The idea that everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by no more than six people must send extra winter chills to the readers of these pages. Imagine being that close to the Whingers.
But for the Whingers it’s a concept that has gained appeal since they started blogging. If you’ve ever had the misfortune to meet a Whinger you can now swank to your friends that you’re only one person away from Mel Brooks, Pamela Anderson, Britt Ekland and Lionel Blair. Imagine how close that puts the Whingers to the movers and shakers of this planet – one away from Megan Mullally, Brian Blessed, Christopher Lee and Sammy Davis Junior (although he’s dead, sadly) and just twice removed from Debbie Reynolds, Topol and President Nixon. And obviously Three Degrees from Prince Charles.
Even for the Whingers it’s a sobering thought.
But with brains befuddled by Christmas excess (and in Phil’s case New Year celebrations) they hadn’t expected their opening salvo of the new decade to involve so much thinking. Goodness, if it isn’t enough to get their heads round the six degrees concept, John Guare‘s 1990 play Six Degrees of Separation has plenty of food for thought.
Now before we go any further we have to be honest and say that actually we saw this at last Monday’s preview (11 Jan) but when we became part of the glitterati we sort of assumed that we wouldn’t have to do our own writing any more. Andrew was considering a sideline in books about ponies although he doesn’t care for them.
Anyhow, it turned out not to be and so we’re back to churning out our own copy although frankly our hearts are not in it now that we the taste for champagne.
Oh well. 6DOS is based fairly closely on the true story of con man David Hampton who posed as actor Sidney Poitier’s son and managed to charm his way into the world of rich New York liberals. It’s as fascinating as it is unbelievable if you didn’t know that Hampton actually fooled the likes of Melanie Griffiths, Calvin Klein, Gary Sinise and Leonard Bernstein (who said he hated the play) amongst others.
The problem for Phil was, as he likes to grandly remark, that he saw the original New York production and wasn’t too keen on it then He still didn’t like the play much at the Old Vic preview but thought David Grindley‘s production was well acted and slick up to a point (more on that later).
But generally Phil felt the same feelings he had felt first time around as Paul (an excellent Obi Abili) insinuates his way into the lives of Flan (Anthony Head) and Ouisa Kittredge (Lesley Manville), turning up at their Central Park apartment (designer Jonathan Fensom channelling Rothko?) claiming he’s been mugged in the park and that he’s a friend of their children at Harvard,
Although puncturing and questioning the lives of the irritating rich New Yorkers, Phil finds the play itself irritating. Characters frequently address the audience and there’s almost as much name-dropping as in Lionel Blair’s Tap and Chat but more culturally eclectic: Chekov, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Fantasticks, Spike Lee, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Diana Ross, Greta Garbo, Liv Ullman, Agatha Christie, Henry Higgins, Matisse, Hockney, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Irving Stone, Michaelangelo, the Sistine Chapel, Warhol, Sothebys, the Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Chippendale, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, all of Sidney Poitier’s best films, the Mona Lisa, Hamlet‘s Laertes and a quote from The Merchant of Venice and plenty of mentions of Cezanne, Kandinsky, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, not to mention err, Starlight Express and Cats, the latter being an unlikely but integral part of the deception.
Head and Manville are both very good. Indeed Phil found them convincingly irritating. It’s all quite convincing although the Kittredge’s South African doctor friend has a rather dodgy accent that sounds more like Tony Curtis impersonating Cary Grant in Some Like it Hot.
But Phil’s general dislike of the play meant he couldn’t stop himself from nit-picking: as part of his deception Paul cooks the Kittredge’s a meal which is apparently superb, so why don’t they eat it? And would these sophisticated people really serve the same rioja – Campo Viejo – that Phil shoplifts from Sainsbury’s?
Andrew was more sanguine about the evening: it trundled along well enough (90 minutes, no interval, leaving plenty of time to spend in the Old Vic’s pit bar) and there is full frontal male nudity which drew a sharp intake of breath from some of the Old Vic’s army of stalwarts. Andrew agreed with them that it did seem a bit early in the year to be looking at appendages. And there are gays in it (as indeed there are at the show we’re dropping into tonight) so it looks as though the Gay-o-Meter is going to be quite busy this year. It will have to be dragged out from behind the bread-maker and dusted down.
Andrew was surprised how dated the content of the play looked. It seems like only yesterday that it was on at the Comedy Theatre all fresh and exciting and starring Stockard Channing. But it must be longer ago that it seems because 6DOS is set before the end of apartheid in South Africa. But strangely even more unsettling is the fact that in the internet age Paul’s hoax would be exposed as one within the first five minutes thanks to wikipedia.
But generally the feeling was that we had been here before and rather recently. The highlight of the evening for the Whingers was a malfunction with the stage revolve which juddered Lesley Manville round in circles on her sofa making her breasts jiggle and emitting a sound like a washing machine (the revolve, not the breasts). They should keep it in.
Anyway, the opening tomorrow will be followed by a party but we haven’t been invited. How rapidly the restless spotlight of celebrity moves on.
By popular demand we open 2010 with a resolution to introduce our equivalent of the standard five-star rating system so that you can see how good or bad the show is without having to wade through the drivel.