Colin Firth To Give A History Lesson

Star will join actor friends for stage production of his book ,'The People Speak'

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Chiswick-based film star Colin Firth has taken a break from the red carpet to pursue his passion for history by writing a book and appearing in a stage production.

The Oscar-winning actor has to appear on stage this weekend in a performance of 'The People Speak; Voices That Changed Britain', based on the book he co-wrote with Anthony Arnove and which is published tomorrow (September 13th), by Canongate.

The book is a compilation of influential speeches, letters and songs taken from the voices of everyday people and dissenters throughout British history to the present day. Firth co-wrote it with author and editor Anthony Arnove, who brought the project from its successful launch in the US, and historian David Horspool.

The anthology includes speeches from inspiring figures including Emmeline Pankhurst, Thomas Carlyle and Oscar Wilde and topics varying from the Norman Conquest to library closures and the issues surrounding the Stephen Lawrence trial.

Firth believes the book is relevant to everyone.

He said: “It's about everything that matters to us: love and life, sex and death, justice and freedom.”

He will also take part in the star-studded London launch event next Sunday, 16 September, at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, W11 at 7 p.m.

Stars participating include Ian McKellen, Celia Imrie, Rupert Everett, Emily Blunt, Juliet Stevenson, who will read excerpts, and the folk band, The Unthanks will perform a short set.

In a recent interview, Firth, who lives in Chiswick with his Italian wife Livia and their two sons, said that his father, a history lecturer, had taught him to be sceptical about only seeing one version of events.

“Keeping doubt alive is absolutely critical. Taking one perspective in anything isn’t in my nature”.

He added that his childhood, spent in England, America and Nigeria, had given him an awareness of many views and he believed history should be told using the experiences and voices of ordinary people.

The project, which is a far cry from the red carpets of Hollywood premieres, came about some years ago when Firth discovered the work of the American counter -cultural writer Howard Zinn. Anthony Arnove, an editor who worked with Zinn, later collaborated with Firth on the book.

Starting with the lamentations of the monk Orderick Bitafroml about living under the Norman ‘yoke’, the stage play ends with writer Zadie’s Smiths defence of libraries in 2011.

The contents are divided chronologically with each age having a theme, religion, democracy, and freedom.

Colin Firth has just completed filming ' The Railway Man' (based on the Arthur Lomax book), with Nicole Kidman, which is scheduled for release in late November.


September 12, 2012