Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire, Hampstead Theatre, 30 January 2016

We go to the Hampstead Theatre to see a preview of Rabbit Hole at the Hampstead – production details from the wonderful Hampstead website are here.

This was another sad evening at the theatre, making it four out of four for us in January 2016.  We are in the home of a couple a few months on from the tragic death of their infant son.  The ever-excellent Claire Skinner plays the grieving mother.  We also meet her husband, sister, mother and the young driver who ran over the child.  All roles were played very well indeed.  The multi-dimensional set (aren’t they all the rage these days?) was superb.

The piece won a Pulitzer when first produced and was made into a film in 2010 with Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckert and Diane Wiest.  Neither of us have seen the film.

Presumably it has never been performed as a play in the UK.  Edward Hall likes to seek out such lost gems and he might be on to a winner with this one (it has almost sold out its run in advance), although the relentlessly sad thread that runs throughout the play might mitigate against a West End transfer.

Ed Hall himself was in the audience our night.  As indeed were John and Linda – a couple we regularly see at the theatre although we unusually hadn’t seen them for a while before tonight.  It was nice to chat with them again during the interval.

Originally we were supposed to get Alison Steadman as the mother but she pulled out a couple of months ago and we had been told to expect Penny Downie instead. We think of her as Queen Zenobia, but we are reliably informed that she is officially now “Penny Downie of Downton Abbey”.  In any case she played her irritating yet ultimately sympathetic role very well.  I could imagine Alison Steadman doing it too.

Real reviews to follow – presumably the Hampstead link – here it is again will be updated with the more favourable of those.

An Evening With Janie, John & Mandy; Death And The Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, Royal Court Theatre at the Duke of York’s Theatre, 17 October 1992

I believe this was the first time that either John or Mandy met Janie; Janie and I had only been going out together for a few weeks by then.

This was also only the second time that Janie and I went to the theatre together – the first time having been our first date; The Street of Crocodiles.

My diary is a bit of a confusion for that evening – indeed all that it reads is “Madness”…

…which I’m sure means “The Madness of George III”. But my theatre log is very clear that 17 October was this particular evening with John and Mandy and my diary also shows that “George III” reigned on 30 September for me:

What I think happened was that Bobbie, once again, could not make the planned theatre visit to see Madness of George III on 17 October, but was very keen to see that play. I vaguely recall Bobbie arranging a ticket swap with friends so that she/we could see “Madness” midweek a couple of weeks earlier and her friends got the prized Saturday night tickets that I had procured.

That freed up the evening of 17 October for Janie to meet John and Mandy and for all of us to see Death And The Maiden, which was still one of the hottest tickets in town that year, even though Juliet Stevenson (who had wowed audiences as the lead) had moved on.

Penny Downie played the lead in the cast we saw, which, as super subs go, is pretty darned super. Danny Webb and Hugh Ross played the male parts.

Janie and I are struggling to remember what other arrangements we made with John and Mandy around this evening. I think we might have had Chinese food in Soho with them before or after the theatre. Perhaps Mayflower? Or Joy King Lau in those days?

I also realise that my diaries at that time are littered with clues that John and Mandy must have recently moved house around that time:

Guessing that John and Mandy moved to Dangan Road that August, hence the address and phone number scrawled on 12 August…
…did I really escape the carnival 30 August to join John and Mandy in the George at Wanstead 30 August? Guessing that “birthday thing” 28 August would have been with my parents, but I’m not entirely sure about events of that weekend other than the 29 August hot date with Janie.

Anyway, on the day I am writing this up (29 August 2017), we shall be seeing John and Mandy later in the day, so I’ll pick their brains on these matters this evening and update this piece accordingly.

Back to Death And The Maiden.

The play is set in an unspecified nation emerging into democracy from brutal dictatorship. Ariel Dorfman was a Chilean exile during the Pinochet years and the brutal regime is clearly based on that one. It is one of those hugely affecting plays about torture and the abuse of power. It brings to mind also One For The Road by Harold Pinter and Fermin Cabal’s Tejas Verdes.

I’m sure we did something after the play – perhaps we did eat afterwards. For sure we’d have needed a drink. For sure we found a way to discuss and decompress together for a while.

I remember being very pleased that John, Mandy and Janie all seemed to get along so well; in that regard alone the evening was a tremendous success (to use John’s favourite adjective). But it was also an excellent evening of theatre and I’m sure we must have eaten and drunk well…if only Janie and I could remember those details too.