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This week...Chichester

Geek joke in the title as usual as always points (but no prizes) for the reference. 

Perhaps this blog should be called 'the things we do for love' or 'are you completely nuts?' Yesterday myself and three companions drove from Cardiff to Chichester and back to go to the theatre. And I think its safe to say it was worth every mile. 

I'll come to why at the end, first a brief review as I keep meaning to add reviews here and it's been a long while...

So Chekov's Uncle Vanya in a new version by Michael Fryan. Having a love of Chekov (and I find it's either a love or hate thing with the Russian) and for Fryan I was not disappointed. The dialogue sparkled with a new freshness but meanwhile felt wholly Chekov. As an academic I reveled in the jokes about nitpicking irrelevant analysis and the overally superfluousness of the profession.  While the design by Peter McKintosh which managed to both incorporate the intimate living space of the house and suggest the vast forest behind was highly effective in the intimate Minerva theatre (a space so intimate one of us is convinced Roger Allam caught her closing her eyes for a second)

Roger Allam is watching you
Lara Pulver-not as she appears in Uncle Vanya....

The cast were, as expected brilliant, and often in unexpected ways. Roger Allam-who has only to raise an eyebrow to at once have the audience on side and in hysterics (or was that just us?) plays an alternative to the traditional Vanya-his usual alpha-male status is actually hardly diminished as Vanya, he plays him as an 'almost ran' the man who should by rights have been in charge, have won, had it not been for circumstances rather than the one who never really stood a chance. His presence on stage commands attention and this works well against Timothy West's subdued by powerful Serebryakov. Given West and Allam in normal circumstances I'd find it hard to believe Lara Pulver's Yolanda would choose the former over the latter but the dynamics between West and Allam made it entirely believable. The women of the play also hold their own with Pulver herself providing a sad figure of the young wife tied to the life she chose, glamourous and immaculate there is a real sense of her unraveling underneath her corset (Talking of which none of us could help a moment of 'I've seen you naked) While Dervla Kirwan also had me convinced that she was the 'dull plain' girl of the play rather than-well Dervla Kirwan (whose unbelievably handsome husband Rupert Penry Jones was also in the audience).

All in all a pretty faultless production, I shed a tear for Vanya at the end and felt thoroughly immersed in the production from start to finish. It had also after a rather painful recent experience here in Cardiff re-affirmed my faith in Chekhov (no points for guessing that...)

Now that's all very well, but why travel across the country for a play? Well first of all I'm firmly of the belief that it's worth travelling across the country for any good theatre. But this particular play had two cast members that made me travel across and who have both influenced my theatre going and by default my life.

Roger Allam was in the first play I ever saw, it was 'What the Night is for' by Michael Weller. I loved it-and I fell in love with the theatre (I still have the notes I scribbled on my copy of the script on the way home from London). About a year later I saw Allam in another play, after that another and so on. It became something of a joke that he'd pop up in whatever I ended up seeing. As an actor I love him-he holds the stage like few others and has a power on stage I've seen very rarely. Also without that play, without being inspired I don't think I'd be where I am today.

The second factor-or in fact actor was Lara Pulver. My friends mock my need to see her-mainly due to the Sherlock link and the picture above. But again Pulver was in a production that had a marked effect on my life-I saw her in 'The Last Five Years' at the Meiner Chocolate Factory the week I moved to London. It's my favourite musical that I'd waited years to see. She was phenomenal. I kept that poster on my wall the entire time I was in London, through a really hard year and the baby steps of my career I looked at that poster and remembered that performance and it kept me going.

So there you have it, two actors who influenced my life and my career years apart coming together in the same performance. It's hard to explain just how much those two performances shaped my life-I've since seen better, more innovative and yes better performances. But you can't take away the certain magic these two actors held for me on two separate nights that then went on to influence me.  Well worth the drive to Chichester.  

As a final point, in the last year there's another (very geeky) connection between the two in my (very geeky) life. I hope this blog has illustrated that wasn't the reason I drove to Chichester!


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