Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Friday 26th August 2005

"Wonderful" - Daily Mail.

So say the billboards outside Wyndham's Theatre, tempting punters into the current production, Arse You Lick It.

Private Eye helpfully places this in context:

What Quentin Letts actually said was this: "All the knowing innovation finally proves too much in David Lan's arch-casual direction...Shakespeare's wonderful story is near indestructible but the aftertaste here is of tinny, modernist zeal."

Of course, anything that provokes even the slightest grumble from the Daily Mail has to be checked out, so I bought a couple of tickets. I've always been a bit irritated by AYLI, but my interest in all things bardic had been revived by seeing the National Theatre's excellent Theatre of Blood the week before. I skipped down to the box office 90 minutes before curtain up in good faith.

The performance started a little earlier than I had anticipated. As I was leaving the box office, tickets in hand, I noticed two burly fellows standing just outside the doors, large cameras discretely held behind their backs.

"'Ere she is," said one of them.

A car had pulled up to the curb. Sienna Miller and a yobbish looking bodyguard got out and made a beeline for the door, as the Paps let off multiple flashes in her face. As they did they crashed back and forth, barging into anyone unfortunate enough to be in their path. I was shielded by two women, who were bundled into the wall in pursuit of that elusive shot of Miller brushing some grit away from her eye ("Sienna Weeps!").

The play itself was faintly tedious, but the terminally unfunny source material was often managed in a way which brought some humour to the lines. The above mentioned Ms.Miller, although a bit awkward on stage, acquitted herself in her supporting role better than her erstwhile fiancé could ever do. I enjoyed Reece Sheersmith's Jacques but I imagine purists would disapprove of the absence of melancholy in his performance. Dominic West and Helen McCrory were, y'know, alright, as the leads. I thought the latter a bit too shouty. In fact everyone on stage was a bit too shouty. This was a bit frustrating because really all I wanted to do myself was shout. Loudly. At my fellow audience members.

It amazes me that people don't know how to behave in a theatre. For a start, it was like sitting in a TB ward, the two old gimmers behind me hacking up their guts at frequent intervals. It was as much as I could do not to turn round and look at them pointedly as Sheersmith gave us life's final scene - "...second childishness and mere oblivion/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." Actually, it sounded as though they were already sans teeth. In between the curdling of their phlegm, they popped cough sweets, which rattled around their mouths resulting in the unpleasant salival smacking of lips. I could have done that for them.

At other times I could hear theatregoers' comments on the action unfolding on stage from three or four rows away ("Oh yes, isn't he fan-tas-tic?"). Another cougher on the opposite side of the theatre was prompting annoyed head-turns from all around her. Someone (remarkably not an English teacher) was laughing like a deranged harridan at Sean Hughes's Touchstone, perhaps Shakespeare's least amusing character (and that includes Lear, Macbeth and Bottom).

There was a point where I was convinced it must have been some kind of conspiracy. Behind me, there was the sound of frenzied hacking and bile bubbling on lips. To my left, a man was furiously playing with his change. To my right, a girl was loudly complaining to her boyfriend in Japanese. But no, it was just your average Wednesday night at a celebrity-heavy play in the West End.

Perhaps my indifference to the play itself is testament to the quality of the production. Given the distracting goings-on off stage, I could easily have turned my anger towards the performance. But although it wasn't great, I enjoyed it. Maybe then, if those behind me had already reached the eighth stage of Man, the Japanese had stayed in Tokyo and the harridan had laid off the Seroxat, I would have been treated to a "wonderful" play.

81 - posted at 10:25:50


"There was a point where I was convinced it must have been some kind of conspiracy"

We're going to see this next week. I'll let you know...

1: Matt - 10:50:21 on Friday 26th August 2005 (permalink)

I suspected that the bloke behind us was merely doing fake coughs to make his tubercular companion feel better and less conspicuous. Which of course was even more irritating...

2: Claire - 17:15:17 on Friday 26th August 2005 (permalink)

Oh, and I do like their careful use of the Daily Mail's review. Presumably the full quote was just too long to go on the poster.

That reminds me of the incident in the states recently where Sony had to admit that some of their films are so bad that they have to actually fabricate quotes and, indeed, reviewers:


3: Matt - 17:29:19 on Friday 26th August 2005 (permalink)

I fucking hate paps. One of them once told me that if I "laid a fucking hand" on him he'd have me arrested, then in the same breath threatened to push me into the Atlantic. This from a man who spends his life snapping Old Firm players' girlfriends and in the hope of getting a shot of a deeply unremarkable actor on a boat (on a boat!) for some Ayrshire toilet-roll paper read by no-one. Wanker.

4: Dave (Glasgow) - 08:03:16 on Saturday 27th August 2005 (permalink)

Turns out it's not a conspiracy after all. Although not quite as bad as your description, last night's performance was punctuated by a fair degree of coughing, creaking seats, and people laughing at the jokes. Then again, we were up in the nosebleeds in our £10 lastminute.com seats, so I can't really complain.

I also have to agree with you on the performance--there did seem to be a lot of shouty-ness going on (in a student drama-esque "we don't really understand what we're saying, so we'll just emphasise a bit at random to try to sound like we do" sort of way), although it was nowhere near as bad as some productions I've seen over the years. I also enjoyed Reece Sheersmith's performance, although I couldn't shake the feeling that he might at any point turn into a League of Gentlemen character. I half expected to hear him end one of his speeches with a "what is wrong with people round here?"

5: Matt - 13:46:43 on Thursday 1st September 2005 (permalink)

Absolutely know what you mean about Sheersmith. He was good to watch though.

Our seats were also Lastminute.com - they were alright, up in the circle, but a good view - those tenner tickets can sometimes get you excellent seats : it's the luck of the draw. When we went to see Theatre of Blood, again through LM.com, were were sitting in the stalls, in the centre, about six or so rows from the front. Perfect.

6: Rob - 09:46:29 on Friday 2nd September 2005 (permalink)

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