Susan – Review of “A Life in the Theatre”
January 29, 2005 – Apollo Theatre – London, UK
I went to the Saturday night preview and it really was outstanding! Others have gone into the detail of the play so I won’t bore you. However, anyone yet to see it must remember that this is a David Mamet play and, as such, appears quite sparse with the emphasis on the nuances of the script and all the slight mannerisms of the actors. As most of us Pacey fans used to hang off his every sniff and sigh, this does make for a great chance for us to see Josh show off the subtleties of his acting to knee trembling effect. A prime example is in the Merchant Ivory-style scene where Josh is facing away from Patrick and towards the audience, proclaiming in a wonderful small-town actorly style just how much he loves the window he’s looking through, and his gradual annoyance at acting next to an old timer is shown with just one subtle raising of his eyes skyward – such a subtle movement but the audience totally caught his meaning.
I will try not to gush but this really is the perfect vehicle for an actor who is proving his acting chops on screen but, up until now, hasn’t had the chance to show us just what he could do on stage (and anyone in either industry will tell you just how different they are and what a challenge it can be to move between the two mediums). Josh and Patrick Stewart complemented each other perfectly and, as has been said before and noted in interviews with them both, they show perfect symmetry as a team in their communication on stage, and in their ability to command a stage that has no other actors present (save one poor soul who was being operated on in the medical scene!).
Onto the gory details! Yes, Josh is getting dressed and undressed for a large part of the play and I don’t know if the audience so much as got used to it, as tended to whimper more quietly as it kept happening – personally, I lost count at four strips down to Seventies-style underpants. We were sitting in the so-called cheap seats (though I don’t hold much ground with the outrageous cost of West End tickets, we still got a lot for our money – front row of the upper balcony with a perfect view and attempts not to dribble over the railing too much!) and were clearly surrounded by mothers and grandmothers with not so secret Josh yearnings, as there were continual ‘eeps’ and ‘ooohs’ throughout whenever he stripped – or spoke – or moved! For my part, I have never been much of a feet gal but, by gawd, that man has got gorgeous feet! (There was a lot of zipping and unzipping of boots!) I couldn’t take my eyes off them (when I wasn’t eyeing his rear end and those hands!) Those yet to go also shouldn’t be too disappointed by the truly awful outfit that he first appears in – they do get better! By the end of the play, he looked stunning in a navy polo neck sweater and slightly tight jeans, yum! No dodgy ‘barefoot in the park’ sideburns – just a very nice longer cut that does give him a bit of Ray Liotta-ness, sigh…So, all in all – just fabulous!
A word of warning regarding the theatre – the Apollo is a very old and very small theatre so if you’re in either of the balconies, don’t bring too much with you, as legroom is minimal to say the least. Unfortunately, I wanted to secret my camera in with me so had to take my rucksack in with me, so I lost most of the circulation in my legs by the end but this was a very small price to pay for seeing a great play and a man who is truly growing up into a superb actor.