Brief Lives – September 2008


By John Aubrey, adapted and directed by Patrick Garland

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Monday 22nd September 2008

Roy Dotrice’s John Aubrey is a delightful old codger, busily complaining about how the country has gone to the dogs, and telling us it wasn’t like that in Queen Elizabeth’s day. As he wasn’t even born in Queen Elizabeth’s day, this was funnier than it might seem. He had a sweet old man laugh – a ‘he-he-he’ – that was funny and endearing.

Set in Aubrey’s lodgings in London during the 1690s, the old man takes us on a general ramble through events throughout his life, including the Civil War and his early days and education. There are stories of folk remedies and strange cures by doctors, and a delicacy of vocabulary when referring to “ravishing”. Sex is fine, apparently, but “ravishing” is not to be taken lightly. There’s a lot of humour in his clumsiness – throwing his warm milk over his shoulder as he tells a story, for example – and in the general squalor and unsanitary conditions of the time. Was that a rat he fished out of his chamber pot, drowned? Actually, no, it was the end of his belt, but it could well have been a rat in that place.

In the second half he told us some stories of real people, some better known than others, and mixing well known history with juicy bits of gossip. Throughout the play there were noises from the street and the flat above, which fed into the stories or at least into his grumbling. It was enjoyable, but seemed a bit dated, although I don’t mind seeing a more gentle form of entertainment such as this from time to time.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at

Visiting Mister Green – February 2008


By Jeff Baron

Directed by Patrick Garland

Venue: Rose Theatre, Kingston

Date: Thursday 14th February 2008

This was a straightforward odd couple two-hander. The couple in question are Mr Green, an old Jewish guy living at the top of an apartment block, and Ross, the young man who nearly ran him over when he walked out onto the road without looking. Despite Mr Green being entirely to blame, as Ross sees it, Ross is the one doing community service, and a judge has ordered that he spend some time every week helping Mr Green in whatever way he needs help. Mr Green, being old (86?), doesn’t want help; he just wants to waste away now his wife’s dead.  Needless to say, the two get to know, like and respect each other, and Mr Green finally gets in contact with another family member he’d cut out of his life for years.

It’s a good play, well constructed, and I enjoyed this first trip to the Rose Theatre at Kingston. The theatre is pretty rough and ready, with some work still to be done, but the seats were comfortable enough, and the facilities plain but good. The staff were certainly welcoming and helpful, and with an easy train connection we hope to make this a regular stop.

The only down side to this performance was that Warren Mitchell is showing his age, not just acting it. The performances were good, but lacked power, and I feel that more could be got out of both parts with a stronger actor in the title role. That said, it was certainly entertaining, and I’m glad we managed to catch this production on tour.

© 2008 Sheila Evans at