The Play’s The Thing

The review I intended to write today hasn’t happened, as editing a chapter of my thesis has taken over my life, but in preparation I shall ask you… what is the best performance you have ever seen on stage?

It has to be a combination of great play and great cast, of course.  And to a large extent it’s a subjective assessment.  But I’m going to pick All My Sons, which I saw with David Suchet, Jemima Rooper, Zoe Wanamaker, and Stephen Campbell Moore.  Suchet, especially, was astonishing.  My thoughts are all here

I’m recycling my theatre cartoon…

So, I’ll be talking about plays tomorrow (or, ahem, soon)… and if you follow me on Twitter – @stuck_inabook, thanks for asking – you might be able to guess which book it’ll be!  But… over to you!  Tell me about your experiences at the theatre!

24 thoughts on “The Play’s The Thing

  • August 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm
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    Antony Sher's Richard III, Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh (the entire cast was superb), Diana Rigg as Medea, Ian Holm's Lear – and on a lighter note, the brilliant Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in Lettice and Lovage. And a memorable performance of Spartacus by the Bolshoi.

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:25 am
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      I really wish I'd had the chance to see Maggie Smith, but she's said she won't do theatre again. But I am seeing her son soon!

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  • August 22, 2013 at 11:53 pm
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    And how could I forget Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench as Antony and Cleopatra. How many am I allowed?

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  • August 23, 2013 at 2:49 am
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    I have to tell you, Simon, that as a fellow PhD student, and especially as one in a completely different field but who loves a lot of the same books you rave about, I'm just dying to hear more about your thesis. Are you willing (allowed?) to share bits of it before you're done? From the hints you've dropped, I believe it's about middlebrow English fiction, and I have to admit that I'm not even sure what that term "middlebrow" defines. I'd love to learn more!

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:26 am
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      Thanks Samantha, I will one day! Maybe once it has finished, I shall reveal all more thoroughly than I have in the past… in brief, it's about middlebrow fantastic interwar novels.

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  • August 23, 2013 at 8:08 am
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    Dominic West and Clarke Peters in Othello at the Crucible in Sheffield a couple of years ago. It was bloody brilliant. West played Iago in a broad Sheffield accent and from the moment he stepped on stage I was completely drawn in. It was the best Shakespeare production I have ever seen – genuinely moving and exciting. I forgot I was watching Shakespeare, if you seee what I mean; I was carried along by the play rather than concentrating hard to follow the language.

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:27 am
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      I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes the language is a barrier even to literary folk like wot we are, but the best actors can make it seem simple.

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  • August 23, 2013 at 8:10 am
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    Branagh's Hamlet, Ian McKellen's Richard III, Robert Stephens' Lear – I was lucky enough to see some tremendous leading performances in the 1990s at the Barbican for the RSC and the National Theatre. My favourite single performance though was from 1989 in a wonderful RSC ensemble production of A Midsummer Night's Dream – with the fairies in bovver boots and tutus, and the forest being a scrap yard. It was David Troughton's Bottom, as Pyramus in the play within a play that nearly made me wet my pants with laughter!

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:27 am
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      I wish I'd seen that, as I don't much like MND – but have only read it, never seen it.

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  • August 23, 2013 at 10:02 am
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    I haven't been to the theatre in an age – but I did see Charlton Heston in London in "The Caine Mutiny" in 1985 which was pretty amazing. Though I dislike the man's politics immensely, he was a hell of an actor (and my OH got to shake his hand at the stage door afterwards which was kinda freaky)

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:28 am
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      Meeting the actor backstage is terrifying, but I've done it once or twice! Getting my ticket signed by Penelope Wilton was wonderful.

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  • August 23, 2013 at 6:25 pm
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    West Side Story. New York, 1958, with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert. I was 12 and stood at the stage door to watch the stars come out. Carol Lawrence, who was superhumanly beautiful with creamy skin and in a lavender head scarf, got into a tiny Isetta car, and waited tactfully for me and my girl friend to get up the nerve to ask for her autograph. But we were too shy. Played the original cast album over and over again. Nobody since has ever come close to the original performances (I saw it several times).

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:28 am
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      And I don't even know who Carol Lawrence is! How nice of her to wait – and how understandable to be too nervous.

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  • August 23, 2013 at 9:37 pm
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    EVITA starring Patti Lupone ~ with cute boyfriend after dinner at Lutece in NY 1981 ~ My feet didn't touch down for days, or maybe never.

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  • August 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm
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    An experience that stands out was a last minute decision to visit the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square two years ago. I asked the woman at the wicket to recommend something and she said Betty Blue Eyes with Sarah Lancashire was lots of fun. Half an hour into it my eyes honed in on a gentleman in a trench coat and fedora…could it be? It was David Bamber!…or Mr Collins as I whispered into my daughter's ear. We had no idea he was in the play – it was the cherry on top – and boy, can he can cut a rug!

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:32 am
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      Cherry on top indeed! My friend Shauna actually appeared as a child actor in something he did – I was so excited!

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  • August 24, 2013 at 2:34 pm
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    Having seen the wonderful new film of Much Ado about Nothing last night at the local theatre, I've been recalling seeing it at Stratford Ontario years ago with Maggie SMith and Brian Bedford. Great fun.

    Another memorable Stratford production was William Hutt as Lear; also Christopher Plummer in The Tempest in 2010.

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    • August 31, 2013 at 10:33 am
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      OH, to see Maggie as Beatrice would have been so wonderful! I saw Tamsin Greig do it and she was really great, but Maggie would have been sublime.

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  • August 24, 2013 at 9:31 pm
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    Amadeus with Paul Schofield as Salieri, sometime about 1980? A man sitting in an armchair telling you he planned to kill someone. Just frightening.

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  • August 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm
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    The Wind in the Willows, the AA Milne book adapted by Alan Bennet for the stage. I was recommended this by my 11 year old stepson, and although it is suitable for children, it is one of those productions that can be equally enjoyed by adults. I went at a time when I had a lot of stress in my life, and was blown away by the heartwarming story and beautiful staging and adaptation. Also, it had lots of wintery scenes, very appropriate as I went in December. I cannot understand why this is not a Christmas regular, like the pantomine. I would certainly go again!

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  • September 11, 2013 at 10:58 pm
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    I've seen some great plays but my favourite was definitely The Sugar Syndrome at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, written by Lucy Prebble and starring Stephanie Leonidas. Outstanding stuff and completely unexpected because they were all unknowns at the time. Honourable mention goes to Waiting for Godot starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart. Which was as brilliant as one might expect.

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