The Theatreguide.London Review
In March 2020 the covid-19 epidemic
closure of all British theatres. Some companies adapted by putting
archive recordings of past productions online, others by streaming new
shows. Until things return to normal we review the experience of
watching live theatre
YouTube Summer 2020
David Storey's play
opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1970 and moved to the West End
and on to Broadway the same year. The original cast was reassembled
for this television version in 1972.
Home is not a great
play, but it
is a great vehicle, and an opportunity to watch two absolute masters
of their craft at the peak of their powers.
Sirs John Gielgud and
Ralph Richardson are introduced to us as elegant gentlemen chatting
in a garden. They are joined eventually by two middle-aged women and
a younger man, the last three clearly working class.
and I need no spoiler alert here, as we are meant to begin guessing
very early – we realise we are in the grounds of a mental hospital,
possibly a minimum security prison, and all five are what one of them
calls 'persistent offenders' of compulsive crimes such as
shoplifting, setting fires and some unspecified outrage against young
Nothing actually happens
in the play – they go off to lunch
and come back – and the forward progress of the play is all
internal. Indeed, the play is about lives unlived – almost every
bit of information we are given about either man is quickly
questioned or withdrawn, leaving them without pasts, and one of the
women points out that the Gielgud character's favourite word is
'little,' an accurate summary of the man and his life.
smallest of hints and the subtlest of acting gestures we discover how
important keeping of a facade of respectability is to the men, even
among those who know it's a facade. John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson
are master minimalists, able to communicate through nanosecond
hesitations or casual deflections of a conversation that something
very intense is going on beneath their apparent calm.
close-ups of this television version allow us to catch every tic and
every frantic darting of the eyes with which the actors show us what
the characters don't want us to see.
The actors' ultimate
that the combined tasks of keeping up a respectable front and hiding
their constant panic are not only important to the men, but are
terribly hard work. The tears that repeatedly threaten their eyes are
not just of sadness but of strain and exhaustion.
Dandy Nichols, Mona
Washbourne and Warren Clarke provide solid and generous support,
along with leavening touches of humour.
Home is such a fragile
tissue-thin play that it constantly threatens to disappear even as
you're watching it. And of course both knights can do this sort of
thing in their sleep, and Home offers little evidence of either one
But there is great pleasure to be found in watching experts doing with ease what they do so very well, and in discovering this recording in YouTube's vaults fifty years on.
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