From the archive: Ian McDiarmid talks about Macbeth at the Other Place

We had a few Macbeths this year, most famously James McAvoy’s – which I loved – and Kenneth Branagh’s and the one at the Little Angel theatre – which I missed but might just be the most glorious of them all.

At the other side of the Atlantic, Ethan Hawke and Anne-Marie Duff are opening tonight as M and lady M, the reviews will be here soon enough.

Perfect timing then to hear Ian McDiarmid talk about the legendary 1976 production at the Other Place, directed by Trevor Nunn and starring Judi Dench and Ian McKellen. McDiarmid played the Porter and Ross and it is a fascinating account:


(Source: National Theatre podcast,  recording of a platform event from August 2011)

Peter’s and Alice’s last date: Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench bid farewell to the Noel Coward theatre

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, after a performance on the set of Peter and Alice

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw, after a performance on the set of Peter and Alice

I don’t go enough to last nights. I am far too impatient and the lure of previews is strong. (There is no elation like experiencing a great new play when hardly anyone, definitely not the people who shaped it, knows how great it is). But the joy of theatre is that every night is different and as previews have a fresh edgy excitement, performances later in the run have maturity and depth.

On the other hand, last nights have a delicious bittersweet recklessness where the play often breaks free, some times with revelatory results. And more than any other performance, there is conspiracy in the air, actors and audience together in an end-of-the-world party. John Logan’s Peter and Alice had its last performance last night, and while the play is still not perfect (occasionally getting backed into a corner as much as its characters), the performance was a joy and a fitting farewell to a production that brought together Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench, two of Britain’s most luminous stage stars, a couple of generations apart but so close in every other way. Continue reading

Review: Peter and Alice by John Logan (starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw) – Noel Coward theatre

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in rehearsals. Photo Marc Brenner.

Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in rehearsals. Photo Marc Brenner.

Are any children born with an intrinsic love for money? I don’t know why this thought popped to my head as John Logan’s Peter and Alice finished. The play has no materialistic obsessions. But it deals with the passage to the adult world, and money is an entirely adult concept.

It is 1932. Alice Liddell Hargreaves is 80. Peter Llewelyn Davies is 35. They meet for the first time. These two people have a unique bond, everyone is connected to their childhood. But they are not connected to theirs. Peter Davies is desperate to understand the missing links. Alice Hargreaves knows not to be desperate for anything.

John Logan’s play is focused on the passage to adulthood: From a place of moral, intellectual and emotional clarity we move backwards to a place of pain and confusion. What do we actually learn or know to do better?

There are many powerful elements in the play, not least the performances and unravelling the past with an explorer’s eye for adventure (the past is indeed another country). Continue reading

What will be the National Theatre’s Christmas show and other stories

This August continues to be slow for theatre (after all, we have all been focusing on other exciting events), but casting and other news are hotting up. Here is what caught my eye this past week:

  • Director Jamie Lloyd launches his own production company in association with the Ambassador Theatre Group. The announcement of this new commercial theatre venture comes not long after Michael Grandage announced his West End season of five plays chock full of big names (Simon Russell Beale, Ben Whishaw, Judi Dench, Daniel Radcliffe). Although my wallet undoubtedly suffers when I have to pay West End prices, it’s healthy to have commercial theatre that feels exciting.
  • A couple of years ago, the Royal Shakespeare Company produced and toured Ben Power’s play A Tender Thing, a new way of looking at the story of Romeo and Juliet. I was sad to miss it then, but the play returns at the RSC this autumn, this time with two of my favourite actors, Richard McCabe and Kathryn Hunter. Not missing it this time.
  • Anne Marie Duff at the Donmar was already exciting news, but now the remaining cast for Jean Racine’s Berenice has been announced: Stephen Campbell Moore and Dominic Rowan will join her as husband and lover. In this “perfect tragedy of unfulfilled passion“, it’s a delicious combination.