Where: West End
1 November 2005 WOS Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews Simon Gray brings the baggage of rueful regret to most things, it seems, Even the supposedly welcome sight of a revival of one of his early plays, – itself, of course, about the kind of regrets that permeate through life -- prompts a programme note in which he looks back at those actors now dead from the play’s original 1975 production, or of family connected to them, and says that, “for a playwright, much more than a play is revived, when one of his older plays is revived”. Otherwise Engaged
In this case, however, there may be a stake even higher to re-claim: his dramatic reputation. Across some 25 plays (and the brilliant backstage diaries of the making – and unmaking – of four of the later ones, that have been decidedly better than the plays themselves), we have seen a slow dwindling of his dramatic fire and passion.
But in this richly textured play that deploys a constant stream of laughter to brilliantly mask the pain that courses through it, we get a distillation of the types of characters and preoccupations that he has been fastidiously re-visiting ever since with a kind of nagging insistence.
This is a world of Oxbridge educated publishers and journalists and those resentful of not having gone there; adulterous marriages; and the women that variously seduce and betray them. It’s not a pretty sight, to be sure; but it’s a morbidly fascinating one. And amidst Gray’s uniquely dyspeptic brand of the poison of self-disgust and the bad social and sexual manners that they are revealed through, he has produced a play as poignant as it is funny.
While the original production (and eight other Gray plays) was directed by his long-time friend
Harold Pinter, it’s interesting to note that whereas Pinter’s dramatic method in his own plays was to produce multiple shards of meaning from elusiveness, Gray’s own style is invariably to spell everything out, even silently. But while the lead character here duly wears a constant mask of suppressed feelings, Simon Curtis’ otherwise immaculately acted production suffers a hole where the drama should be in Richard E Grant’s performance as the publisher, whose Saturday morning attempt to settle down with a recording of Wagner’s Parsifal are interrupted by a constant stream of visitors.
Though Grant is good at the exterior posturing of bravado that his character hides behind, there isn’t much in the way of internal acting going on; and even the real tear that he sheds at the end seem purely to be on the outside. But there’s excellent support from
Peter Wight as his brother, Anthony Head as his best friend Jeff, Amanda Drew as his cuckolding wife Beth and in particular David Bamber as a cuckolded fiancée who drops by with his own disturbing agenda.
- Mark Shenton
Subscribe to our free newsletter
Featured Editor's Picks
: The economic impact of Arts & Culture in the UK Infographic When Culture Secretary Maria Miller called for the arts to make their "economic case" for subsidy, t... Plays Cast: Harry Potter star in Southwark Moment, more for Branagh's Macbeth Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films, will make her stage d... : Live Tweeting West End Eurovision 2013 West End Eurovision 2013 takes place tonight (23 May 2013) from 11.30pm at the West End's Dominion... : 'I carry the ghost of Gregory Peck on my shoulders' Robert Sean Leonard Actor Robert Sean Leonard is currently playing Atticus Finch in Timothy Sheader's production of To K... To Kill A Mockingbird Twenty years ago, a young Robert Sean Leonard appeared on the London stage with Alan Alda in... West End Live returns to Trafalgar Square next month West End Live, a weekend of free entertainment from top London shows, will return to Trafalgar Squar... Robert Sean Leonard leaves 1st Night Photos: House for the Open Air Timothy Sheader's production of To Kill A Mockingbird opened at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre last ... Disgraced The timing of this UK premiere of Ayad Akhtar's Disgraced is eerily apposite in light of yesterd... X Factor musical titled I Can't Sing!, opens Palladium March 2014 The forthcoming X Factor musical will be called I Can't Sing! The Musical and will premiere at the L... Donmar stages Nick Payne premiere, Wesker's Roots & Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus The Donmar Warehouse has announced its new season, which features the premiere of Nick Payne's new p...