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Tuesday, 10 May 2011


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Forgive my being off topic, Duffers, but I thought the implication of the photo in this article too good to overlook. When you see the photo, you'll see that "overlook" is the mot juste.

Well, Wordsworth it ain't, but at least he tried.

And failed, Andra.

Fascinating, DM, I had wondered about the name.

But the photo, David. How could anyone hide unobserved in a place so overlooked?

And if you wanted to kill the bugger, wouldn't one sniper suffice?

Slightly OT but I hope you enjoy "Flare Path". Mrs U took me to the Old Vic on Saturday evening to see Cause Celebre. I love Rattigan but, I must say, despite the unanimity of the London critics I was disappointed by this one. Mrs U told me afterwards that the play was written for radio and thus was explained the absence of the customary Rattigan "set pieces", the constant "mini-scenes" and the lack of my total absorption in the play.

Moreover, and I'm sorry if I'm a one-note critic on this subject, Anne-Marie Duff contributed her unremarkable (although outrageously over-celebrated) talent to the role of Mrs Rattenbury. Blimey, as is usual in Rattigan's leading parts - and the role of Rattenbury is no exception - they are so well written and achieved that I could play them and expect rapturous applause at the curtain call. To say I found A-M D's realisation of Rattenbury's hysteria and drunkenness unconvincing is remarkably (for me) restrained.

My impression is that on the whole, and on the telly, actors do a remarkably convincing job of "being" someone who is in some way mad or mentally defective. They are, however, less uniformly good at playing drunks. Why should that be? Is it just that the audience is more familiar with drunks and therefore more critical of performances of them?

Maybe they have more experience of loonies than drunks! (Tongue in cheek but) if you read/hear the views and beliefs of most luvvies on most matters outside their day jobs, the lunacy quotient is extremely high.

They do say, DM, that playing drunk is the most difficult of an actor's skills. Of course, that leads back to the most understated of an actor's skills - observation. You really do need to observe how different people in different circumstances move. I remember directing Stoppard's Travesties in which the same actor plays a character in his youth and in his dotage. I had to remind the actor that the way in which an elderly man sits down in an armchair is very different from a young man. An 'oldie' shuffles backwards until he feels the chair against the back of his legs and then slowly lowers his backside until he goes beyond the point of no return upon which he collapses into the chair. Do it right and no-one will notice, do it wrong and most people will not notice in particular but they will 'know' sub-consciously that the visual image they just saw was not quite right.

As you will see above in my 'crit' of the show, I did enjoy Flare Path. However, whilst I didn't mention it in my review, I was not entirely convinced by the Sienna Miller and Harry Hadden-Paton. She, I think, lacked the emotional depth required. Of course, being a Rattigan play, you cannot indulge in too much overt emotion but a really good actress would get it across to an audience with subtlety. In places I could see Hadden-Paton 'doing acting', if that makes sense, although all my friends thought his breakdown scene was terrific. Anyway, a Wednesday matinee was sold out to a hugely enthusiastic audience and I was delighted to see a bevy of young teen-age girls on a group trip. In the interval I asked some of them what they thought of it and they were very enthusiastic and told me they were fascinated to knwo what it was like during the war. Nice youngsters, racially mixed, bright, outgoing, typical of modern Britain, it was good to see them in a theatre watching a proper play - so perhaps not all is lost.

(Been a helluva day today so please excuse any typos!)

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