Day Five in London

Day Five
Ari and Jim at the National Theatre
In a word: Great seats. Front Row! At the glorious National’s Cottesloe Theatre to see the premiere of Nicholas Wright’s THE REPORTER. We are only an arm’s length away from the handsome actor Ben Chaplin who spends a surprising amount of time at the lip of the proscenium, narrating the story of his character’s life which ends in suicide as he inhabits the formidable soul of James Mossman, the BBC reporter who killed himself in 1971 leaving behind a cryptic note, “I can’t bear it anymore, though I don’t know what ‘it’ is.” The two and a half hour play endeavors to find out. And our group of eight women uniformly falls head over heels in love with this matinee idol in the making, even though we all have to crane our necks up to take him in. It’s worth the pain. No complaining about these seats despite the bizarre perspective; one can be too close to the action occasionally. But at the end of the night, our ladies conclude, “Why couldn’t we have been RIGHT ON TOP OF HIM?” Well, that was really just my wife saying that, leading the cheer, but everyone seemed to agree. The man was hot.

Playing someone very gay, mind you. You’ll remember actor Ben Chaplin from the films THE REMAINS OF THE DAY and THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS and STAGE BEAUTY and from the Broadway production of THE RETREAT FROM MOSCOW. I mistook him as the Jewish actor from CHARIOTS OF FIRE. Wrong. But he is a dark, usually curly-haired Brit who seems distinctly Semitic, and maybe because of his first name, Ben, there’s a sense of being in the rare presence of a kinsman.

The play’s quite wonderful. Really a scintillating pscychological mystery – in the tradition of EQUUS. We’re to have a discussion of it, and a week’s round up in a few minutes with our Sunday Times critic, as our final full day in London begins with a breakfast wrap up. It’ll be BILLY ELLIOTT tonight and some fun activities before. So there’ll be much more to report on.

The Churchill War Cabinet and the overall Churchill Museum were incredibly informative and creatively presented. We loved being there. Walking everywhere, wonderful again. The fifteen minutes difference in meeting times meant not a thing to anyone – in the end, a total non-issue – there was never a tour guide to be met; it was all a self-guided tour with radio wands.

Oh, and Max Stafford Clark, addled by a stroke, paralyzed almost completely on one side of his body, his book talk in the Platform program at 6 in the Cottesloe before the 7:30 curtain was perhaps the most poignant presentation we’d seen so far. The after-effects of the stroke had triggered in him, he admitted to us all, a propensity for breaking out into tears at a moment’s notice. He was discovering this strange new habit in rehearsals, and it happened several times as he read to us from TAKING STOCK, his memoir. There was, perhaps, a little too much insider baseball for some in our group – too much theatrical who’s who and talk of shows on tour and acronyms like BAM of which our group seemed to be unfamiliar – but this was an audience of theater pros and serious students who loved being in Max’s company and were tuned to every word. A beautiful program, this Platform pre-show author’s series. Would love to introduce it at Theater J.

Much more to come after the critical round up.

Until then…

One thought on “Day Five in London

  1. So i just stumbled upon the blog and i love it! The trip sounds wonderful despite the seats and the schedules. Ari, you are such a great writer that this blog will be worth keeping no matter who reads it or responds! Warm regards to all from a very cold DC (yesterday’s rain, sleet and snow were no fun!)

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