13 November 2006


Stumbled across Beryl Bainbridge's collection of theatre reviews for that incorrigible old bugger of a magazine The Oldie. It's called Front Row and is a great read if you've got any kind of interest in the theatrical. The actor Roger Lloyd Pack writes about Dame Beryl's 'unorthodox' approach to criticism here. Among the many wonderful things about it is her heroic enthusiasm for the art, mixed in with trenchant observations about the actual experience of going to a show and her quite unguarded feelings about it. Check this out, for instance...

Diana Rigg has a magical theatrical presence and tremendous vocal ability. I think her voice, in its range and power, is superior to any other classical actress. Some critics found her performance as Medea brilliant, yet unmoving. I suspect this is because they wanted her to reduce them to tears at the contemplation of her wickedness.
The point is, Medea would have had to feel she was bad in order to make the rest of us more comfortable in our minds. And she didn't. Right to the end she never let up. Jason was the guilty one, Jason was at fault.
I'm basically on her side, though I think I may have pretended to have killed the children rather than have actually done it. But then, I'm a post-Freudian woman and the dubious product of a Christian upbringing.


Elsewhere she writes very wittily about the Liverpool Playhouse version of An Awfully Big Adventure, the novel by - Beryl Bainbridge, in an adaptation by - you've guessed it, Beryl Bainbridge. Her modesty about the whole thing is all the more affecting since the Playhouse is where she worked as a very young woman, first as a stage manager before being drafted in to tread the boards.

And finally...dragged by a friend to see Ray Cooney's farce It Runs In The Family she says she has at the beginning 'a fixed smile on my face and a sliver of ice in my heart'. She signs off the review thus: ' I felt weak afterwards and could have done with an injection of glucose. As for my friend, she laughed so much she announced she'd had a little accident.'

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