16 September 2016

No Man's Land at Wyndhams Theatre lived up to its billing

You only have to look at the poster above to see why I was keen to see this, the names McKellen, Stewart and Pinter were compelling.

Obviously the theatre thought so too and the seats were not cheap. I reasoned that the dialogue would be the main point of the play and that did not require me to be that close so I went to the top level, the Grand Circle , where seat A19 cost me £45. Hardly a bargain but reasonable (just). Lots of other people seemed to think the price was OK and the place was packed.

No Man's Land was an ideal vehicle for two elderly acting legends as it consisted mostly of them sitting in a room talking to each other. The main physical movement was going to the little bar to get even more drinks. Ian McKellen did move from one modest chair to another sometimes, both on the edge of the room, but Patrick Stewart spent most of the time in a plush leather chair in the middle.

Much like The Caretaker which I saw earlier in the year (or even Waiting for Godot) this was a play about discovering people and their histories through their conversations. Some things happen, not just lots of drinking, but they were just normal every-day things, like having breakfast, and were not material to the plot.

Unlike The Caretaker though, this was very much a play of two halves, evening and morning, and the mood was very different in each; in the first half they were strangers sharing a late-night drink and in the second they were old friends trying to out do each other with stories of women in their shared past.

Pinter played his part, and played it well, but No Man's Land was all about McKellen and Stewart. McKellen seemed to have more of the lines and also had to move around the mostly seated Stewart a lot and because of this he shone a little brighter than Stewart but they were both superb and it is more important to recognise that than to try and tease out differences between them.

I went to see No Man's Land because of three names and those three names all performed well to make this an evening to more than justify its exulted price tag.

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