16 January 2008

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward

Christian Faber - Alex Jennings
Barbara Faber - Kate Duchene
Leonora Vail - Nancy Carroll
Tim Verney - Jonah Russell
Susan Birch - Frances Jeater
Sir Reginald French.Ernest - Mark Elstob

Directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace for a rehearsed reading/platform performance at the Lyttleton Theatre

I didn't spot anyone special in the audience but there was enough inappropriate laughter to make me wonder whether some of the Present Laughter cast were hanging around

I am used to seeing a group of people sitting on plastic chairs to do a rehearsed reading but this is the National Theatre and they already had a Coward set in place so the chairs and sofas were draped and comfy. There were doors and steps and it was a very different experience. The writing is unquestionably taught and Alex Jennings was entrancing in the role.

The cast was made up from part Present Laughter, part Women of Troy but to the best of my knowledge neither Mark Elstob or Nancy Carroll are currently in a production. I should also point out that Women Of Troy's Michael Gould was doing the rehearsed reading at the Royal Court at 7pm this same night and his WoT co-star Anastasia Hille's loyalty was to him (and Paul Hilton) rather than Kate and Jonah.

Back to the NT and this reading was so gorgeous you could almost smell the process. There was something very exciting and fresh about it. There was a tiny bit of odd behaviour in the audience including some of them thinking the piece had finished at a very dramatic moment which made the next emotional scene a little awkward to slide into. It really confused and seemed to almost anger or unnerve Kate. I must say I was amused by a couple of scenes where Alex was kissing Nancy passionately while searching his script for the next lines. So exciting and to think I will miss next week's in favour of Polly Stenham and Clare Higgins at the RC. Such bitter sweet choices I have to make.