Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busman's Holiday Part II. . .

Of course another wonderful way to engage with words and language is to take in some live theatre which London always has in abundance. I love this city's theatre scene - without fail, I know at least some of my favourite British actors are always guaranteed to be somewhere on stage in the West End, and it's very easy to get tickets outside of peak tourist season.  So I saw a very sexy and superbly acted production of Noel Coward's Design For Living at the Old Vic, and then a hilarious Yes, Prime Minister at the Gielgud starring the wonderful David Haig (Bernard from Four Weddings and a Funeral) who I've seen several times on stage and always love. Simon Russell Beale is another favourite actor of mine (so terrific as Widmerpool in the 1997 mini-series of  Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time); I'll go to see him in anything, no questions asked.  He was starring in Ira Levin's Death Trap at the Noel Coward Theatre, a fun comic thriller spoofing country house murder mysteries, involving an egotistical and desperate playwright and plagiarist.

I'll also see anything at the Royal Court which is always doing daring productions and launching the careers of new playwrights, and I caught Nick Payne's new play Wanderlust which contrasted the challenges that couples face in their sex lives at different ages.  What I love about this theatre is that when you buy the program you are actually getting the full text of the play and at a much reduced cost than buying the book later in a bookshop.

But the best, the absolute BEST, was discovering that father and son acting duo Timothy and Samuel West were reviving their production of Caryl Churchill's A Number. Oh, I love, love this play and got to see it performed in a terrific space - the old Menier Chocolate Factory which has been converted into a theatre and restaurant.  If you enjoyed reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, or like dystopian fiction, this is a very good companion piece. Salter is confronted by his grown-up son who has just discovered that not only has he been cloned, but that he might not even be the original. Then two other unexpected encounters occur. Samuel West (you'll know him best as Leonard Bast - he who dies from a falling bookcase - in Merchant and Ivory's 1992 movie Howard's End; he also gave a wonderful performance as Anthony Blunt in the mini-series Cambridge Spies) plays all three of the sons and to see an actual father and son tackle these roles was truly marvellous.

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