Author Archives: Carole Woddis

Gundog

Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London (***)

© Manuel Harlan, Ria Zmitrowicz (Becky), Alec Secareanu (Guy) - it's tough out there on the land...

© Manuel Harlan, Ria Zmitrowicz (Becky), Alec Secareanu (Guy) – it’s tough out there on the land…

How lost can you feel in the countryside? According to Simon Longman’s new play, Gundog, a good deal. Longman’s rural family of shepherds are a sad lot. There’s Becky – school drop-out, couldn’t see the point of learning anything, `they don’t do lessons in shepherding’ – Anna, her older sister, quiet, monosyllabic, dependable.  And Ben, their angry, troubled brother, who turns up from time to time having been away but forced to return. He has no skills, other than being on the land. Continue reading

Ian Richardson – obit

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IAN RICHARDSON – obituary – Carole Woddis

There can’t be many actors who suddenly find themselves the centre of an awards night dedication. But that is exactly what happened at last week’s BAFTA awards. Apologising for `going on a bit’, Dame Helen Mirren, appearing on the point of tears, accepted her Best Actress award with the words, `this is for Ian’.

Mirren was a young actress when Ian Richardson, by then an established member of Peter Hall’s RSC, took Mirren under his wing and gave her `confidence in myself. He became my mentor’.

Outwardly, Richardson, 72, who died quietly in his sleep last Friday (February 9th) seemed less the avuncular counsellor, more like a dapper cobra. There was nobody who could point a line like Richardson or endow it with more acidic or ironic precision. Not for nothing has his passing been marked by universal reference to his portrayal of Francis Urquhart in the BBC’s adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ House of Cards (1990), for which he won a BAFTA. No one who saw him will ever forget the smiling, silky menace with which he endowed the words: `You may think that: I couldn’t possibly comment.’

Little wonder that the phrase has now entered the Westminster political lexicon or that news of his death last week brought mention on national news bulletins. Such was his impact, it even prompted political editors on the national newspapers to mourn his passing.

Despite this, his appearance on the two sequels, To Play the King (1993), The Final Cut (1995), and many other acclaimed tv roles which included Sherlock Holmes, Lord Groan in Gormenghast, the `tailor’ in John Le Carre (accent on the e)’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979), Sir Godber Evans in Porterhouse Blue (1987), the defending counsel in Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy (1989) and more recently, Bleak House (2005) and Hogfather (2006), it was as a peerless classical actor that Ian Richardson should be remembered.

Ian William Richardson was born in Edinburgh, in 1934, the son of a biscuit factory manager. He attended Tynecastle school, later training as an actor at Glasgow’s College of Dramatic Art before going on to join Birmingham Rep where Sir Barry Jackson held sway. At 24, he played Hamlet but by 1960, he was being whisked to Stratford-upon-Avon to join Sir Peter Hall’s newly inscribed Royal Shakespeare Company, becoming a founding member, staying 15 years and working alongside Peggy Ashcroft, Sir John Gielgud and an up-and-coming Judi Dench.

With his physical elegance, vocal dexterity, speed, lightness of touch and a certain nervy restlessness, he quickly began to make his mark. Outstanding early roles included Oberon in Peter Hall”s 1962 A Midsummer Night’s Dream (to Dench’s Titania) and an Antipholus of Ephesus in Clifford Williams’ hurriedly rehearsed Comedy of Errors (1962) which still stands out for this viewer as a masterclass of comic timing and subtle double takes, only equalled by his similarly inspired Master Ford in Terry Hands’ The Merry Wives of Windsor, a whirling top of supposed cuckolded jealousy.

Richardson went on to find acclaim in Peter Brook’s Marat/Sade (1964), as Vendice in Trevor Nunn’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (1969), as Cassius, Angelo and Prospero, a dazzling Berowne in Love’s Labours Lost and not least, alternating the role of Richard II and Bolingbroke with Richard Pasco in John Barton’s 1973 revelatory dual casting version.

Away from the RSC, he was an award-winning Professor Higgins in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady (1976) and Humbert Humbert in an ill fated stage version of Lolita.

His last two stage appearances saw him, still in fine voice, if wasted as a creepily misogynistic millionaire in The Creeper by Pauline Macaulay and more gloriously, as Sir Epicure Mammon in Nick Hytner’s revival of Jonson’s The Alchemist at London’s National Theatre.

His last film appearance was in the Jane Austen biopic, shortly to be released. He was due to start filming an episode of Midsomer Murders and had just completed costume and wig fittings.

In 1961, he married the actress Maroussia Frank with whom he had two sons, Jeremy and Miles. In 1989, he was made a CBE.

Ian Richardson: actor, born April 7, 1934; died February 9, 2007.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0007183/

 

The war has not yet started

Southwark Playhouse, London (****)

© Steve Tanner, (l-r) Sarah Hadland, Hannah Britland, Mark Quartly - awaiting escape or maybe not, over the border, past custom control...

© Steve Tanner, (l-r) Sarah Hadland, Hannah Britland, Mark Quartly – awaiting escape or maybe not, over the border, past custom control…

Well, here’s a thing now, a season of plays up from Plymouth – but no ordinary season when steered by Simon Stokes and Jenny Topper. Continue reading

2017 Round-up – partial and prejudiced

Last year, I wrote: `Recalling the year past …I’m struck again by the richness and talent of so many shows I’ve seen, particularly in the smaller and off-West End and Fringe venues.

With the demise of the repertory system, it is the fringe and alternative theatre that has stealthily and often in unrecognised ways provided the apprenticeship and forcing house in recent years for all that is best in our theatrical, cinematic and televisual life.

We take it so for granted, the unstinting hours, the passion, the labours of love, for little remunerative reward, that forms our cultural backbone. ‘ Continue reading

How to Win Against History

The Maria, Young Vic Theatre, London ****

© Kristina Banholzer, Seiriol Davies as the cross-dressing Henry Paget, Marquis of Anglesey, starring in his own show and theatre...

© Kristina Banholzer, Seiriol Davies as the cross-dressing Henry Paget, Marquis of Anglesey, starring in his own show and theatre…

Seiriol Davies’s How to Win Against History is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. But then again, it is. A pastiche, a satire, a brilliant piece of aesthetic camperie on a par with some of the best, wackiest shows of the alternative, gay scene of the late 1980s and ‘90s by such as Bloolips with the inimical Bette Bourne, Davies is absolutely in the tradition of Lindsay Kemp and probably Oscar Wilde – had Oscar performed as much as written. Continue reading

Eugene Onegin

Arcola Theatre, London ****

© Andreas Grieger, Anthony Flaum as Lensky, Felix Kemp as Onegin. The duel scene

© Andreas Grieger, Anthony Flaum as Lensky, Felix Kemp as Onegin. The duel scene

Something very exciting is happening in small scale opera. This is the third one I’ve seen in as many months, all striking in their own ways but Onegin is by far the most enjoyable. Continue reading