The West End Whingers have disappeared so far up their own fundaments that they’re beginning to heed their own musings.
Phil, having something that resembles a life (unlike Andrew who believes he can find life in the theatre, or even just a life) couldn’t quite find the time to accompany his whinging buddy to see the “undiscovered” Tennessee Williams plays Lovely and Misfit.
But reading Andrew’s unqualified rave on said plays he took note and rushed off to the Trafalgar Studios. Would Andrew have done the same thing if Phil had recommended something? Unlikely – Andrew never takes advice from Phil not least because on the rare occasions he listens to him he has forgotten everything by the next morning.
So Phil dragged trainee Whinger Mark along, an inspired choice as not only is Mark a bona fide American, even hailing from the southern city of Atlanta, but also has great credentials – he rarely enjoys anything in the theatre. And Brits playing American on stage? They’d better sharpen up those accents.
Things were soon looking good. Squeezed into the Trafalgar Studio 2, the more “experimental” space, Phil was already relishing a kerfuffle over the seating: two of the last theatregoers to arrive had lost their seats to a couple who obviously believed the studio has an unreserved seating policy (thankfully it doesn’t).
Better yet, an elderly couple ambled in at the last moment and on finding nowhere to put their coats proceeded (much to Phil’s great delight, and wishing he’d thought of it first) to hang their coats on the set. And there they remained until the miscreants were asked to remove them at the interval.
And the plays themselves? Phil won’t go into them at length as you can read Andrew’s copious ramblings on those if you’re having trouble getting to sleep. Suffice to say that Phil found them generally very well-acted, particularly by Ted Van Griethuysen and Jennifer Higham in the short opener Mr Paradise.
Diana Kent’s neurotic Mrs Fenway impressed Phil in the second, Summer at the Lake, as did all of the actors in the last play And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens – particularly Edward Hughes. Mr Hughes’ gay transvestite Candy Delaney plays just the right amount of camp without tipping over into caricature In fact he was barely camp at all if you compare him to the movie portrayal of Xerxes in the current, dreadful sword-and-jock strap pec-fest 300.
And the American’s verdict after the first two plays? “Exactly who recommended this?” was his considered verdict. He thought the acting dreadful, particularly by Mr Griethuysen (who is also a real American) and Ms Kent (who isn’t), and the accents universally poor and inconsistent. Mr G utters few words so we’ll let Mark off on that one. In fact Mark’s whinging was so impressive, Phil was reminded of the Whingers’ manifesto. Had Mark not let himself down badly by enjoying the final play, Andrew might possibly have found himself the victim of the first West End Whingers coup.
Was there nothing for Phil to whinge about? You bet. The main space at the Trafalgar Studios is bad enough, but Studio 2 is cramped, claustrophobic and hot with dreadful sight lines. With another week of the run to go they’d run out of programmes. Photocopied versions were handed out free of charge (no complaint there) but Phil only managed to grab one of the pages on offer as even the copies ran out.
But the highlight for Phil (and remarkably the second occasion in a week) was the chance to see actors consume citrus fruit (satsumas?) live on stage. This confirmed that Williams’ “undiscovered” plays were indeed worth discovering after all.
And with their soubriquet “West End Whingers” currently under such intense legal scrutiny, the Whingers may purloin the rather more apt epithet “Lovely and Misfit” for their own use. We’ll leave you ponder which Whinger is which.