We know that he or she was not the only critic blubbing away that opening night – we bumped into another one emerging from the theatre daintily dabbing at his ducts with a Kleenex.
Perhaps Arthur Miller‘s play would work its magic and touch even the Whingers’ shrivelled hearts?
Well, we can’t exactly say we dissolved into tears when we found out they had sold out of programmes at the Apollo Theatre on Tuesday evening, but we were a little peeved.
Run out of programmes? What’s all that about? It’s only been running a couple of weeks and only officially opened last Thursday. No, there wasn’t a programme to be had in the whole place. Not even for ready money. We even scoured the stalls on hour hands and knees after the show to see if one had been discarded or dropped unnoticed due to tear-induced blindness. But no, nothing. Just the detritus of plastic drinking vessels, empty boxes of Paynes Poppets and – happily – some still-lickable ice cream tubs .
So if this report is lacking a few details please forgive us and blame instead whoever didn’t order enough programmes.
What we do know is that this was director Howard Davies’ second (at least) pop at directing AMS. Whether you can say, as the Time Out review does, that it’s a “revival of his superb 2000 production” is another matter. That was the one with Julie Walters and Ben Daniels at the National; Phil saw it and thought that it was pretty absorbing stuff.
The play is set just after WWII and takes place somewhere which is 700 miles from New York. Poirot plays Joe Keller who may have condemned 21 pilots to death by supplying planes with faulty cylinder heads and letting his business partner take the rap and a prison sentence. Was Joe really culpable and just how much guilt does he carry? Wanamaker plays his wife Kate: how much does she know? One of their sons is missing presumed dead in a plane crash. Was this also a result of Joe’s actions? Their other son Chris (whom we once met at a party and so could confidently identify as Stephen Campbell Moore) is now stepping out with his missing/dead brother’s fiancée Ann (played by someone or other who had a bit of a look of Hilary Swank about her and Phil thought rather good), but Kate doesn’t accept her son is dead, so how the heck is she going to handle that?
Phew, that’s quite a lot to be unravelled, and unravel it does of course, and at times quite dramatically. Yes the Whingers can attest that this is a very good production, it’s a ripping story and the secrets and lies unfold in a satisfyingly gripping manner.
There’s a gorgeous set, we’re guessing by William Dudley, consisting of a beautifully realised house, suitably weathered with a porch and garden where the action takes place, real grass (or so it looked from the Whingers’ comp seats in Row L – what didn’t they want us to notice?) which may have been simply left over from Jerusalem‘s Apollo residency. Plus there were some marvellous fake trees including the dangling branches of what looked like a huge willow. All very convincing. Yes, the set was getting a lot of favourable comment from those around the Whingers and it’s a such shame we can’t credit the designer with any certainty.
Another woman who was the wife of the doctor next door was played by a woman who was a bit like Mo Gaffney’s Taffy Turner. There were quite a few other people in it but goodness knows who they were.
The lighting – which was obviously by someone rather good – goes rather red hued towards the end when there’s talk of Joe having “blood on his hands” and Kate turns up in a bright red frock serving grape juice (what’s grape juice? Isn’t that just wine?) and Joe sports a bright red tie with matching pocket handkerchief, then spends his final scene in a red dressing gown. We think something may have been being hinted at.
Phil thought Poirot was pretty impressive and wasn’t surprised that his curtain call with Wanamaker prompted a standing ovation and disgusted looks look from the – (American) lady ovating next to Phil, who seemed appalled that the Whingers stayed firmly seated as demanded by those great British traditions of dignity and inertia. But we have to say that we were even more impressed by Stephen Campbell Moore, whose character is really the heart of the story anyway. Did Joe and Kate’s “tragedy” deserve tears? And we don’t wanamaker song and dance about it but Andrew found Kate’s transition from miserable mother of a missing son to light-hearted hostess rather bewildering.
Still, the play’s melodrama and sentimentality (we approve of melodrama, at least) seemed to work its magic on the crowd. Phil was sure he heard someone towards the front of the stalls blubbing near the end. Were there more journos in? Andrew professed himself unmoved; Phil confessed to a slight tingling in one eye briefly and was desperately trying to squeeze a droplet out just so he could feel like a real critic.
So Andrew is harder than Phil then, but only just. But at least the Whingers are harder than real critics. We’re quite looking forward to a fight now.
Phil’s (left) and Andrew’s (right) lachrymometer readings.
* A comment by Zoe Wanamaker who was interviewed in last week’s Time Out prompted possibly the Best. Letter. Ever. in this week’s edition:
Zoe Wanamaker asks ‘ “Grumpy Old Women”! Why would anyone want to go see that?’Because ‘My Family’ is on TV?Geoff Bagwell