Thursday, 17 June 2010


It's been a week of culture so far.
On Tuesday, I went to Winchester's own magnificent little theatre to see Harold Pinter's The Caretaker. Not the cheeriest play in the world, true - but a "classic" nonetheless. If only his wife hadn't penned those dreary diaries about her life with the late playwright and turned him into tabloid fodder...

Here I am, posing beside one of the city's many dappled green waterways, on my way to eat pizza before curtain-up.

The following day, I headed up West (as we used to say about London's theatre-land) to see a production of All My Sons - written by my favourite playwright of all time - the American genius, Arthur Miller.

Here's a glimpse of the set.
The acting was faultless. The text as powerful as when it was first written. Spine-tinglingly wonderful. I had the real sense of being part of some kind of theatrical alchemy. I've seen some amazing plays in my life - but this production has to be up there in the top five.

Tonight, I'm off to the opera - but in the meantime - what's one of the best plays you've ever seen?


  1. It's easier to remember my worst!- a provincial production of the 'Scottish play' at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham circa 1995.

    What must have seemed such a daring, brilliant stroke of inspiration in rehearsals - to roll brutally each newly killed character off the front of the stage onto a pile of(hidden) mattresses in the orchestra pit below - became the performances undoing...

    Although, as was to be expected, the matinee stalls were full of a sea of white-haired pensioners, the cheap seats in the gods were crammed with teenage pupils, there mostly under sufferance. While us bored pupils' general view of the stage was pretty awful - we suddenly realised we were afforded a perfect birds-eye view of the orchestra pit and its heaped mattresses. Once the dramatic pattern of stab, die, roll, plop was established - every impending death and subsequent rolling of the body by the other actors to the front lip of the stage was accompanied by a roaring 'woooooooooooooooooohhhh', building to a crescendo cheer like a penalty kick at Wembley, then followed by hysterical laughter as the poor, suddenly reanimated actor, scrabbled off the mattresses and tried to slink away out of sight. Amazingly, it got the pupils engrossed in the ragged 'set-text' copies we'd had to bring along - as we tried to work out in which scene the next death would come ...

    Ironically enough, as an unintentional comedy, it was also one of the BEST plays I've ever seen. You simply cannot script comedy that inspired ...

  2. I absolutely loved this and it made me laugh - you have a very witty writing style, Anonymous!

  3. Best? Derek Jacobi in Macbeth. (And it was nothing like Anon's experience above, which had me in stitches!)

    Or maybe Frank Finlay in The Cherry Orchard (that one was a West End production).

    Or Nigel Havers and Judi Dench in The Importance of Being Earnest. (Another one in Norwich - pre-kids, I used to go once or twice a month, and now it's an exceedingly rare treat.)

    In sixth form, I saw an inspirational production of Antony and Cleopatra at the University of Essex - a cast of five men and a really minimal set. (They used a black cloth for about a hundred different things - really cleverly done.)

  4. Except those plays I personally performed (most of Russian and Italian plays) – I think my favourite one is “Romeo and Juliet”, a ballet played by astonishingly talented Polish actors and dancers. I saw it at The Real Teatro San Carlo in Napoli when I was 17.
    Hard choice this one… I love too many plays.

    And I LOVE Harold Pinter. That man is pure Genius – and his works are now (again) on my bedside table! – I like reading them again and again because his dialogues “bewitch” me.
    He has a wonderful use of words, silences, punctuation and I may listen to his works read out loud for hours. It’s one of those people I’d have liked to meet.

    I also saw at theatre “The Caretaker” (remember that the first time I read it I thought about the end for several days), “The Birthday Party” and “The Homecoming”.

    My professor of English literature at University knew very well that I was in love with this author so, the day of my exam, he (with a glad smile printed on his face) only asked me to read and play a scene in “The Birthday Party”. I was reading Stanley’s words (the gloomy and shady main character of the play) when my professor said: “Ok, stop. 30 with praise” (in Italy it’s the maximum mark we can achieve at University). It was the best exam of my life – because we later talked about the author, his works, as a common conversation, not as a scheduled program.

    Brief anecdote: As we already know Pinter was also an actor but have you ever seen a film called “The Servant”, Sharon? It’s a 1963 film by Joseph Losey (Pinter wrote the screenplay by Robert Maugham’s novel) - featuring the stunning actor Dirk Bogarde and a glacial, blond James Fox at the beginning of his career. Pinter has just a cameo role there – as a man sitting in a restaurant. But how powerful, how charismatic, how immortal.

  5. And Kate - wonderful plays too those ones you've just listed above.

  6. I'm not a very serious patron of the theatre, but the most memorable production that comes to mind is "August: Osage County". I saw it at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre in 2007. The dark comedy, written by Tracy Letts, was brilliant.

    This post reminds me that it has been too long since I've seen a good play. I'm adding it to the list of things to do this summer. Thanks, Sharon!

  7. Oh, Dan - I saw that play when it came to London and it was absolutely BRILLIANT. I can easily see why it won the Pulitzer Prize.