Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 24 August 2015

10 great nights at the theatre

OK, so its more than 10 .... some choice plums from decades of shows.

A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY - Turgenev's play has current productions in London and Dublin, but I am glad this 1965 production was one of my first London theatre experiences, with a great cast led by Ingrid Bergman, Michael Redgrave, Emlyn Williams and Jeremy Brett. I was 20 and joined the crowd at the stage door and got all their autographs.

THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, 1966 - the original Old Vic production, a staggering piece of theatre by Peter Shaffer, where Robert Stephens made his reputation as the Inca king. I was up in the 'gods' (cheap seats) at the Old Vic.

FUNNY GIRL - I was in the front row for this one, also 1966, when Barbra Streisand brought her Broadway hit to London. It was the hot ticket then. Needless to say Streisand lived up to her reputation. As with lots of musicals a lot of the songs did not make it to the movie.

THE THREE SISTERS - Chekhov's play had a mesmerising production at The Royal Court in 1968. I was in the front row for this too - Glenda Jackson as Masha and the luminous young Marianne Faithfull as Irina glow in the memory.

HEDDA - Ingmar Bergman directed this 1970 stark production of Ibsen, with a severe Maggie Smith as a very haughty Hedda, with Robert Stephens and Jeremy Brett. It was played out in red rooms with the actors all in black. So rivetting I went to it twice. 

HOME - David Storey's play was a big success in 1970, first at the Royal Court and then in the West End. I also went to this twice. John Giegud, Ralph Richardson, Mona Washbourne and DandyNichols were sublime as the inhabitants of a care home. I had to wait and meet Gielgud (very pleasant with a twinkle in his eye) and Richardson who came out in leathers to drive his motorcycle. He grandly signed "Richadson" across the programme page. 

HAMLET - as mentioned below I have seen several Hamlets, but the 1980 production at The Royal Court brought the audience to a standing ovation, Jonathan Price excelled as did Jill Bennett at Gertrude. 

A CHORUS LINE - maybe the best musical night at the theatre ever, at Drury Lane, on my thirtieth birthday in 1976.

A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC - I have seen three productions of the Sondheim classic, but the National Theatre's 1990s one with Judi Dench and Sian Phillips was tops, I was at a preview with Sondheim himself just one seat away, scribbling furiously throughout. There was that great FOLLIES production too, and of course SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM, another one I went to twice, and was taken backstage to meet Julia McKenzie and Millicent Martin - thanks Pamela. 

NOT I - the seminal 1973 Royal Court production of Samuel Beckett's astonishing work, a disembodied mouth on a blacked out stage ..... Beckett muse Billie Whitelaw was astounding as the voice.  Also at the Court that first preview for Martin Sherman's BENT - we had no idea what to expect and were blown away by it all, pure theatre ...

ALL OVER - more serious drama with this lesser known Edward Albee, at the RSC circa 1973. It was a masterclass watching Peggy Ashcroft and Angela Lansbury sharing the stage, along with Sheila Hancock. 

GYPSY - the new current production in London was total bliss too - perfectly staged and Imelda Staunton was dynamic. She is still playing it until November ...... 

There were other recent pleasures too - revivals of MY NIGHT WITH REG, ONCE A CATHOLIC, THE JUDAS KISS at those interesting theatres like The Donmar, Kilburn Tricycle, Hampstead Theatre, and ASSASSINS at the Menier Chocolate Factory ...

and how could I forget  a delicious production of Coward's DESIGN FOR LIVING in 1973 with Vanessa Redgrave, John Stride and Jeremy Brett making a divine threesome; or Joan Greenwood and Gladys Cooper in a 1971 production of THE CHALK GARDEN ...

Being in London of course over the years one to to see some great performances and favourite players on stage: Ingrid Bergman several times, ditto Maggie Smith and Judi Dench; Julie Christie, Faye Dunaway, Deborah Kerr, Jean Simmons, O'Toole, Bacall, Lee Remick, Liv Ullmann, Claire Bloom's Blanche in STREETCAR and the great Julie Harris as THE BELLE OF AMHERST in 1977. I had to write to Miss Harris (the only star I ever wrote to) and she sent a charming reply - as per the Julie Harris label, page 2. 

More on these plus illustrations at Theatre-1 label. 

1 comment:

  1. Being so much older than me (I know, bitchslap) and living in London you had the opportunity to see more than I did and earlier but you have prompted me to dig out my own programmes and list my own top ten. Needless to say, I will stick to TEN and not add on extra's like you do. Did no-one ever teach you to count as a child?