Saturday, February 28, 2015

Butterfly, Face-changing and Janie in 84 Charing Cross Road

Curtain Call for 84 Charing Cross Road
Very busy week too frantic to blog.

Two Chinese New Year celebrations, both with impressive Lion Dances but one also with an amazing Facechanger – an art that I had not seen before. Essentially this seems to be using sleight of hand (and maybe sleight of mouth) to change and remove silk masks in the blink of an eye.

Butterfly Curtain Call
On Thursday we went with some dear friends to Madame Butterfly at the Albert Hall, produced by David Freeman. This was another popular classic I had avoided seeing for no very good reason and I’m glad I saw it at last. I wondered when writing this blog whether Buttercup in The Pirates of Penzance was a satire on Butterfly (Sullivan in particular was quite adept at satirising Opera) but Pirates was 1880 and Butterfly was 1904 based on a 1900 play - so no.

Then to Salisbury to see Janie Dee’s wonderful performance in 84 Charing Cross Road. This play was first performed in Salisbury in 1981 under the direction of the playwright who adapted it for the stage, James Roose-Evans and he is now, in his 80s, directing it again. Sadly it was the last night. Janie as usual was completely brilliant and very moving – it’s quite a difficult role because it consists almost entirely of speaking letters that she sends, and she is on stage pretty well the whole time. About 1/3rd of the way into the 1st act the Fire Alarm went off and we all had to evacuate the theatre. But nevertheless it was a commanding and moving performance, with her co-star Clive Francis brilliantly depicting the Chief Buyer Frank Doel with whom she corresponds so effectively and with increasing affection – and who very sadly dies before they can meet.

Clive Francis has a number of books including the wittily-titled There’s Nothing Like a Dane (the lighter side of Hamlet) and the even more wittily titled There’s Nothing Like a Thane. Janie will be in Cabaret at Les Deux Coqs in March and then playing in Regent’s Park and Bath – so very much in demand this year. Catch her if you can!

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