Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Murder at The Old Red Lion

by Edward Petherbridge


From the 1st to the 31st of December last year, Edward was appearing in Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending a Staircase at The Old Red Lion Theatre in Islington.

The Old Red Lion is one of the oldest public houses in London; an inn of that name has stood on the same site since 1415, when Islington was just a small village. Thomas Paine began work on The Rights of Man here and the tavern’s gable end is depicted in Hogarth’s print ‘Evening’.

In 1979 a small studio theatre opened on the first floor. It seats approximately 60 people, which makes for an interesting and intimate, if ever so slightly cramped, theatrical experience for both audience and actors …

The following poem is a foretaste of a small commemorative volume Edward is producing about the play which will include his rehearsal diary (from which we published a short extract here last month) in full as well as other poems and original artworks – all related to Artist Descending.

Note: You had to be there really. To see the youngsters acting a walking tour in France on the postage-stamp stage, to appreciate Jeremy Child’s character’s obsession with Edith Sitwell. If you did come, were you part of a silent audience or one given to hilarity? There seemed to be nothing in between. E.P.


Murder at The Old Red Lion

(The red-carpet treatment)

The carpet, beer-stained fleur-de-lys
Leads to cloud-capped stage – we squeeze
Behind in cluttered gloom,
Reach our minute tiring room.

Who would care to put his head in?
Not a space to be found dead in
Yet we all prepare to live here
Practise Thespic take and give here.easel

Here we’ve conned Tom Stoppard’s pages
Entered this most cramped of stages
Walked the vasty fields of France
Mused on Edith at the dance.

Tried to act and stand and Sitwell
Even when the gags don’t hit well
When there is an arid dearth
Of anything resembling mirth.

Thought, when we have talked of horses
How much breadth our narrow courses
Conjure, through Tom’s mighty line;
Wit and tenderness entwine!

Absurd, humane, satirical
The clownish, dark and lyrical
Yes the beer stained fleur-de-lys
Leads us where we strive To Be.

© Poem and photographs.  Edward Petherbridge.  2010.

(Edward now has his own blog – Petherbridge’s Weekly Post – updated every Sunday.  You can follow it HERE.)

3 comments on “Murder at The Old Red Lion

  1. RoniCarr
    January 26, 2010

    I was there! I laughed!! What a lovely poem and so very evocative. Ive never been to the Old Red Lion before. Its a very “cosy” venue. Off to read the rest of the site, which I’m so pleased to have found!

  2. Nikki
    January 26, 2010

    I wasn’t there sadly 😦 I saw a Tom Stoppard play on Friday that I’ve never seen before (Every Good Boy Deserves Favour) and it’s bolstered up my resolution to see more theatre and I’m so intrigued about this play I’ll be keeping a special eye out for this. Will be checking out the weekly post as well. Thank you for this.

  3. Jackie
    January 26, 2010

    What an evocative piece, the intro, the poem, the photos really captured a mood that was at once old-fashioned & appealing. I liked the subtle humor in the poem and the skill with rhymes, they didn’t feel forced at all, but quite natural. Really enjoyed this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s



Editorial Policy

The views expressed in the articles and reviews on Vulpes Libris are those of the authors, and not of Vulpes Libris itself.

Quoting from Vulpes Libris

You are very welcome to quote up to 100 words from any article posted on Vulpes Libris - as long as you quote accurately, give us due credit and link back to the original post. If you would like to quote MORE than 100 words, please ask us first via the email address in the Contact details.


  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
  • %d bloggers like this: