Why is every play such a performance?

There was no sunshine today. It was fine misty rain followed by constant pouring rain finishing with big, occasional drip, drip rain. While the girls weren’t happy that this meant there’d be no walk (Freya hates the rain so only Emma was truly upset), it did mean the leak was given ample opportunity to make itself known.

It took a while but, sometime in the early afternoon, the highly recognisable and annoying ‘drip, drip, drip’ into the yellow bucket made it clear that the ceiling lantern is blameless. I texted Builder Dave as soon as the drips started and he’s organising the roofing guy to come round next week.

The day was a bit of a shut in, though I did go into town where I had a delightful coffee with Lizzy. She told me her not so delightful news regarding her job but, other than that, it was a lovely hour. Mind you she’s wanting to head off to LA forever so I have to take advantage of seeing her as often as I can before that happens.

At home I was busy doing bits and pieces of stuff while Mirinda worked on her DBA. The house was very quiet, punctuated with bits of relaxing, study perfect music coming from the Sonos. Eventually Mirinda retired to the library where she lit a fire and bathed herself in incense.

Then it was time to go out because tonight we were off to the Yvonne Arnaud to see Alan Bennett’s play The Habit of Art.

Before tonight I knew nothing about WH Auden. (Well, apart from him being a poet which is possibly why I didn’t know anything about him, given I’m not a big poetry fan. Actually whenever the poetry programme comes on the radio, I switch channels.) After tonight I feel like I need to know more.

Also Benjamin Britten, the composer. Obviously I know his music but I knew nothing of the man.

The play is about a play being rehearsed. The play being rehearsed, Caliban’s Day, is about a meeting between Auden and Britten in the sunset of their lives. It is also about their biographer, Humphrey Carpenter and his meeting with Auden.

Apart from these principal players in this drama, the overall play is a general treatise on Art and how it affects different people and the Artists who create it. Is creative output habit or inspiration? Is it fear or folly?

In true Bennett style, the play is very funny though I should possibly amend that statement. There were three older people sitting behind us who, in the interval, were quiet damning in their criticism of the play. The most vocal claimed that she’d only laughed once. I was surprised they stayed for the second half given how much they hated it. The two people sitting next to me certainly didn’t bother returning.

I think the reason certain people wouldn’t like the play is because it paints a picture of both Auden and Britten that, while honest, is not particularly complementary. Another reason is because the majority of people who attend the theatre at the Yvonne Arnaud pretty much like seeing safe, friendly plays rather than something that tweaks them out of their middle class complacency in any way.

Still, leaving the safe brigade sitting in the straitjackets of their own preferences, we loved the play. While absolutely nothing like The Prisoner on Wednesday, it was still a delight. Apart from the performances and the story, it was about actors rehearsing a play and that’s always going to be fun.

We recognised so many people we’ve worked with in the past. George (played excellently by Alexandra Guelff) the ASM who always tries a little bit too hard to be liked by and helpful to, everyone. The old grumpy, just hanging on, Fitz (Matthew Kelly) who is probably what I would have turned into had I stayed in theatre.

The rest of the cast likewise highlighted the different, disparate elements that go into making a play. The playwright (a rather manic Robert Mountford), the serious, method-like actor (switching between Scottish and English accents perfectly, John Wark), the competent, never frustrated Stage Manager (Veronica Roberts) and the ‘ingenue’ young actor starstruck by everyone around him (played rather oddly by Benjamin Chandler).

All round it was a marvellous play with plenty of laughs (for me, anyway) and a delight in its shock value. The threat of fellatio on stage was enough to raise a few hackles.

The performance followed a drink in the bar above the Angel Coaching Inn, somewhere neither of us have ever been…

Staircase at the Angel and Mirinda moving through a panno

…then another night of tapas served in the Top Bar.

Lots of Garys in the lift

…making the whole night just about perfect. We even managed to park across the river in the smallest but best car park in Guildford.

A very natural poser in her sleeping bag
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