I would never have been brave enough to get tickets for opening night. They cost a fortune, and what if it turned out to be a complete dog? But a friend courageously bought four –and what a night it was. Mark Rylance, the Lionel Messi of the acting world, gave a mind-boggling performance. Poor Niles Crane from Frasier (David Hyde Pierce) had to make do with standing on stage for forty minutes while Rylance transformed himself into a human fireworks display. It wasn’t the easiest of jobs, but DHP pulled it off. (Joanna Lumley, not so much.)
Now. I know it’s deeply boring to read about a play you’re probably never going to see (there are a very few tickets left for the run, but you’ll have to be quick; it’s headed for Broadway after only ten weeks in London) but I mention it for the following reason: the play posits an oposition between a wildly charismatic idiot (Rylance) and a man of literary and intellectual integrity (Pierce). At the end of the play, the fool ‘wins’ (does Rylance ever lose?) and our man of integrity is cast out into darkness. It’s like watching a stand-off between Project Runway and Hamlet.
But who does the audience root for? Who has our sympathy? Uncomfortably (and rather brilliantly) the answer is not nearly as straightforward as one might hope. I’m still pondering whose side I’m on 12 hours later, which surely must be the sign of a great night at the theatre.