Dear me. You know something is going on when a dump like the King’s Head “Theatre” starts getting all grand and announcing that the taking of photographs is strictly forbidden. And has a decent set.
All the stops have been pulled out because the “something”, of course, is James Jagger (son of Mick and Jerry) who is making his acting debut.
And it’s not only stops that have been pulled out: De Jongh, Billington and Spencer were winkled out of the West End for the opening night too (We must remember to campaign for “De Jongh, Billington and Spencer attend pub theatre” to be made one of our nominations for the WhatsOnStage Theatre Event of the Year).
Phil was unable to make the first night of Lone Star and Pvt. Wars principally because he wasn’t actually invited but he protests (as in “Methinks the lady…”) that he wouldn’t have been able to make it anyway.
But Andrew (who is far less busy and popular) was able to make it at very short notice as the guest of blogging critic Mark Shenton once again. How desperate that man must be to not seem to be friendless in front of his peers.
So, to the noises of barrel bottoms being scraped, Andrew proudly took his “seat” (actually a bench) among the great and the good, secreting the “Reserved for Press” sign into his programme as a memento of his night out with the critical aristocracy.
Lone Star and Pvt. Wars are two short(ish) plays from 1979 by James McLure. Each revolves around the relationships between a different trio of men.
Lone Star takes place out the back of a Texas small-town bar where Vietnam veteran Roy (Shane Richie, yes – as in Alfie Moon off Eastenders) and his brother Ray (William Meredith – this one, not the poet, nor any of these) get steadily drunker, in the course of which confessions emerge and some moving-on takes place. James Jagger plays Cletis, the dumb son of a hardware store owner.
Pvt. Wars features three Vietnam veterans convalescing in an institution. Silvio (Richie) is a compulsive flasher of nothing, his bits having been lost to shrapnel. Gately (Meredith), the seemingly balanced member of the trio spends his days on the mysteriously Sisyphean task of mending a radio. Natwick (Jagger, left) is the nerdy, intellectual son of wealthy WASPs and the victim of Silvio’s bullying and the butt of his jokes.
What everyone was there for, of course, was to see if Jagger can act and the short answer is “who knows?”. Neither part has much of an opportunity to deliver any range and Jagger did seem somewhat uncomfortable. But what he excelled at was creating physically and vocally distinctive characters – the slouch-shouldered Cletis and the fey Natwick are impressively not what one would expect from the debut of an ex-model. Or maybe it just explains why he’s an ex-model.
Poor William Meredith. He’s clearly the most accomplished actor on the stage and it is his downbeat parts which provide the emotional centres of the play but he won’t get the attention amid all the frenzy for a Jagger and an EastEnder, but the Whingers hope to see more of him although Andrew actually got to see quite a lot of him when he dropped his trousers (clarification: Meredith did. Not Andrew. Not on this occasion).
Presumably director Henry Mason made a conscious decision to play up the comedy (which of course suits the West End Whingers just fine) and Shane Richie really gets the bit between his teeth, especially as Silvio. In both cases, he is totally immersed in his larger-than-life characters and is actually rather excellent, although his performances weren’t to everyone’s tastes: De Jongh gave the first play three stars and the second just one (lone star – geddit?), with the criticism that “Henry Mason fails to prevent Richie from driving this black comedy deep into farcical terrain.”
But he might just have got confused because he did, after all, nod off during it. And Andrew didn’t. Now that is something.