Larkin With Women
Paul Johnson | 24 Nov 2013 18:53pm
Philip Larkin was a man of considerable stamina. Poet, author, jazz lover and critic, librarian – and lover! Not one lover, mind you, but three – simultaneously! One wonders if it was only his parents who caused him so much angst!
What the man himself, who died 15 years before his love life was exposed to theatre audiences, would have made of it probably doesn’t bear thinking about! The very least might have been a terse verse or three!
And so from Scarborough, where Brown’s play was premiered all those years ago, to Walton-on-Thames in 2013 and The Lighted Fools Theatre Company’s latest production at the Riverhouse Arts Centre.
If there is one fault with the play itself it is the very “bitty” scenes, certainly during the first half. Set variously in Larkin’s flat in Hull, his house in Hull, the university library in Hull, a hospital room (probably in Hull as well – we are never quite sure) and one of his lover’s cottages in Northumberland, Brown’s play whisks the audience on a roller coaster of scene changes.
All of which means not only extraordinary acting but technical excellence as well. So, first bouquets go, then, to director Richard Parish’s stage crew for faultless, and seamless, transitions through those countless changes of scene. A thoroughly professional performance from the stage management team – and the actors themselves – whisking us through Hull and beyond with subtle lighting, sure-footed furniture and “prop” changes and all set to the sound of jazz, a timely reminder of quite possibly Larkin’s “fourth” love!
The first three were thoughtfully played by Karen Brooks as the intellectual Monica Jones who knew of the other two lovers; Caroline Dooley as Larkin’s secretary at the library, Betty Mackereth, who also knew of her boss’s mistresses and Polly King as Larkin’s library assistant Maeve Brennan who knew of the intellectual competition but not, until after the amorous Philip’s death, of the one much closer to home! Is everyone clear?
And binding these three together, in the nicest possible way of course, was the superb David Webb, who not only acted his heart out as Larkin, but looked like him as well! If ever someone got into character, this was it.
Richard Parish doesn’t like curtain calls, he says, but it would have been a nice touch, at the end of a memorable evening, for Webb’s Larkin to have taken a bow, separately, with each of the ladies in his life. Well, that was what the lady in my life thought anyway who enjoyed the performance as much as I did!
- : user
- : 06/11/2013