Currently listening to: Carla Bruni, "Quelqu'un m'a dit"
Am home after a three-play weekend, topped off with seeing a couple of mates, an actor friend I hadn't seen for ages, and a meeting with my producer ... oh, and the last Harry Potter. Unbeatable.
To the Royal Court
on Friday to see "The Pain and The Itch", by Bruce Norris, directed by Dominic Cooke, and starring Matthew Macfadyen. Taking place on Thanksgiving, and opening with the discovery of bite marks in the avocados, the play examines family dynamics and relationships in a well-heeled middle class American family. It's very well acted, and very funny in places (the woman two seats along from me was in hysterics much of the time - I wasn't quite so moved); however, the mechanics of the play were, I felt, somewhat confusing and ultimately also too easy a device. To get to the last few scenes and have everything revealed in an "a ha!" way was a bit clunky, for me - compared to "Betrayal", for example (which we shall get to in a moment), the back and forth mechanism of the story-telling felt awkward, rather than part of the process. However, the acting was top rate - Matthew Macfadyen as Clay, and Peter Sullivan as his brother Cash, were both spot on in the way they portrayed the rivalry and resentments of siblings growing up together which are barely hidden behind adulthood, and Andrea Riseborough as the Eastern European Eurotrash girlfriend was brilliantly funny. The run is extended to August 4th, and it's worth seeing.
And on the bus journey northwards from Sloane Square, we passed Waterstones Piccadilly which was mobbed by people in witch and wizard costumes, waiting for midnight and the new Harry Potter. I know all the arguments about whether J K Rowling writes "proper" literature etc etc, and to be honest, I think that the fact that a book gets people excited enough to dress up and queue at midnight is pretty cool. For all that the internet and game consoles offer, people still want to get their hands on a real book, and read it. Fantastic. (But no, I didn't wait, despite Borders in Islington being open til 1am - I got my copy in the morning, and I've finished it, and yes I enjoyed it and no I'm not going to talk about the ending because I don't want to spoil anything for people who haven't got there yet).
So, Saturday - tore myself away from HP7 long enough to get a stand-by for Rafta Rafta
at the National. Well worth seeing, but check availability -for most performances you can get stand-by tickets, which will give you a good stalls seat for £18 instead of £39. The play, by Ayub Khan-Din, is based on "All in Good Time" by Bill Naughton, which was filmed as "The Family Way
", one of those films you'll remember if you grew up avoiding homework on Sunday afternoons by watching black and white films starring John Mills or James Mason.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, the play features Harish Patel, a big Bollywood star who shows off his bhangra moves to great effect, and Meera Syal as the parents of newly married Atul, who just can't seem to get it together with his new wife, what with his parents and brother being only thin walls away. It's very funny whilst also being quite poignant, and also very interesting in just how easily a story originally about white working class Lancastrians translates into a story about a British Asian family living in Bolton. Family rules, it seems.
And finally, to the last night of "Betrayal" at the Donmar. Walking into the bar was one of those "ooh, is that ....?" moments, times at least three. Ann Marie Plowman and Helen McCrory by the bar, Colin Firth looking considerably more relaxed than in Cannes, Rupert Penry-Jones looking v fit. And Alan Cox who I hadn't seen for a while so it was good to have a quick catch-up chat. He's going to be in a play at the Goodman Theatre
, Chicago, soon, so if you're in the Chicago area go and see him - he's a fab actor with a gorgeous voice.
As for the play itself - the rewinding structure really suits the subject, as it becomes clearer to the audience just who knew what, and when; as for betrayals, although the obvious one is adultery, as the play goes on it becomes obvious that there are multiple layers. Emma (Dervla Kirwan) betrays Robert (Sam West), but he's betrayed her for years too, while Jerry (Toby Stephens) has lied to his best friend. In fact Sam said that during rehearsals they'd counted up the lies and betrayals and got to something like 51. It's taken me a while to get into Pinter, but having done so, I'm glad I made the effort and persisted. He is so incisive about human relationships, in a rather disingenuous way. Nothing is said directly, but its all there for the reading. I love it, and am glad I got to see this Betrayal twice - a fabulous, well acted production of a great play.
And now I'm home, and getting my regular fix of sex, violence and very bad language - what will I do once "Rome
" has ended?