Two outings this week have helped to stave off the bleak November gloom. (Have you noticed the introduction of new types of weather in the forecasts? Grey cloud.) They could not have been in greater contrast.
On Tuesday Matt and I went to see Armstrong and Miller at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon. Actually, to be more precise, we saw them in Bella Pasta in Croydon and then, later, at the theatre. We were not the only people to panic about the correct etiquette for finding yourselves seated close to the act you have come to see. Is it the done thing to politely ignore, or is it better to say ‘Love your work’ and then leave well alone, or should we have done as some other people did and rather obviously summons to waitress over, point and ask loudly, ‘Excuse me, but is that…?’ I once said ‘Goodnight’ to Philip Glennister when he was standing next to the door as I was leaving a curry house in Merton Park because, frankly, it seemed rude not to, given his regular appearances on my television set. Rewarded with a glare, I was a little put out until I realised it was John Hannah who opened the door.
Last night, a friend and I went to see Birdsong, an adaptation of the Sebastian Faulks’ 1993 novel at the Comedy Theatre. In the fourth row, we were planted mid-action. I found the use of the projected images, sketches that subtly merged with photographs particularly clever, dispensing with the need for awkward scene changes and excessive use of props. This, combined with the use of actors as narrators, meant that the feeling of story-telling and personal experience ran through the production. Ben Barnes was superb as naive twenty-year old Stephen Wraysford, who finds himself guest of a factory owner in pre-war France and falls in love with his wife Isabelle. When Isabelle leaves her husband to live with Stephen, he declares they are both going straight to hell. Cut to the trenches of the Somme. There, Lee Ross stole the show as Jack Firebrace, an ordinary soldier, who passes time in the trenches by writing letters to his wife, sketching, entertaining the troops and then loses his faith in God after receiving news that his ten-year old son has died of diphtheria. The drama was powerful enough to make the lady to my left weep during the second and third acts and I was not far behind her.