Sebastian's Commedia

In Memoriam:

Sebastian Graham-Jones (1947-2004)

BISS publicity

Katherine Kingston and David Horn in pre publicity photo mode for Commedia, photography by Mark Bruce.


Sebastian Graham-Jones was a theatre and TV and film director. One of his successes was the collaboration with Bill Bryden at the Cottesloe at the National Theatre (under the overall direction of Peter Hall) which led to the 'promenade theatre' genre (Lark Rise to Candleford; The Mysteries; The Big Picnic). In promenade productions, the audience were literally swept up into the action as the drama unfolded.


Sebastian's life and work were celebrated in April 2005 at the Players' Theatre in London. At that event and afterwards, there was talk about Sebastian's idea for a choreographed work using characters & images from Claude Harrison's fantasy paintings, with their allusions to the Commedia dell'Arte, to be set to Robin Holloway's haunting, quizzical Serenade in C (1979) for string quartet, double bass, clarinet, horn and bassoon.


Sebastian had talked about this project with his brother Felix and his father Michael Graham-Jones, who had commissioned early works by both Claude Harrison (family portrait, 1954) and Robin Holloway (Fantasy- pieces on the Liederkreis of Schumann, 1971). These glimpses were tantalizing, and the Graham-Jones family and the Exuberant Trustees have since been exploring ways of realising Sebastian's Commedia Project. Both artist and composer were consulted early on, and were utterly supportive.

Susie Crow and Ballet in Small Spaces

We eventually discovered Susie Crow, founder of Ballet in Small Spaces, who would be a choreographer with the vision and experience to make it all happen. Due to a successful (Grants for the Arts) application for funding from the National Lottery and the extremely generous donations from the friends and family of Sebastian and supporters of the Exuberant Trust, the Commedia was finally to be realised in a double-bill with Susie Crow's other new work 'Inside Out'.

Exuberant Players

The Exuberant Players, playing for Commedia, featuring Guy Button, James Toll and Asher Zaccardelli, taken by Bill Cooper.

Young Talent

Susie Crow said 'I envisage a work for 6 young professional dancers, chosen for individuality and expressive abilities as well as technical skills. The 30-minute performance will be made in the spirit of a painterly conversation piece; the successive short movements of Holloway's Serenade will generate a series of deliberately ambiguous vignettes - drawing on traditional Commedia scenarios as well as incidents in Sebastian's own life.' (

Young designer Ellen Stewart drew inspiration from Claude Harrison's paintings for both the costuming and setting, which included suitable props and brightly coloured clothes for the dancers. This also paid homage to Sebastian's interest in more flexible settings and his pioneering work in promenade theatre. Eight talented, young musicians 'The Exuberant Players' provided the accompanying music for the ballet.


Commedia was finally realised on May 18th 2011, when it premiered in a double-bill with 'Inside Out' at The Castle Wellingborough. This was followed by several other performances in Wellingborough and Oxford. (BISS Publicity Flyer).

More photographs and also a short film of the Commedia performances can be seen on this page, which was part of the online programme for the 10th Annniversary Gala concert, Exuberant Oxford! held at Pegasus Theatre, Oxford on 22nd September 2013.


Claude Harrison died in November 2009, but his son Tobias Harrison, also a painter, shares our vision of the Commedia Project as a celebration of the creative mind; a tribute to Claude Harrison as well as to Sebastian Graham-Jones.

David Horn

David Horn in Commedia, photographed by Bill Cooper.

The Exuberant Trust - Registered Charity No. 1095911

2003 - 2019