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Life with Lavendar in London town

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

No Man's Land

I have a list of performers I would like to see before they die. Maybe this is just presumptuous. Perhaps I will die before Bob Dylan or Tina Turner but irrespective of who carks it first, there are performers I wish my living flesh to bear witness to. Onstage.

Ian McKellen is one such performer. I first saw him play a South African squillionaire in Six Degrees of Separation; one of my favorite movies.  Ever after he was an actor I followed from Gods and Monsters to Richard III to, of course, Gandalf.  Talk about being born to play a part.

Love that Gandalf stare

When it was announced that he was partnering with Patrick Stewart for the play, No Man's Land at the Wyndham Theatre, I whooped. Then made my way like a bat out of hell (excuse the Meatloaf lyric) to the nearest computer to get me some tickets.

Much poorer after said ticket purchase, I decided to not read anything about the play, so as to have a completely fresh experience on the night.

When we arrived at the theatre, I was so excited I sat in the wrong seat. Once corrected, I chatted to my companions how great it was to be so close to the stage. We were two rows from the front so would see every wrinkle, every sweat bead. We would see the acting.  I perused the programme and began to regret not reading about the play beforehand.  It seemed that this Pinter play was the type that likes to mess with your mind.

The curtain rose and there they were. Two old men. It crossed my mind that if I was a man, I would like to age as well as these two have. McKellen was in full flight as Spooner, the man who in the course of the play would mess with the mind of Hirst, Patrick Stewart's character.  During the first act, I managed to keep up with the dialogue that was flying about between the two of them; both playing drunk characters getting progressively drunker. They must have been very good because I started feeling a little drunk myself. The venue was warm. It was the first time all day I had sat down and relaxed. And then a terrible thing happened.

I started to fall asleep.

My eyelids drooped. Ian and Patrick disappeared from sight.

Noooo. I urged myself. Keep awake.

Doggedly I forced myself to affect a Clockwork Orange-esque wide eye stare. Eyes on Ian. Eyes on Patrick.

I did this

You cannot fall asleep so close to the front.
The actors will see you. 
Ian McKellen will think you hate his acting.
Who pays £70 to go to the theatre to fall asleep?

I managed to stay awake through the first act.  But as the surreal plot unwound during the second act, I felt my traitor eyelids drooping. This time there was no fighting it. I might as well have been shot in the bum by a tranquilizer gun. I was out for the count.

Remarkably, I do remember seeing this bit 

The Husband kept nudging me in the ribs.

Patrick Stewart is looking at you, he whispered, more loudly than was necessary. Wake up!

Mortification is not an emotion I often feel at the theatre. But falling asleep during No Man's Land with such fine actors are performing at a hairs breadth in front of me was exactly that.


During the curtain call I clapped so enthusiastically my palms stung. No-one clapped harder than me. I was awake by this time and was impressed to see McKellen completely transform out of character as soon as the play ended. Just as obviously as if he was taking off a jacket. It was transfixing.

Too little, too late?

Not really. It was worth it.