We’ve been fans of John Simm ever since first seeing him in The Lakes. He has an amazing intensity and edginess that makes watching him a joy. We equally enjoyed him in Life on Mars and as a wonderfully evil Master in Dr Who. But we’d never seen him on stage. Until tonight.
In 1869, Turgenev wrote A Month in the Country, a story of love, society and ennui, peppered with some delightful laughs. This year, Patrick Marber took a new translation and created Three Days in the Country. We saw it tonight at the National.
I don’t know why he changed the name. While the action of the play does take place on three distinct days, the time overall is a month and highlights the boredom and desperation experienced by Natalya as she endures her life as the rich landowner’s wife. Still, name aside, it was a wonderful version. Not that I’ve seen any others to compare it with.
While we originally booked in order to see John Simm (and Mark Gatiss if truth be told) the performance by Amanda Drew as Natalya was flawless. She was utterly believable and you could feel her pain and frustration by the end of the play. It’s a pity the curtain call was an ensemble because she deserved a massive dose of adoration of her own. She was, quite simply, perfect.
Speaking of Mark Gatiss, he was terrific as the useless doctor, Shpigelsky. His cack-handed and physical proposal was a delight. It did occur to me that it was ironic that he was at the National while Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet across the river at the Barbican, given they play brothers in Sherlock.
The rest of the cast was very good and supported the leads beautifully.
My only critical observation is, oddly enough, about John Simm. He played Rakitin, an old friend of the family. He was excellent in the first half, believable, comfortable, funny but, come the second half, his attempts at showing Rakitin’s pain seemed a bit hysterical and over egged. I put this down to him being an alpha actor asked to play a beta charater. Don’t get me wrong, he was still wonderful to watch but I’d much prefer to see him in a stronger role.
Still, that aside, it was a lovely night out at the theatre and, as usual, we wondered why we don’t go to the National more often, given it’s very easy to get to from Waterloo.
It’s also very handy for Ping Pong, where we had a delicious meal served by some very odd waiting staff. It was like they existed in a slightly askew dimensional boundary and were atttempting to communicate across the metaphorical garden fence. It was not just weird it also annoyed Mirinda quite a lot.
What did cheer Mirinda up happened after the play. She was on her way back from the loo when suddenly her face lit up and her steps quickened towards me.
“It’s Joyce,” she exclaimed excitedly, pointing vaguely behind her. “In the yellow jacket! Look!”
And so it was. Joyce, our favourite character from the old Midsomer Murders…well, it wasn’t actually Joyce, it was really Jane Wymark who played Joyce. But she’ll always be Joyce to us. Mirinda was annoyed, all the way home, that she didn’t go up and get a selfie with her. Here’s how she felt about leaving Midsomer Murders.