SAND IN THE SANBDWICHES
by Hugh Whitemore.
4 Stars ****
Theatre Royal Haymarket 7.30pm until 3 Jun 2017 and then on tour.
Tour dates – Cambridge Arts theatre 6-10 June; Malvern Theatre 13-15 June; New Victoria, Woking 16-17 June; Theatre Royal, Brighton 27 June 1 July; Theatre Royal Bath 11 – 15 July.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7930 8800
Tour tickets: www.sandinthesandwiches.com
Review: William Russell 31 May.
An evening of pleasures, poems and memories
Edward Fox conjures up the spirit of John Betjeman in this splendid one man show. He is not at all like the great man, but who remembers that anyway as his hey day as a television national treasure belongs to the black and white age. Betjeman died in 1984 after suffering from several years from Parkinson’s disease.
Fox does, being a splendidly mannered and flamboyant actor, a true grand fromage of the stage, create a marvellous impression of what Betjeman could have been like as seated in a garden he recalls his life, his bad relations with his father, his friends, louche and otherwise, his wife Penelope, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish woman he fell for when the marriage turned distant who became his partner, and his hopes and his dreams.
Betjeman adored being on television, wrote film reviews and book reviews for countless publications, and his poems were poems people loved and understood. He seems to see his life as a failure but he was knighted and was made Poet Laureate.
Directed by Gareth Armstrong, written by Hugh Whitemore, this is as good an example of what a one actor show should be – funny, life enhancing, informative. It is a truly civilised two hours of theatre and there are some lovely tales like the dinner party Betjeman attended at which things got a little strained because one guest had failed to appear. It was Guy Burgess, hot footing it to Moscow instead.
The absence upset another of Betjeman’s chums at the dinner table – Anthony Blunt. His friends included W H Auden, Louis MacNeice, Lord Alfred Douglas was a pen pal until his father put a stop to that, and he had a Teddy Bear called Archibald who inspired another friend Evelyn Waugh to include one called Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited.
Fox commands the stage – handsomely set by Fotini Dimou – with consummate assurance. The biggest laugh of the night – when shown a picture of the Labour lady bride Tom Driberg, another gay chum, finally wed – was the response attributed to Winston Churchill. Go find out.
Go also and learn about a life lived long and a man who contributed immensely to the gaiety of people. It starts – where else – with the poem about Joan Hunter Dunn.
Betjeman: Edward Fox
Director: Gareth Armstrong
Designer: Fotini Dimou.
Lighting: Howard Harrison.
Original Music: Simon Slater.