22 July 2014

Simon Callow was superb in Juvenalia at Riverside Studios

Obviously Simon Callow was the main attraction in going to see this.

The Riverside Studios has a habit of putting on good one-man-shows (they are usually men) and I had previously seen Steven Berkoff and Edward Fox there.

I had heard during the day on Twitter that the show had sold out which added some unwanted tension to the difficult journey there. An incident miles away hours earlier meant that very few tube trains were heading west out of Paddington and I got to the Riverside just before 7pm. Plenty of time for a beer but no time to eat.

The queue started forming around then and I joined it pint in hand. I was beaten to my favourite seat by a family that first pushed their way in and then claimed about a dozen seats so instead of sitting in the second row just to the right of the aisle I sat in the second row just to the left of the aisle. The seat was perfect.

Juvenalia was a collection of commentaries written about Roman life towards the end of the first century AD.

Juvenal, the author, was a Grumpy Old Man of his day, and a pretty foul-mouthed one at that. His profanities included both the subjects that he chose to write about, subjects like old men having erotic relationships with young men, and the strong language that he used to describe them.

I am not sure that this is what the parents in the large family wanted their young teenagers to hear but for those of us old enough to be used to the rude subjects and robust language it was good old-fashioned ribald humour.

Simon Callow, dressed smartly and formally, carried the part very convincingly. There was not mush in the dialogue to play with, only a single voice in a single tone, so he added texture to the words with expressions and some little movements. His delivery gave the words authority.

The pieces were interesting for what they told us about life in Rome, as Juvenal saw it, and how that could possibly compare to life today but the real interest was in the performer, it was because of Simon Callow not Juvenal that the room was full, and it was a superb performance.

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