I’m pretty sure this is the first Nick Payne play we saw. I remember little about it, other than the fact that the play was pretty full on about sex and that, despite its unsubtleties, we came away with the impression that we wanted to see more of this writer, which indeed we did.
I was most amused, when I tracked down the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM’s) blog piece about the concert we attended on 24 September 2010 – click here for the whole piece – to read this snippet:
The mood’s lively tonight. William Carter (theorbo) comes in to the dressing room in the interval telling us that a punter has accosted him and enquired whether his instrument is Chinese. “No”, replies Bill. “It looks very much like an instrument I saw in China”, insists the punter mysteriously.
I can now solve the mystery – Janie (Daisy) is the mystery punter.
We had been to China a few months earlier and had seen a concert of ancient Chinese music performed by Naxi musicians in Lijiang, Yunnan province – pictures 97 to 107 on the following album:
I remember Janie asking me whether that big lute thing…
…was the same as the Chinese instrument we saw in Lijiang.
“No”, I said.
“That’s what he said”, she said, confessing that she had asked William Carter that question as we were leaving the hall for the interval.
I explained that there was a fair bit of cross-fertilisation of musical instruments between east and west in the Renaissance period, but that instrument is a close relative of the lute and that family of instruments is more of a middle-east to west cross-fertilisation than a far-east to west influence. I also explained that the Chinese instruments of that kind might be far more ancient than any in the west, so technically, there might be a dim and distant connection.
“So, basically yes, then?” suggested Janie.
“Basically no,” I dared to disagree.
It is most amusing to find, so many years later (writing in December 2017) Janie’s exchange with William Carter preserved on the AAM blog.
We have since seen pipa concerts and I think Janie could now distinguish theorbo-type and pipa-type instruments with some skill.
I have one other anecdote about William Carter, from a few months later. By that time, my mum was in Nightingale House, her dementia worsening. I was at that time often visiting her and then jumping on the tube to go to the city.
Walking along Nightingale Lane towards Clapham South, I saw a young man just ahead of me carrying a large musical instrument case that looked to me as though it could only contain a theorbo.
I hurried my step, caught up with the young man and said, “excuse me, but is that instrument of yours a theorbo?” He beamed a smile at me and said, “yes it is. I have been lugging this theorbo around London for years now and have had the daftest questions asked about it…you are the first person who has actually recognised it and enquired after it by name!”
It turned out that the young man was one of William Carter’s students at Guildhall and was on the way to see him. We had a most pleasant chat about early music on the tube into the city together.
In truth, this isn’t the most wonderful music we have ever heard; it is of its (mostly early to mid) baroque period. Unexceptional, other than the fact that it must have been an influence on JS Bach and all that followed.
But the AAM folk did their best to keep the concert lively and engaging. Richard Egarr is an engaging master of ceremonies, Pavlo Beznosiuk always looks as though he is about to wink at the audience and even William Carter smiled a bit during the riper anecdotes of introduction.
We are big fans of Mamet and also big fans of the Almeida, so Janie and I were really looking forward to this one.
We indeed got a fabulous production, wonderfully well acted, directed and produced. But we were less sure about the piece itself.
Of course with Mamet you get more twists and turns than a country lane. Of course you get even riper language than an expletive-filled debate at our place after Janie and I have both had a bad day. And of course, with Richard Bean in the driving seat for the play script itself, you get some lovely stage devices and coups de theatre.
But the piece itself, based on a 1980’s Mamet film script, seemed surprisingly slight and it was unusually easy to predict the twists. I suspect the film worked better, but I haven’t seen it.
Still, with Alleyn’s School alum Nancy Carroll heading up a pretty impressive cast, plus Django Bates providing the atmospheric jazz music, it was an entertaining evening to be sure. Janie enjoyed it thoroughly, but also claimed she let the plot wash over her.
I was really taken with this play and production by the excellent Bruce Norris, about racial tension in a Chicago neighbourhood across the generations. It is witty and thought provoking in equal measure, tackling difficult topics with clarity and sensitivity.
Superb cast and this style of play marries well with Dominic Cooke’s style of direction.
Janie liked it too, but was a little less impressed than me.
It got rave reviews, west end transfer, revivals and all sorts – deservedly so. So you need to look through the reviews in the following link – click here – with care and choose the ones dated around September 2010 to see reviews of the actual production we saw – but you might want to look at reviews generally – in which case dip away with reckless abandon.