Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Born to dance
First of the Bedlamites' 30th anniversary jaunts was organised by the bonhomous Andy Beale - a trip to the National to see his Less Well Known Brother Simon Russell in the irresistible Boucicault farce London Assurance. More of that in a moment. I should first report that SRB's biggest joy, when we trooped backstage to his Dennis Quilley Room, was a report from NYT ballet critic Alistair Macauley praising his fleetness of foot, declaring that his ballet steps would grace a full choreography, and that he hoped to see him as one of the Ugly Sisters in the Ashton Cinderella soon.
While, on the evidence of seeing the hard work put in by Wayne Sleep and Luke Heydon on Saturday afternoon, I think that might be beyond him unless he can afford a year off to train, I grant him superb nimbleness in the few steps, including a splendid entrechat, he claimed to know. It was clear from what he said to Giles Brandreth, apparently a pal, that he felt ready for new challenges. What more can he want? He's a superb music presenter, from the little I've seen, and one of my students was talking about 'the greatest living actor' when I entered the class a couple of weeks ago.
Anyway, great SRB certainly was. Here he is with Andy and Lord Harcourt Hartley's wig, another backstage shot from me in between Catherine Ashmore's production photos.
And the performance? Helpless laughter from a bewitched audience at every entrance, every pose and grimace, so that it was a bit tough on the other actors in the First Act when left alone. But the rest of the cast in Hytner's handsome production didn't let us down: there was a spirited juve lady, Michelle Terry, as the determined not-to-be bride-to-be, a class launch from Nick Sampson's valet Cool and two great tottering, wheezing entrances from the ineffable Richard Briers.
But of course the other star role is - wait for it, if you don't know - Lady Gay Spanker, a horsy joie-de-vivress in the sublime hands of Fiona Shaw, who even seems to have worked on an ever more resonant chest voice (apparently her singing is good, too, as those who saw her Mother Courage assure me).
What's the gist? Town meets country, Sir Harcourt can't outwit Lady Gay, young love triumphs. The plot fizzles a bit in the second half, but some of the language is Shakespeare worthy and if some of the gags feel as if they might have been added, they're fun: Sir Harcourt muses on how his wife ran off with his best friend - 'I still miss him' - and servant Pert (a witty Maggie Service) accuses the attorney Mark Meddle of hanging about 'like a stain looking for a sheet'. I'd happily sit through it all again, but I'd be lucky to find another ticket.
No real laughs to be had last night at the London premiere of Rufus Wainwright's earnest divafest Prima Donna; nor was it as bad as I'd feared. Read what I thought worked and what didn't in the Arts Desk review, which is being much 'hit'. Anyway, there's something about our boy wonder and bits of his score that I do find irresistibly touching. And there he was, canoodling with his lovely boyfriend, right in front of me, only an aisle between us. So how could I resist taking Rufus from behind?