the woes of others.  Oh, don’t worry about him, nothing phases him; or, anybody else would be really hurt by that but she laughed it off … or did she?   No matter our troubles, on goes that mask, that face we present to the outside world.  Few, if any, are privy to the truth; few, if any, will ever know the inner workings of our mind.

Steve Wright’s sudden death, this week, prompted a huge outpouring of grief.  That friendly, comforting voice on the radio belonging to the one who was always laughing, upbeat and funny, who was always there to cheer you up and keep you company … a constant in an ever-changing, scary world; well, he’s gone and what’s more, life wasn’t all that great for him, latterly, despite what he would have us believe.  Radio was everything to him and while he had been top of his game – one of the highest earners, beloved by all – the years brought with them a painful divorce and, ultimately, a changing of the guard.  His beloved Big Show was taken from him and he had nothing to fill that void.  Away from the microphone, he was an introvert who guarded his privacy, shunning the showbiz merry-go-round.  He kept himself to himself and, it seems, the mask never slipped.  However, one need only compare a photograph of him in the Eighties to the most recent image, taken a few weeks ago in New York, to see the heart-breaking truth: a lonely man who no longer liked himself nor his life very much.  Who knew?  He only revealed what he wanted you to see – and, yes, that does/should sound familiar!

We went to see Steve Wright – circa 1986 – when he made a personal appearance at a nightclub in Brechin, of all places.  At the height of his popularity, all I really recall, now, is checked trousers and gunge!  I remember collecting Becca and Manny from school and turning the radio up to listen to Ask Elvis – my favourite, and one of his regular slots on a Friday.  Genius!  Still makes me laugh.  Then, there was my sacred lie-in at the weekend with Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs.  Used to make me cringe but it was the music I liked.  He signed off, last Sunday, saying he would be back next week.  Further proof that none of us is promised tomorrow …

Steve Wright’s legacy?  Every single one of his fellow DJs was in bits.  Nobody had a bad word to say about him.  He was beloved by all and yet it wasn’t enough.  I suspect he never realised, such were his inner demons.  He will be remembered, however, for the broadcasting genius that he was, as a friend to the millions he never met and, by all accounts, as an all-round lovely guy.  One could say the mask served him well – or not.  If only he had had the courage to remove it when it mattered the most.

I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

This is Trish, signing off.