Well, it’s been a quite a while.
The Whingers have been busing themselves doing other things. We’ve been enjoying the summer (once it finally arrived) with copious alfresco eating and drinking (obvs) and not really that keen to be sweating it out in the dark in search of amusement.
Andrew took the waters in Lourdes, Phil took to the waters in Spain and found entertainment elsewhere in the brilliant Breaking Bad (he’s just finished off season 4) and is now working on Andrew to check it out. Let’s hope Sonia Friedman finds the time to become addicted too (Andrew thinks she probably has people to watch it for her) and puts one of its cast (Bryan Cranston or Giancarlo Esposito or Aaron Paul?) on the London stage despite the rather bizarre situation of it not yet appearing on proper telly here.
The only theatrical sortie between us was when Phil returned to The Book of Mormon and he’s happy to report that the cast seemed as fresh as daises despite being 6 months into the run.
Yes, we’ve been otherwise engaged and now the thrilling news that we’ve 160 new Barbara Cartland novels to get through suggests our theatre going is likely to become even more intermittent. But before we curl up in a miasma of fluffy romance we found time to wonder why Lord Webber’s new musical has been given such a dull title. Did a team of people come up with Stephen Ward deliberately to avoid what happened last time? Of course we don’t want to suggest that it won’t be anything less than magnificent. But if it isn’t won’t some smart Alec christen it Terminal Ward or Leavin’ Bored?
And thanks for the flood of enquiries as to where we’ve been. All three of them. You know who you are. Thanks for thinking of us.
Ah the parallels! We don’t want to go into detail, but we’ll just say that one of the characters is called Philip and leave it there shall we?
1958. Philip is apparently happily married to Sylvia. She illustrates children’s books and brings her author, the lonely Oliver, home to meet her husband before they go all out for an Italian (meal that is, they’re not that liberated). Big mistake? Or is it? Does Sylvia see a side to her husband that needs exploring?
So far so Rattigan. We switch to 2008 with new Philip, Oliver and Sylvias, the first two a gay couple splitting up just before Gay Pride, the latter a sounding board for the promiscuous and needy Oliver who needs to bang on to her about the break up.
The play neatly switches back and forth between the two periods contrasting repression and apparent freedom. Sexual liberation comes with complications and consequences. And although it’s well-directed by Jamie Lloyd to be both funny and touching the writing occasionally swerves towards didacticism. The performances, however, are splendid, Harry Hadden-Paton, Al Weaver and Hayley Atwell* especially fine as the buttoned-up fifties Philip, Oliver and Sylvia respectively. All this with the added bonus of Matthew Horne in a trio of cameos, a hilarious rent boy who supplies specialist fantasies (a particular irony in the one we get to witness), irritating lad’s mag editor and uptight psychiatrist.
Lured back to theatre-going the Whingers enjoyed the showers of rain on Soutra Gilmour’s distressed mirror set (“probably a metaphor” – Andrew) though the precipitation was almost negated by the appearance of on-stage balloons. Thankfully no one released them to signify the sexual freedoms gained over fifty years. For this we must be grateful.
The cast brandish “To Russia, With Love” placards at the curtain call. That’s one way of getting free column inches in the press and encouraging some who weren’t already ovating to ovate. Whilst appreciating the gesture, the Whingers are reluctant ovaters so stayed Putin our seats.
Rather Long Footnote
* We didn’t expect to see Hayley Atwell appearing, we were warned at the time of booking that “ the producers cannot guarantee that the role of Sylvia will be performed by Hayley Atwell”, which is possibly why our seats were so cheap (£15 third row stalls). We didn’t mind much, but were glad we did see her as she’s very good. Apparently we have Tim Walker to thank for her appearance according to this. But as Mark Shenton pointed out the circumstances do set a worrying precedent.
Mr Walker (AKA Mandrake) is, of course, soon to make an appearance in Top Hat as an Italian waiter and an Italian sailor. Phil grabbed a brief ‘interview’ with the budding hoofer after The Pride and asked him if he was nervous. ‘Top Hat’ Tim replied that he wasn’t, but did confess to being ‘excited’. The Whingers look forward to an astute producer finding parts for them in a West End musical.