Newsletter No 18: Frank Dobson’s Façade curtain – Tony Palmer – Façade cocktail

by Elizabeth Mucha

The performance of Art Sung – Edith Sitwell, Behind her Façade on Thursday 14th March, 2024 at the Barnes Music Festival turned into something beyond what any of us imagined after a chance meeting with the film maker Tony Palmer. On the evening of 7th February 1922, poet Edith Sitwell and composer William Walton gave a private performance of “Façade”, their groundbreaking musical entertainment, at her brothers’ flat in London. What was even more mind-boggling for everyone involved was that she recited her poems to the accompaniment of his jazz-inspired music from BEHIND a huge curtain through a megaphone through a big hole in the middle of the curtain. Designed and drawn by the English Sculptor Frank Dobson, it has been presumed lost till now.

Enter Tony Palmer at this point 102 years later! He made an award-winning film about William Walton, “At the haunted end of the day” in 1981 when Walton was 79. Unsurprisingly, there is a part about Walton’s collaboration with the Sitwells which includes a short excerpt from Façade performed from behind a curtain.

After our initial meeting I received an email from Tony asking if we would like to borrow the ORIGINAL curtain for our next performance at the Barnes Music Festival. Here is a small detail from a curtain which has not been seen in public in over 30 years and is over a 100 years old! This will truly be a historic event and I hope you can join us!

In his book, “Laughter in the next room”, Osbert Sitwell, Edith’s brother, remembers that at this same performance, We had fortunately arranged for an ample supply downstairs of hot rum punch, an unusual and efficacious restorative.It had been brewed after an old recipe supplied by our friend, Barclay Squire, the learned archivist and historian of music, (at the British Museum). It included among its ingredients, as well as rum, green tea, sherry, China tea and the juice of a fresh pineapple.

We are delighted that Joseph Zubaidy who was the senior bartender at the Conduit Club and then Head barman at Native restaurant will recreate a modern version of this cocktail which will be available during the interval at the performance. Amongst his secret ingredients are matcha and, well, I can’t tell you any more otherwise it wouldn’t be a secret! All will be revealed in the next newsletter.

Elizabeth MuchaNewsletter No 18: Frank Dobson’s Façade curtain – Tony Palmer – Façade cocktail