Some mopping up – Hot Tin/ Slaves of Solitude / Young Marx

Monday 6 November 2017

For those kind folk (that should probably read as singular rather than plural) who have been interested enough to ask where Phil’s been, here lies the answer. Hip replacement don’t you know, beating Patti LuPone to the crutches by a matter of weeks. He feels Patti’s pain. And he’s just beginning to dip the toe on the end of his newly bionic leg back into the world of theatre that doesn’t come with a surgeon and anaesthetist.

A few days before the op he was treated (literally) to seeing a heavy-drinking man on crutches portrayed in the tedious, often inaudible Cat on a Hot Tin Roof which director Benedict Andrews (presumably inspired by the Ivo van Hove school of gimmickry) saw fit to set adrift on a minimal setting of soggy carpet. Phil decided not to write about it at the time as his ticket was a present and to criticise this version of Tennessee William’s play would have been like returning an unwanted gift to the shop in the most flamboyant of manners. Can you imagine if shows came with a receipt and you could get money back if not satisfied? We’d be quids in.

Opening, as it did, before the Hollywood scandals and subsequent debates one wonders how the gratuitous nudity might have been received in a Post Weinstein world. Phil would have had no particular problem with the flesh on display if Jack O’ Connell hadn’t been so heavily tattooed. When you’re playing a character called Brick, flaunting of a huge and particularly ugly “Jack the Lad” tatt is silly and distracting. Haven’t they heard of make up? For the record Sienna Miller sports some rather more discrete markings of her own. Would the current climate have questioned the nudity? Or was a tit for tat bargain struck like the transatlantic equity agreement? Is it more acceptable if we have equal nudity from both sexes?

Brick spends considerable time standing under a shower which appeared to empty directly into the carpet and despite being the member of a family worth 90 million dollars can’t afford an ice bucket. The ice for his many drinks is stored in a massive plastic bag on the floor (Brick is on crutches – Phil who was been on crutches for several weeks can tell you how daft keeping anything on the floor is when you’re incapacitated). Ice ended up all over the place. A birthday cake was broken up and ground into the carpet towards the end of the play. Phil felt no sympathy for any of the characters but he did feel for the stage hands who have to clear up the mess.

As Brick downed drink after drink he talks about waiting for the moment it takes effect: “the click”. Phil waited for the moment the play clicked too. After the best part of 3 hours he was still waiting.



Phil’s first post-operative theatre outing was to the infinitely clickier The Slaves of Solitude at the gloriously comfortable (especially as Phil was still on sticks) Hampstead Theatre. How wonderful to see a group of oldies bickering in a wartime guest house dining room (shades of Rattigan’s Separate Tables) especially since one of them sported a walking stick: Gwen Taylor playing a pair of sisters, fortunately not required on stage at the same time.

Patrick Hamilton’s “much-loved novel” was unknown to us but in this version by Nicholas Wright is rather opulently staged with a handful of sets from Tim Hately and generously cast with the likes of Lucy Cohu, Clive Francis (playing an elderly bigot  – Phil saw his Romeo many moons ago – eek) and the fabulous very much Whinger-approved Fenella Woolgar doing uncomfortable repressed restraint like no other. She’s a not-so-“dusty spinster” finding a seemingly unlikely and strange companionship with an African American serviceman, Lieutenant (don’t tell him) Pike (Daon Broni).



And so to Nicholas Hytner‘s twin babies, The Bridge Theatre and Richard Bean’s new shall-we-call-it -a- comedy, Young Marx. A first for the new theatre, a first night out without crutches.

The good news is it’s easy to get served in the foyer’s bar, which is spacious and attractive enough but doesn’t quite have that wow factor, the bad news is the queue to enter the auditorium suggests audience flow hasn’t been properly thought through. Our seats, about half way back on Gallery 1 were hard to locate as we couldn’t find the numbers on the ends of the rows, but they were nicely angled towards the stage though clanked slightly and seemed to move as one if anyone fidgeted in them. And although it’s a very good view we (3 of us including Andrew) agreed the stage seemed rather a long way away for some peculiar reason. And as our seats overlooked the stalls you could see the glow of phones as people checked them throughout the play (no announcements about phones of course – have theatres thrown in the towel?). And though great pains have apparently been taken with acoustics (according to the radio programme we listened to about the new theatre) we strained to catch some of the words.

Which didn’t really matter as it turns out, despite coming from the pen of Mr Bean (and Clive ColemanOne Man, 2 Guvs this is not. No wonder people were checking their phones.

This is Rory Kinnear as a youthful, impoverished and frankly annoying Karl Marx living in Soho with his wife (Nancy Carroll), too busy roister-doistering with his crony Friedrich Engels (Oliver Chris) to care about the practicalities of life like dealing with the bailiffs.

The audience seemed to be straining to laugh. We certainly were, we managed to squeeze just two chuckles out. But as the cast worked tirelessly to put their all into it it followed the law of diminishing returns with laughter became more sporadic. This was even lamer than Phil hobbling around on crutches. An interval departure was deemed essential and even the new theatre’s bar wasn’t quite seductive enough to lure us to lurk around in for our post (half) show drink.



And in further news Phil caught Follies for the second time at the weekend. It’s now slightly shorter than before and with a few noticeable differences, the most obvious is ditching the terrible idea of having Margie in “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” number played by a man in drag as it was when we saw it at a middleish preview. A very sensible move indeed.

