National Theatre, starring Jim Broadbent. An Improbable Theatre Company presentation as part of the Travelex 'cheap' season. Only £10 a pop! A reworking of the classic 1970s Brit horror flic starring Vincent Price and Diana Rigg with a supporting cast of Robert Coote, Dennis Price, Michael Hordern, Coral Browne, Ian Hendrie, Arthur Lowe.
Excellent night out. Very different audience, full of young and very young people and not the usual metropolitan theatre crowd (people like me).
Broadbent hammed as the ham; Rachael Stirling looked and sounded great in the part her mother created in the 1973 film.
Bette Bourne and two poodles ('My babies, Cicely and Gwendolyne) were magnificent. One of the poodles stealing the show at one point with a cute and unscripted attempt to get on Bourne's lap by standing on his hind legs and waggling his permed tail.
Later the dog was baked in a pie, with his head as a garnish ('my babies, my babies'), and the other pooch was fed into an *enormous mincer*. And then fed into the bloated stomach of Bourne's critic cum mother (Titus Andronicus) until he exploded.
Other Shakespearean deaths included knifed to death on the ides of March (Julius Caesar), drowning in a butt of Margaux (!!!) (Henry V), electrocution at the hairdressers (Henry VI part i), spiking like a rag doll (Troilus and Cressida), live open-heart surgery (Merchant of Venice), and attempted eye-gouging, like Gloucester in King Lear.
Funniest line: 'Come and see me at the National. We'll see if we can find you some funding to workshop some ideas'.
Self-referential in a retro and cross-media fashion - Stirling is Rigg's daughter and looks and sounds like her. The set is a lovely recreation of a partially burnt and rotting proscenium arch with velvet stage curtain - beautifully done and representing a theatrical world which the National was utterly opposed to and did its best to minimise.
The backdrop to Mark Lockyer's flat (Devlin, the Hendrie part) is of an uncompleted National Theatre. The National is mentioned continually; and the climax and perhaps the best part of the play is a passionated duologue about what the theatre is or should be, given by Devlin (Pro: the National, the primacy of text, the cathartic ability of theatre to change lives) and Lionheart (Pro: the actor, the event, the wildness, the uncontrollable, the anarchic, and Anti: Posh boys, 'Magdalen wasn't it' who want to intellectualise theatre and rule its soul by committee). It's naughty of Improbable to do this as one suspects they are far far more on the Lionheart side of the argument than the Devlin.
The Lyttleton is bathed in light at one point as Lionheart uses it as evidence in his speech against Devlin's theatre; and at the end it is the Lyttleton's iron-jaw of a stage curtain coming together that signals the end of the play.