We see a man peevishly disappointed at the public’s knowing him mainly as Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is grubbily bothered by money. He booked a suite at the Savoy “expressly for the purpose” of letting his wife cry for three days while she dealt with his Hobson’s choice: “you’re either my wife or an actress; you can’t be both”. He longs constantly for his unknown father, is embarrassed and hateful of his impoverished and inebriated mother and turns to Catholicism, perhaps to replicate the boundaries of the school he loved so much. As he speaks to us, he’s about to take on LeCarre’s George Smiley, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The production was clearly loved by several audience members.
However, it feels more like a radio play or a reading of excerpts than anything dramatic. Sympathy for Guinness is gradually chipped away, and not replaced by - for example - any appreciation of the man’s complexity. But it is a good way to hear some anecdotes and catch Trevor Littledale’s skills of mimicry (a gorgeous Peter O’Toole appeared briefly).
The show plays ‘til Saturday in Bristol, then on to Taunton, before travelling the country.