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)
A Chorus of Disapproval, the whole cast. Photo Catherine Ashmore
The last Ayckbourn I saw was Absent Friends at the Harold Pinter theatre last spring. In that play, a long lost friend, still grieving for the death of his fiancee, shows up in a casual get-together. Over the course of an afternoon he becomes the catalyst of change and the cracks in the lives of three couples are blown wide open. In A Chorus of Disapproval, written by Alan Ayckbourn in 1984, a stranger, still grieving for the death of his wife, becomes part of an amateur operatic group that rehearses The Beggar’s opera. In the course of a few months, he becomes the catalyst of change and the lives of everyone in the group change for ever. When I saw Absent Friends, the increasing desperation as the play progresses made for a profound impression. A Chorus of Disapproval, in this production performed at – can you guess? – the Harold Pinter theatre, doesn’t have the same effect, but there is still plenty to recommend.
First of all, the production is very funny. Most of the credit for the laughs belongs to Rob Brydon playing Daffydd ap Llewellyn, the director of the production the group prepares for. Unsurprisingly, he has perfect comic timing, moreover he can use it in a way that allows the character to develop. It’s a perfectly judged performance, forceful enough to drive the play, but not so overwhelming that drowns the story and the other characters. Continue reading