And don’t get us started on the debacle of the Hamilton ticket shambles. We will come to that at a later date. We’re almost as cross about it as we are about Mr Spacey. Let’s just say Shamilton will need to be even better than extraordinarily good to win us over.





14 Responses to “Some mopping up – Hot Tin/ Slaves of Solitude / Young Marx”

  1. Good to have you back, and catching up.
    Sodden carpet or not, I hope the W scandal will certainly not encourage a nudity ban. Will it be table legs hidden from view to calm the snowflakes next? Spoilsport that I am, I did prevent a young woman taking a phone-snap of Mr O’Connell’s privates on parade – the young are deaf to phone-off announcements.
    Should we start a campaign against the Old Vic for encouraging smears against Mr Spacey with their confidential (lol) email address? Ungrateful lot!
    And when you returned to the Follies again, how up close and personal were you? Last week Buddie’s Blues were still dragged, inexplicably I agree but not detrimentally.
    But all these half-empty glasses suggest the recuperation is still a long way off. Get well soon, Phil, and let’s hope your fancy will be tickled again before long.

  2. Graham Clarke Says:

    I miss reading your reviews, even if most of the time I seem to disagree with you. This time we’re totally in sync.

    The Bridge faulted badly by opening with such a mediocre play which the critics have misleadingly hailed in encouragement for the rare opening of what proposes to be a major theatre.

    Last Saturday night had real women in “Follies” – Buddy’s Blues – and yes, it works much better than the drag. (I saw the show when it opened). This production is far better than anyone could have expected – a great achievement for the National.

    • Phil (a west end whinger) Says:

      Thank you and yes, have subsequently dipped into the reviews and am surprised at how generally positive they manage to be. Is it new venue syndrome? We know others who left at interval and others who stayed and said it got even worse. Strange.

  3. simon Says:

    Phew what a relief! Glad your back and thanks for new reviews.

  4. Susana B. Says:

    Welcome back. I’ve missed your reviews so much! What a pity about Young Marx, I had almost decided to give it a try; I loved Kinnear in The Threepenny Opera and his comedy chops are stronger than it seems.

  5. Alex Says:

    I would have been very annoyed if I had paid full price for Young Marx but fortunately I left it until they announced the pre-previews so I paid £7.50 to sit in the 3rd row of the stalls. I was VERY disappointed to realise that Mr Hyntner thinks that is the best possible show to open his new theatre. He should have waited for the Julius Caesar cast to be available and opened with that IMHO.

  6. Sal Says:

    Welcome back and worry not about feeling estranged from Hamilton which is like the Fela! of rap musicals. The peculiar tone of ThreatreShrike’s comment above somehow manages to confound “smears” with merely recounting what happened. Anyone who has actually read about what Spacey or indeed Weinstein was up to cannot refer to their victims as “snowflakes” unless such commenters are vile supporters of America’s Abuser-in-Chief in the White House and his ilk. Or senile eminences such as Gay Talese – what an ugly time we live in and what ugly people push themselves forward to crow about it shamelessly and idiotically – all the more reason to celebrate the return of the delightful Whingers –

    • theatreguymike Says:

      I have no time for Weinstein and none for the appalling Trump either, Sally, but I do deplore the Old Vic seeking to trash Spacey’s reputation by encouraging accusations, all of which are currently unproven and could be spurious. We supposedly have a tradition here of assuming innocence until proven guilty, so I shall continue to support him for his Old Vic and acting achievements, and not poke my nose into his private life..

      • Sal Says:

        What a creepy and derivative and imitative pseudo-actor Spacey always was, desperately trying to ape Jack Lemmon in Eugene O’Neill or Henry Fonda in that flatulent one-man play about Clarence Darrow. Spacey’s endless and talentless attempts to sing, not just his ghastly version of Bobby Darin, but his Bridge Over Troubled Water on the telly, surely showed complete absence of talent, irony, and humor, to the point of mental derangement. Spacey is like a more pathological version of Nathan Lane, who also mimics greater previous actors by assuming their roles, from Zero Mostel to Monty Woolley – so no, Spacey was no great actor – he had a rich supporter who backed the Vic financially, and that is all. And the UK has a long tradition of adoring Yank dollars. Meanwhile, if a phone line is not established, how would you propose that people terrified into silence after being abused by a rich, powerful actor, idolized by the tasteless, ever have their voices heard? And why would you assume all those who have stories to tell are lying and only Spacey is simon pure and innocent? What does it say about you that you prefer his pathology to the message of the victims? Lock yourself in the loo and listen to Spacey singing Bridge over Troubled Water fifty times and then try to maintain he is talented or sane… Spacey will be fine, with a personal fortune of 100 million US dollars from his ripoff performance of yet another actor infinitely greater than he, Ian Richardson, in a weak tea version of the original Brit series.

      • Phew, real hate stuff here. But I still haven’t had reason to change my opinion.

  7. Billy Says:

    All best wishes to Phil for continued healing and this gentle reminder that one can hobble endearingly, courtesy of Arthur Marshall –

  8. Graham Says:

    I hope you get to Hamilton – it’s supposed to be the best hip ‘op musical.

  9. JR Says:

    So sorry you have stopped blogging. This site was one of my favorites.

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