A brave and challenging play. The story is implausible and therefore at the same time lifelike. This older, solitary man who’s lived all his regimented life in London as a butcher, is hit on by a young, vibrant, slightly wired woman. It is touching and as they talk, the rhythm of the play, brought out so well by the director Marianne Elliott, allows their characters to unfold. She does have further desires apart from his company and love-making and these all come out. Deep down the play touches on our desire for certainty. The desire to be loved absolutely for ourselves is a daunting desire. Even for lifelong partners there is sometimes an uncertainty about what their partner really thinks and feels. We all change, we all die. It is only in the present that we can be certain. The ultimate lines of the play are beautiful and encompass the comforting certainty of giving and accepting. Throughout the play the voices of Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham bring reality to the piece. Penny Dyer, the Dialect Coach has, as usual done a wonderful job. The set is stunning, the colours changing in line with the emotional levels of the characters. Some plays are like pictures and they reveal to us more than what we can immediately comprehend or be certain of.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein exposure as a sexual predator abusing his power as a film producer, there have been a lot of women, including Emma Thompson saying that men should stop using women as sexual objects. This is and always has been true of course, but a lot of my male friends are upset that they are now being viewed as predators rather than just being genuinely interested in people.
I would say that, at a guess, actors now coming into the business have an 85%+ chance of not encountering sexual abuse. This is mainly because of th action of other women in the business. Angelina Jolie said that when she was first starting out Harvey Weinstein tried to seduce her in a hotel room and she walked out. She said she warned other women about Harvey Weinstein. Other actresses have had similar experiences – including me and been warned of the danger by other women. As Madeleine Albright said – there is a special place in hell for women who pull up the drawbridge after them – and this includes – as we’re now experiencing, women who have kept this secret and allowed a sexual predator to continue to abuse and debase women.
Saw and Heard Nicholas Hytner in conversation with Rachel Cooke to promote his book Balancing Acts at the Wimbledon BookFest. He was entertaining and succinct. You wonder if his clarity and single mindedness had come about after having so much thrown at him during his 12 years as Artistic Director of the National Theatre. He was both fortunate and astute in choosing the people he worked with. He had two great associate directors, Marianne Elliot and the late Howard Davis and a wonderful producer Nick Star, who he’s now working with at The Bridge Theatre. Among the achievements he’s most proud of are originating the streaming of live performances into cinemas the successes of War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and two Men and a Guvnor. When rehearsing One Man, Two Guvnors there was something not quite right and they invited an audience of school children to a rehearsal. James Corden was being pretty much his television personality – witty and bright and although the school children responded to him and the play they didn’t find it very funny. James Corden’s character was based on a Commedia dell’ Arte character from Richard Bean’s adaptation of A Servant of Two Masters (Italian: Il servitore di due padroni), a 1743 Commedia dell’arte style comedy play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. The character is stupid and devious. James Corden delivered the performance that made the play so funny, once he understood this. Comedy is the most difficult to get right and rehearse Nicholas Hytner said. It’s practise, practise and timing with none of the enriching, enlightening moments that can happen with say Shakespeare or Shaw. Nicolas Hytner is optimistic about live theatre with the number of talented playwrights emerging such as Lucy Kirkwood.
Young Marx by Richard Bean with Rory Kinnear is Nicholas Hytner’s next directing project at the new The Bridge Theatre. It is the first theatre to be built in London for many years and Nicolas Hytner and Nick Star are responsible for the project. The Bridge Theatre is by the Tower of London and the nearest station is London Bridge. Young Marx opens on 18th October and is followed by a production of Julius Caesar with Ben Whishaw. Probably a good idea to book early.
Nicolas Hytners’s book Balancing Acts is on sale now and would make a great Christmas present for anyone who is curious about The National Theatre and life in general.
Wonderful news about Kazuo Ishiguro being selected for the Nobel prize for literature. A graduate of the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia, started and led by the great teacher and writer Malcolm Bradbury. All Ishiguro’s books read extremely well out loud. It’s as if he has planted the words in a rhythmic conspiracy to hold your heart just far enough away from the raw emotions of the narrator. When We Were Orphans, is my favourite Kazuo Ishiguro book. If you can only read some of it out loud, it gives you a deeper sense of being inside the setting of the book. The lingering, bitter sweet sensation, which is the end result of coming through a totally absorbing and often traumatic story, is enough. Ishiguro’s writing is sometimes about characters finding themselves in circumstances beyond their control, often due to political upheaval. I suppose then that Kazuo Ishiguro has enough material now to last him a lifetime.