Oh, it had all been going so well.
The National Theatre seemed to have been climbing – laboriously, admirably, precipitously – a ladder back into the Whingers’ hearts. London Assurance, The White Guard had almost wiped the slate clean. Then to top it all, last Monday night’s Spring Storm shook off the Whingers’ jet-lag like a quadruple expresso and a wrap of Rooster Byron’s speed – and at the Cottesloe for God’s sake!
We blame the seats.
D1 & D2. Yes, D1 & D2 . These are the seats in the raised Trivial Pursuit cake slice-like wedges which bookend the central seats of the Olivier auditorium’s stalls. And these are the seats in the very front of that section on the far side. Why Andrew had booked them in the first place was a bit of a mystery.
But never mind, things didn’t seem too bad at first but then the tragedy started and Phil started plotting his revenge.
To the strains of jazzy music the players entered. Who were they? It was hard to tell. The jazz gave way to French accordian music. Were we back at La Cage Aux Folles? The lights at the sides of the stage were shining directly in the Whinger’s eyes. Phil had them tripled by the reflection in his lorgnettes.
The set thrust the actors in the opening scene so far to the front of the stage it seemed we were backstage or – at best -watching from the wings. One was Samuel Barnett (he of History Boys fame and TV’s funny Beautiful People). We recognised him as he enunciated clearly and we caught occasional glimpses of his face. Another women came on, we saw her occasionally when not masked by the back of Barnett’s barnet. Jean Boht perhaps? Hard to tell. Another woman. This one in floaty white frock. Couldn’t hear what she was saying, fleeting looks at her face. Holly Willoughby?
The set revolved. Can still only hear about two thirds of the dialogue. Curse of the Olivier auditorium. Try lip reading. Nope, can’t see their faces let alone lips. A veiled character appeared in an promising Italianate 50’s frock. The back of the wig was impressive. An imposing profile. Dame Hilda Bracket?
Two stereotypical, punkish oiks entered thrusting and fingering their groins. Were they auditioning for American Idiot? A chess game was played out between Dame Hilda and Jean Boht. The audience tittered. What were they laughing at? Subtle comedy gestures during the game? We shall never know: the back of Dame Hilda’s head was obscuring Jean Boht’s face. Were they twidddling with the chess pieces suggestively? Were we watching The Thomas Crown Affair? Who could tell? Not us. There was a brilliant bit when a man walked along the back with gold glittery stars pouring down on him.
Time to admire the black tiled floor of the set. Very shiny and clean. Phil’s mum would like that. Andrew admired designer’s Lez Brotherston’s acro props.
Time to look at the audience from our economy seats. Not much else we can see on stage. First night. Real critics. Hitchings, Nightingale, Shenton, Walker and Coveney all in first class. This clearly gave them a wholly different experience as Coveney gave it 10 stars (5 in The Independent, 5 on WhatsOnStage.Com) which is a great wheeze. We are thinking of offering to write the reviews for ALL of the rest of the national press for a bargain basement price and then London can have critical consensus and a sensible one at that (providing London does not read The Independent or WhatsOnStage.com).
Anyhoo , if you have ever wondered what it’s like to view a play from the wings or from behind the set, wonder no more. Book seats D1 and D2 at the Olivier and live the dream.
Apparently the second half was MUCH better- the climax took place on a continuing revolve so D1 and D2 got as decent a view as anyone else.
Rating of the first half of Women Beware Women from seats D1 and D2