Apollo Theatre, London
7th February 2009 (Matinee)
Bring on the Rain!
Forget five days of snow, Jamie Lloyd’s engrossing production of Richard Greenberg’sThree Days of Rain took me well away from the travel difficulties of the past week!
Now, I’d better get something out of the way first. If you have read my review of The Common Pursuit at The Chocolate Factory last year, you will know that I have somewhat of a penchant for the lovely Nigel Harman (of Dennis in EastEnders fame!) and to be honest it was his appearance in this play that first attracted me into buying (sorry, BEGGING my husband to buy) the tickets.
To his credit, and my amazement, bless him, my long suffering spouse not only got us tickets, but got them in Row B where, if I wasn’t more socially aware, I could have reached out and squeezed his peachy cheeks! The temptation was great, I have to say!
I mention all this because I need you to know that while I find the Harman one of the most desirable men to walk the earth, I am always honest about his acting performance. Just being gorgeous doesn’t mean you can act, ( I won’t cite any cases here for legal reasons!) but thankfully, and in a totally un-biased way, Nigel CAN do the business!
In the end, the afternoon was a triumph, not just because we both really enjoyed the production, but, because after a very impressive performance, hubby has finally conceded that Nigel was, and I quote with trembling fingers “very good”. I thought he was a lot more than that frankly, but believe me, if you’ve heard what he’s said about him in the past, this represented a MAJOR change of heart!
Nigel was excellent and so were his two fellow cast members. The presence of the fantastic James McAvoy and the lesser known but equally impressive Lyndsey Marshal, completed a well matched and excellent trio that brought the world of the play to life and made for a more than satisfying afternoon!
So what’s the play actually about? Well, it basically explores how the private worlds and actions of one generation both affect and are reinterpreted by the next . The first act opens on a drab, long un-inhabited loft space in Manhatten in 1995. Into it walks James McAvoy as Walker who has found out that it was the place where his wealthy, but monosyllabic, architect father, Ned, lived and worked. Walker is reuniting with his sister Nan, played by Lyndsey Marshal, for the reading of their father’s will, to find out who will receive Ned’s main legacy - an iconic house designed with his late business partner Theo.
Joined by Theo’s son Pip, played by Harman, who gains more than expected from the will, they discuss all that has happened in the past and discover Ned’s diary which contains the mysterious words ‘three days of rain’, the only clue to the truth about their parents’ past, because sadly, Walker and Nan discover that the man who didn’t say much through speech, was no more forthcoming via the written word.
I don’t want to give away too much about what happens as it will spoil the entire thing for you, but suffice to say, in the second act the actors are in the same place but in 1960, where they play three different characters from the previous generation - both of their fathers and a mother - and we are given some sort of explanation as to what happened there, and why Ned might have written his will in such a way.
It’s basically a family drama, something irresistible to audiences and therefore writers alike! The children and their parents share some characteristics and not others, and in the second act you can see where the progeny came from in quite an Ibsen-esque “sins of the fathers” way, but without the syphilis!
I found the whole thing to be totally engrossing and not because I was staring at Nigel the whole time, it was the whole package that enthralled me! James McAvoy was brilliant as both the “troubled” Walker and the less forthcoming Ned, really bringing out the different problems and insecurities that both had. I think that without going into the nuances of his acting, the fact that I wanted to reach out and hug both, is testament to how he made me feel – and that’s what acting is all about!
I enjoyed Lyndsey Marshal’s performance as Nan and Lina as well, (despite my bristling when she hugged Nige!). Her measured and mostly calm Nan was a good contrast to the wilder, more unpredictable Lina but again you sympathised with both.
Nigel played Pip, an actor in the play who, ironically for Harman, is playing the eye candy in a TV soap. He is more brash and confident and gets most of the funny lines which he delivers with excellent timing. And I’m sorry about this but I have to say that he spends a fair bit of time getting wet in the rain and I couldn’t help my mind wandering and imagining him in the shower first thing in the morning! But back to his performance!
His second role, as Theo, is similar to that of Pip in the first act, but whereas Pip seems happy and comfortable in his chosen career, Theo’s frustration at his creative block is painfully palpable. And the fact that most of this happens in the rain is just a bonus!
The great thing about this production is that is provokes much thought and discussion about exactly what happened, and for someone like me, who always rather anally checks the times and dates mentioned by characters to make sure that they match up, it gives you much working out to do!
There are also so many echoes of the first act in the second that it makes you really want to see it again to makes sure that you get absolutely everything! In fact, yes, I think I really MUST see it again! And if maybe Nigel could remove a few more items of clothing when out in the rain .... then so much the better!! Sorry!