Friday, November 25, 2016


at the Playhouse, Salisbury

Alan Bennett looks increasingly like Betjeman's natural heir. And Hugh Whitemore's elegiac entertainment has more than one resonance: Edward Fox's rich voice – no more like Sir John's than his dapper linen-suited persona – is very like the patrician, academic tones that Bennett favours in pastiche. His “north of the Trent” town clerk, too, with “Bournemouth's looking up”. Not to mention the “grapefruit drying on the after-dinner speaking circuit. Both writers confess to a love of church-crawling, life on the film set, with its camaraderie and arcane jargon - “hair in the gate” …
Set in what could be a summer house, this 90 minute monologue is a shared delight; Fox's eyes are often screwed up in mirth, laughing, as Sir John did, immoderately at his own bons mots. And there are plenty of those, some new to me [the du Maurier limerick], some very familiar [Churchill on Tom Driberg's bride, a naughty Max Miller rhyme].
Names are casually dropped – pale green intellectuals and fin-de-siecle pederasts – Eliot, Auden, Blunt and Waugh, C S Lewis, Osbert Lancaster, Elizabeth Jane Howard. And of course there are the poems – Joan Hunter Dunn, Summoned by Bells, Dorset, Devonshire Street W1.
A disappointment to his father, Moth to Oscar's Bosie, delighting in old books - “through leaves” and London's Music Halls, [all but Wilton's, which he helped save from the wreckers, now vanished] – a “fascinating study to the world”.
Fox got a round on his entrance – life-time achievement applause, perhaps. But his affable, engaging performance certainly merited an ovation; this has been a long tour, but he appeared to be enjoying each anecdote and reminiscence afresh – a generous touch of genius on the Salisbury stage.

We used to picnic where the thrift
Grew deep and tufted to the edge;
We saw the yellow foam flakes drift
In trembling sponges on the ledge
Below us, till the wind would lift
Them up the cliff and o’er the hedge.
Sand in the sandwiches, wasps in the tea,
Sun on our bathing dresses heavy with the wet,
Squelch of the bladder-wrack waiting for the sea,
Fleas around the tamarisk, an early cigarette.

There was a young lady named Gloria

Who was had by Sir Gerald Du Maurier,
        And then by six men,
        Sir Gerald again,
And the band at the Waldorf-Astoria.

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