First Night Design | When I Hear the Cry of the Peacock…

Cry of the Peacock © Sarah Vernon
The Cry of the Peacock © Sarah Vernon

When I prepared this post last night, the title of the artwork was Marmalade Peacock. Marmalade Peacock? It’s the first phrase that came to mind because of the background. And I’m thinking Frank Cooper’s Original Oxford Coarse Marmalade! It was my father’s favourite but what he didn’t realise was that my mother used to get a cheaper equivalent and transfer it into a Cooper’s jar. Of course.

When I woke up this morning, a song from Sandy Wilson’s musical, Valmouth, sung by Cleo Laine, was playing on an endless loop in my head and I knew I would change the title to The Cry of the Peacock. Valmouth was based on Valmouth and Other Stories by Ronald Firbank, which was about an imaginary spa resort frequented by those of a certain age. It was not well-received with ‘reactions ranging from outrage to derision’ when it opened in Liverpool in 1958. This was doubtless because the satire covered subjects like homosexual as well as heterosexual love and sex, not to mention religion. Nevertheless, it did transfer to London with loud murmurings about what the Lord Chamberlain was doing giving it a licence.

Valmouth and Other Stories by Ronald Firbank

I was far too young to see it at the time but I was brought up on the music, which I love. It was revived at Chichester Festival Theatre in 2000, a production that included one original cast member, Fenella Fielding. In the original, Fielding and Laine had starred alongside the likes of Doris Hare, Peter Gilmore and Aubrey Woods. The All Music website describes it as ahead of its time and prefiguring the work of Stephen Sondheim and I agree there are similarities.

In terms of creation, I blended the handwritten document from my Mallards and Swan Collage with a friend’s photo of a Sri Lankan cave painting. The peacock, which long-term visitors will know I’ve used before, is from The Graphics Fairy.

Photography Prints

Sadly, YouTube does not have the great Cleo Laine singing Cry of the Peacock so here she is singing another number from Valmouth called Big Best Shoes.

Take care and keep laughing!


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