Driving Miss Daisy – November 2017

Experience: 8/10

By Alfred Uhry

Directed by Richard Beecham

Company: Theatre Royal Bath

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Thursday 30th November 2017

This was a pleasant surprise. Having seen a decent touring production at the Theatre Royal Brighton in 1993, I considered this a fairly average play: I was happy to see it again but didn’t have high expectations. Steve had also seen the production at the Old Vic in 2011, in which Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones demonstrated that they might have been the right age, but they no longer had the power to do the parts justice.

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King Lear – August 2013

Experience: 7/10

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Lucy Bailey

Company: Theatre Royal Bath Productions

Venue: Theatre Royal Bath

Date: Thursday 8th August 2013

We weren’t sure what to expect from this Lucy Bailey production as we’d had such mixed experiences with her work in the past. Tonight the technical side of things was a bit hit-and-miss, and while the setting worked OK overall, there were areas where the text jarred with the actions, the accents and the characters. Having said that, there were some very good performances to enjoy and some nice touches in the staging, so all in all it was worth the trip. It was also our first time in Bath’s Theatre Royal and it was a weird experience, looking at all the pictures of past productions and realising we’d seen about half of them, despite never having been here before. The theatre itself was comfortable and, despite the minimal toilet facilities for women, a pleasant experience.

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The Madness of George III – November 2011


By Alan Bennett

Directed by Philip Franks

Company: Theatre Royal, Bath

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre

Date: Tuesday 15th November 2011

This was a fabulous production with an excellent central performance and strong support throughout. I hadn’t seen the original production at the National so I have nothing to compare it with, but I suspect this production would have stood up against it very well.

The set was very sparse, although that was due to the nature of Chichester’s main stage. A black wall with gaps all along the back, and a square of beige flooring in the middle of the stage – that was it! We gathered from the post-show discussion that in the proscenium arch settings, there are lots of backdrops which are used to separate the rooms; with this open set, they had to work a bit harder to get the locations across, and our response was that they’d done that very well. There were lots of chairs and a desk or two which were brought on and taken off, and the costumes were lovely as well, but otherwise it was just acting, and lots of it.

The story is pretty well known now, and although the stage play is necessarily different from the film, they cover the same ground. We weren’t shown the contents of the King’s chamber pots (mercifully!), but we did have to sit through some of the tortures inflicted on him in the name of ‘healing’ – blistering, purging, and that horrible chair.  Thank God for modern medicine.

David Haig’s performance as King George was superb. He was likeable as the relatively sane monarch, with his little idiosyncrasies and his concern for his people, but as the ‘madman’ it was very difficult to watch him at times, especially with such little understanding on the part of those around the king. With the king’s suffering so clear, he brought a huge amount of compassion out in me, which is no bad thing. He told us in the post-show that he’d started learning his lines months before rehearsals began, as it was the only way he could get all that dialogue into his memory in time. His delivery was fantastic – even the gobbledygook was understandable, if you see what I mean.

The queen was magnificently regal, while the Prince of Wales (are we allowed to hiss and boo?) was wonderfully self-centred and petulant, with a face you just wanted to slap (no offence to the actor). Mr Pitt was sober and careful, the Lord Chancellor sly and politically adroit, and Fox, Sheridan and the Prince’s other cronies creepily reminiscent of recent political events. The doctors were marvellously unconcerned about the efficacy of their treatments with the exception of Willis, who although he showed the most concern for the King as a human being, was equally ineffective with his treatments and received a deserved cold shoulder by the end. At least he wasn’t torturing his Lincolnshire patients to make them better. The servants also did a good job, although their parts were less well defined, and the whole cast did a fine job of adapting to the wide open spaces of Chichester. There was plenty of agony along the way, but plenty of humour to lighten the load as well – a good mix.

From the post show we learned that this was the final week of their tour, before the production goes into London in January. The audience who stayed behind were very appreciative of their hard work, and David Haig in particular was very complimentary about the Festival Theatre as a performance space, with the audience wrapped around the stage. Apparently Alan Bennett doesn’t go to revivals of his plays as he always sees things he wants to rewrite, so he prefers to concentrate on whatever play he’s currently developing. He sends his brother Gordon to see the revivals instead!

© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

Lloyd George Knew My Father – March 2009


By William Douglas Home

Directed by Richard Digby Day

Company: Theatre Royal Bath Productions

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Monday 16th March 2009

This was great fun. It took a little while to get going and I found it hard to make out some of the dialogue in the first scene, but it soon warmed up and the audience was certainly appreciative.

We’d probably seen this play way back, Steve certainly had, and the plot seemed familiar. A road is going to be built across some countryside close to the family seat of the Boothroyds, and the wife, Sheila, decides to kill herself at the exact moment the first sod is lifted as a protest. The bulldozers move in on Monday morning and the play starts over Saturday breakfast, served by the faithful old retainer Robertson, in the drawing room. The whole family is present for the weekend including the son and heir Hubert, who happens to be an MP, his wife Maud, their daughter Sally and her boyfriend or fiancé Simon, a journalist.

The play is set in the early 1960s, although the environmental topic makes it seem surprisingly modern. The set is a marvellous country house drawing room with tall panelled walls, tall window to our left, big carved fireplace to the right and tall wooden double doors centre back. The furniture comprises the mandatory window seat, a sofa with an accumulation of varied throws and a table behind, a piano back right, a small desk front right, a tall Chinese lacquer cabinet beside the doors and a sprinkling of chairs.

Edward Fox played General Sir William Boothroyd, Sheila’s husband and a veteran of the First World War, amongst others. He’s very deaf, and constantly brings up all sorts of stories from his younger days which are very funny. At least, we appreciated them, though of course the family had heard them all before and his timing wasn’t always helpful. Edward Fox’s performance was wonderful; he can do so much with his expression, with or without dialogue, and for me the evening really took off in the second scene with his meanderings about a chap who had thought he was a camel, or perhaps it was a dromedary, a ramble so far from the point that it led his son to destroy a china flower pot through an over-vigorous mime (it’s complicated).

The play shows us the different reactions and concerns of the family members. Maud is highly emotional and distressed at the thought of Sheila killing herself, yet at the end, as she and her husband are leaving, she thanks her hostess for a wonderful weekend and I got the impression she’s telling the truth. Her husband is at least as much concerned about his job and the family money as he is about his mother. One of the best laughs came in the last scene, when he’s dismissed the idea of attempting to talk to his mother through her locked bedroom door only to be told that his mother intends to leave all of her money to Sally so that she can marry Simon. Hubert is up those stairs like a bullet from a gun, accompanied by much laughter from us.

Sally and Simon obviously represent the younger generation, and are supportive of Granny’s right to kill herself, especially in protest at the ravaging of the countryside. Simon even helps by getting the story and a photograph of Sheila beside her freshly dug grave into the Sunday papers. Only The Observer stands aloof. The servant’s newspapers are scrutinised as well and they’ve all given the story front page status. A phone call from the Panorama production team sets up an interview for that afternoon, and the only downside is that Sheila won’t see it broadcast.

The final morning sees everyone up and about apart from Sheila, with Sir William all togged up in his finest military plumage. The bulldozers move in and everyone stands silent, mourning the death of their beloved relative, only for Sheila to walk in the door a few moments later and just carry on as normal. The others leave to go about their business, and her final admission to her husband is that she couldn’t kill herself because she loved him too much, despite a short fling with one of his junior officers many years ago.

It’s an enjoyable piece, not as dated as some, and with a light touch in dealing with the English upper classes’ eccentricities. The performances were all very good, and although I don’t expect to see it again anytime soon, definitely worth reviving.

© 2009 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me