Posts Tagged ‘John Geilgud’

This was only Rodney Ackland’s third play, written when he was just 23 and first staged in 1932, directed by John Gielgud. Like the other plays of his I’ve seen – After October, Before the Party & Absolute Hell – it’s a character-driven piece. It’s good to catch it in LAMDA’s summer season and add it to my small collection of this underrated playwright’s work.

Divorcee Vera lives in a big London house with her three adult children, sisters Esther & Jenny and their half-brother Gordon. She takes in lodgers, some of whom she treats with more than a little disdain, particularly vacuous toff George and flighty film actress Freda, two of her current crop, alongside writer Val and couple Laura & Jimmie. Val is in love with Esther, but it doesn’t seem to be reciprocated (but her mother worships him). George brings his friend Sylvia to a party and she falls for Gordon. Jenny invites artist Peter into the home, who isn’t who he says he is and appears to be attracted to Freda too. Jenny is going blind.

Though characters have their stories, there isn’t enough time to develop them all, so like the other plays, it comes over as a slice-of-life, in this case young arty middle-class people in the pre-war 30’s. Only Jenny Wall has to act outside her age range as Vera, and she does so very well. I thought Georgina Duncan managed Jenny’s difficult journey extremely well. It’s a fine cast, who are particularly good at creating the behaviour, mannerisms and speech of the period. Ruari Murchison’s terrific set has people coming and going through one external and four internal doors and stairs, which contributes significantly to the animation of Ackland’s play, which is finely staged by Philip Watson.

I saw these eleven players (one wearing a waistcoat) on the evening another eleven were occupied elsewhere, so it was small audience, but I suspect we had a more relaxed and satisfying evening! The play may not be up to the others, but it gets a very good production and was a great opportunity to catch another Ackland. Only 12 to go!

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This first play by the Evening Standard’s vitriolic theatre critic is deeply old-fashioned, riddled with caricatures, cliches and stale jokes.

Though the event at it’s core – John Geilgud’s arrest in a gents toilet – may not have been, the historical territory and the issues have been well covered before. This play doesn’t add or illuminate anything and cramming 28 scenes into two hours results in a complete lack of depth.

I found Michael Feast’s Geilgud unbelievably camp, but I shall bow to his better judgement as he worked with him.  The rest of the cast do the best they can with the material the’re provided with and the director and designer have served the play well.

Why has Bill Kenright and this excellent  cast chosen to get involved with it? I can only assume Celia Imrie’s post-show Q&A joke ‘in the hope that Nicholas De Jongh doesn’t pan her in the future’ is actually true!

Despite most of his fellow critics rather shameful kid glove treatment, it clearly hasn’t found an audience – without the Whatsonstage.com crowd last night, it would have been very empty indeed and as the young actor charmingly said at the end of the Q&A ‘it was great to see so many people here tonight’. It seems all those dreadful bloggers might have more of a say than you think, Mr De Jongh.

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