Back in London and my first night was out at the theatre. I went to The Playhouse Theatre, to see The Best Man. It was Press night. The producer is Bill Kenwright, who has been a key player in British theatre for years now. All the major reviewers would’ve been there.
The play is a thoughtful debate about integrity in American politics. Gore Vidal could never have anticipated the shitstorm we have now, but he wrote a beautiful and thoughtful play back then though and there’s still resonance. It’s taken 58 years to get it to the West End, but I’m glad I got to see it – it was excellent. The actors are all really on point and working with discipline and specificity, and there were many lines and moments that were organised neatly to shine out and resonate through the decades. Simon Evans the director takes us through it really skillfully, and there is some serious coalface time in the company, including Martin Shaw, Maureen Lipman, Phil Cumbus, Honeysuckle Weeks and my lovely friend Emma to name but a few. It’s funny when it needs to be, thoughtful where it has to be and human and recognisable throughout.
After the show I ended up backstage while Emma got ready for the afterparty. A lovely old fellow came into the dressing room to congratulate her, and I gave him a companionable hug assuming he was one of the understudies. It was only when he stood up to make a speech later on that I realised I’d hugged the producer. I’m glad I mistook him for an understudy. I’ve heard Bill Kenwright described as an older version of Brian and I can see the comparison. He struck me as a kind direct and generous man. There was no status play in that dressing room hug. He merely hugged me back. Many people in that position might have been tempted to ask me who I was after the hug, in order to reinforce the notion that, in this context, he was “somebody.” This man didn’t have that problem. I like him for that. And his speech took care to make it clear he understood and respected the nuance of what his team did to bring the play to life – (while also, in the nicest possible way, nudging the reviewers towards what he might like them to have noticed.)
Well, I got a free meal which is a sure way to my heart. We all had a buffet and wine, as if we were at a wedding. A remarkable Press Night spread and I’m glad to see the stars landing in the reviews today.
I ended up in Groucho’s drinking one too many espresso martinis with some of the cast, and one of their parents – an ebullient, hammered and indiscreet man if ever there was one, but fun so long as he’s not your father. He was with “the commissioner of BBC 2,” or so he told me. (Most people are full of crap at Groucho) He must have had something though. At about 2.30am he blinked: “What are you doing tomorrow?” “Absolutely nothing,” I replied. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.” “Bastard.” he said. “I’ve got to go.”
But I was right. Absolutely nothing. That’s more or less how my day panned out today. I read. Played with Pickle. Sent some emails (ha ha work). And then went for a walk with a friend in the evening and cooked some Jerusalem artichokes. That’ll do…