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Sandraseahorse

Butley

I watched the DVD of Simon Gray's "Butley" yesterday.  I'm not familiar with Simon Gray's work except from reading extracts from his diaries years ago in one of the Sunday papers.

Alan Bates as Ben Butley, the acerbic lecturer, was superb in this.  (I once saw Alan Bates and Simon Gray in "The Ship" in Chichester about to start their second bottle of champagne at 10.30 am and Bates was performing that afternoon).

There were some wonderful lines in the play but Butley was such an unpleasant character that I wasn't sorry when it was over.  I thought I recognised the actor playing the student Fenton and it turned out to be Simon Rouse, who was later famous for playing DCI Jack Meadows in "The Bill".  

Anyone with opinions on Simon Gray's work?
Chibiabos83

I love Alan Bates in that filmed version of Butley, but it drags badly on screen. Perhaps it works better on stage, with an interval. I remember lots of wordplay ('In point of fact...'). I was partly keen to see it because I'm fond of Richard O'Callaghan (son of Patricia Hayes), but I recall thinking it showed his limitations as an actor. Also present, young Darien Angadi, as a student popping his head around the door. He committed suicide in his early thirties, one of those many sad losses. (Among other things he was one of the boys in the Britten-authorised recording of Noye's Fludde, and later on was in I Clavdivs.)

I saw Quartermaine's Terms in London last year, with Rowan Atkinson leading a very strong cast. Though ostensibly comic, a dark and upsetting play I would like to get to know better. I'm always meaning to read Gray's Smoking Diaries, which have such a good reputation, but I'm quite ignorant of his work in general.
Mikeharvey

I wrote about this May 13th last year on Plays I Have Read thread…
Chibiabos83

So you did.

http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about2092.html
Sandraseahorse

Apologies, Mike.  I was sure you must have seen it and/or read it but you have reviewed so many plays that I couldn't find it.

I think your criticisms of Richard O'Callaghan's performance were a little harsh, Gareth.  In the special features of the DVD I watched Simon Gray said how impressed he was with his performance as Joey.  Gray also said that in adapting it for the screen he thought afterwards he should have cut about 15 minutes and I feel that it dragged in places.  Nevertheless,  it was an interesting play and I find myself thinking about it.

It was also claimed on the DVD that Harold Pinter, who directed the play, claimed that Butley and Joey weren't lovers although Ben was attracted to Joey.  Hmmm .. not sure about that as the posters for the film say something on the lines of "his wife has let him and now his boyfriends is about to leave him."

I was also interested to learn that Richard Briers replaced Alan Bates when it was first produced on stage.  The role seems at variance with the cuddly image we have of Richard Briers as Tom from "The Good Life."  But Briers was a versatile actor; I vaguely seem to remember someone describing his role as Polonius as the most terrifying they had seen.
Chibiabos83

I'm sure you're right, Sandra, when you say I'm being harsh on O'Callaghan. I suspect his role in Butley simply reminded me too much of the meek and downtrodden characters I've seen him play in other things, from which I inferred that he didn't have much range. I haven't seen a large enough sample of his work to draw that conclusion, really.
Sandraseahorse

Chibiabos83 wrote:

I saw Quartermaine's Terms in London last year, with Rowan Atkinson leading a very strong cast. Though ostensibly comic, a dark and upsetting play I would like to get to know better. I'm always meaning to read Gray's Smoking Diaries, which have such a good reputation, but I'm quite ignorant of his work in general.


I watched the TV version of "Quartermaine's Terms" with Edward Fox this afternoon and I was very impressed by the blend of humour and pathos.  It's my favourite Simon Gray play so far.  I then read the reviews of the production with Rowan Atkinson but I soon became irritated with the readers' comments underneath; so many people complained it was "boring" and not funny.  I suppose that is one of the drawbacks of  star casting that audiences expect to see the celebs re-enacting their most famous TV roles on the stage.
Chibiabos83

It's one of the pitfalls of casting, say, Rowan Atkinson or Stephen Fry in a play that the audience comes with preconceptions, though Rowan Atkinson is a performer of such wide-ranging talents that I don't know what those preconceptions would be other than the promise of laughter. And there is comedy in Quartermaine's Terms, but more often, from what I recall, desperation. That's life, for most of us. I saw the recent production and while the content of the play hasn't stayed in my mind, the atmosphere of it has, as well as the excellence of individual performers - Atkinson, Felicity Montagu, Conleth Hill. I'd like to see Edward Fox in the role.
Chibiabos83

Well, an hour and a half on and I've just watched The Common Pursuit on YouTube - what a fine play, though I dare say it's not quite as it would appear on stage. I can see I need to get better acquainted with Simon Gray.
Castorboy

Sandraseahorse wrote:
Chibiabos83 wrote:

I saw Quartermaine's Terms in London last year, with Rowan Atkinson leading a very strong cast. Though ostensibly comic, a dark and upsetting play I would like to get to know better.

I watched the TV version of Quartermaine's Terms with Edward Fox this afternoon and I was very impressed by the blend of humour and pathos.  It's my favourite Simon Gray play so far.  I then read the reviews of the production with Rowan Atkinson but I soon became irritated with the readers' comments underneath; so many people complained it was "boring" and not funny.

An excellent play - I've just watched the Edward Fox version on YouTube with a very good cast indeed. It is hard to say if anyone was better than another except I really appreciated Peter Jeffrey's interpretation of a married man with domestic concerns. Watching Fox's performance I could imagine how Atkinson would be as good with a script that allowed for both humour and sadness. People who called the play boring or not funny couldn't have been listening closely to the dialogue.
Sandraseahorse

I'm glad you both enjoyed the plays you watched.

I regret not going to the production of "The Last Cigarette" in Chichester a few years ago; it was a dramtisation by Hugh Whitemore of Simon Gray's diaries.  I didn't go as I'm anti-smoking and I objected to some quotes from the play I read about the joy of inhaling smoke on virgin lungs.  I now wish I hadn't been such a pompous prig.

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