by James Saunders.

Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street Richmond TW9 2SA To 10 December 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm & 17, 24 Nov, 1 Dec 2.30pm (+ post-show discussion).
Audio-described 29 Nov, 3 Dec 3pm.
Post-show discussion: Thurs Nov 24, 2.30pm
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Carole Woddis 11 November.

Treasure trove retrieved from a dramatic past.
Each generation reinvents the wheel and these days it’s easy to forget modern British theatre’s antecedents. We always think now is the most groundbreaking and progressive.

Sam Walter’s programming of James Saunders 1963 hit, Next Time I’ll Sing To You – a writer with a particularly close association with the Orange Tree – shows just how much we’ve lost in the past few years.

You won’t find many plays these days that combine Sanders’ wit and word-play with his depth of philosophical and scientific debate alongside such risk-taking with theatrical form. Why, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were watching a young Tom Stoppard! And if you did, you’d be right, because Saunders was one of Stoppard’s influences as Beckett, Ionesco and Pirandello were in their turn Saunders’ influences.

Sometimes, the other night, the Orange Tree audience seemed flummoxed by the play’s non-narrative absurdism as Saunders takes the mickey out of we spectators expecting, waiting for something to happen only to be on the receiving end of some rather uncomfortably bad jokes and actorly preening.

Some indeed did not stay to find out.

Had they done, they would have found Saunders going on to satirise the whole theatrical conventional with a metaphorical flourish that also contains within it an extraordinarily moving meditation on the nature of being and that trite, but here beautifully fabricated account of `the human condition’, through the retelling of the odd but true story of the Hermit of Great Canfield, one Alexander James Mason.

A recluse for forty years, popular rumour swirled around him about the reason for his self induced isolation including rejection by a local girl. But his diaries also reveal a man with a fierce sense of the spiritual as well as a bad dose of the paranoias.

Next Time I’ll Sing To You’s experimentalism sets a challenge for any production. Anthony Clark, back at the theatre where he first started, manages the difficult job of combining fluency with its plangent cynicism, despair and subversive laughter.

A standout performance from Aden Gillett as the all-domineering director/god figure make this a remarkable revival.

Meff: Roger Parkins
Dust: Brendan Patricks
Lizzie: Holly Elmes
Rudge: Aden Gillett
Hermit: Jamie Newall

Director: Anthony Clark.
Designer: Katy Mills.
Lighting: Stuart Burgess.
Trainee director: Polina Kalinina.

This revival of James Saunders’ Next Time I’ll Sing To You opened at the Orange Tree Theatre, London, Nov 9, 2011.

2011-11-17 15:02:54

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