Brighton Year-Round 2022
Mark Burgess’ funny and insightful play sees Trevor Littledale offer and uncanny portrayal of Alec Guinness reflecting on acting, faith, family and his shattering insecurity, played to a background of the golden days of British film and theatre.
We join Sir Alec in the late 1970s’ as Star Wars is et to become one of the biggest films of all time, featuring his iconic performance as Obi-Wan-Kenobi. Amidst fears he will only be remembered as a Jedi Knight, Sir Alec hadn’t counted on the involvement of a master spy…
When actor, writer and audience connect -one reflects on the production seen- for days afterwards. In the case of this production-the memories, language and images will remain with one for far longer.
This extraordinary piece is a fine collaboration between writer -Mark Burgess, director Derek Parry and actor Trevor Littledale-all blending seamlessly. Not only is it a tribute to national institution -Sir Alec Guinness -but a tour de force for Mr Littledale -who never gives less than a 100% performance of total star quality. And in turn his performance is a reflection of the fine writing of playwright-Mark Burgess-cemented by fine direction.
Opening in the late 70’s -just after the critical acclaim of “Star Wars” – Guinness is centre stage -collecting a lifetime’s achievement award form the academy-thus paving the way for an in-depth exploration of his life, films, triumphs and a fair few heartaches along the way.
The whole piece is not only a hugely entertaining collection of witty memoirs by one of Britain’s finest actors-but Mr Littledale easily convinces us we actually ARE in the great man’s presence and privileged to be so for an hour and a half-easily one of the most engaging theatrical experiences one could wish for.
But- though Mr Guinness is centre stage in this one man- show- there is a myriad of supporting characters -all brought to full fruition and presented as fully rounded characters by Littledale’s consummate skill. From young lads- obsessed with Star Wars, to stage managers and from drama school administrators to elderly dressers and lascivious Vicars – each has their place on the stage. Likewise-the seamless characterisations of Sir John Gielgud, Noel Coward, Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans, film director-David Lean and even Neville Chamberlain- are all beautifully portrayed albeit briefly but able to interact with the protagonist -within a mini-second.
Writer, performer and director are clearly in simpatico here-Mark Burgess’s research and eloquent writing pays off in spades and the script moves at a cracking pace -but never becomes merely a chronology -even though the liberal scattering of bygone star names here is breath-taking -Martita Hunt, Marius Goring, Kay Walsh and Rattigan (to name a few) -all jog our memory. So many talents, influences and images from a bygone era are woven together. On one level -the piece celebrates an extraordinary career and on the other it is a fine tribute to the backbone of film and theatre over the years.
“Why don’t you stick to those funny little men you do so well-instead of trying to be important” -such are the cracking put -downs that Guinness shares with us from his career. Or even more cutting from the great Laurence Olivier in a television production of “Twelfth Night”- “I never realised that Malvolio can be played as a bore”! So many quotes and images fly past within the course of the evening-even brief sojourns into Shakespearean monologue -one hangs on every word-for fear of missing the next gem.
There are incredible insights into Guinness’s relationships with Mother, wife son and religion along the way-intertwined with travel, war years and filming numerous iconic films.
The creation of iconic Fagin in David Lean’s “Oliver Twist” gets special mention-and an equally superb portrayal of Guinness’s screen test for the same- compounds the mercurial talent of the protagonist.
Lean, in turn receives his accolade in a remarkable episode detailing the filming of “The Bridge on The River Kwai”.
Also of note is the fine video montage which precedes the evening -featuring many Guinness films- and the sound design by John Sanders and Helen Skiera respectively.
This piece should be prescribed viewing for any aspiring actor and I would hazard a guess that many an audience will return time and time again to savour this exquisite piece. Even though the world of film and acting styles may have altered -the technique and writing are masterclasses in themselves. Sir Noel Coward would surely be wagging his finger in total approval of this outstanding theatrical experience.