Skip to main content

Review of Sand In The Sandwiches at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The opportunity to see a colossus of acting take on the role of one of the most well regarded of British poets and writers is one that comes along rarely, and as Sand in the Sandwiches proves, you would be unwise to miss it.

Written by Hugh Whitemore and directed by Gareth Armstrong, Sand in the Sandwiches sees Edward Fox ease us with precision and control through the life and work of John Betjeman. It is described in the advertising as "a celebration", and it is at all times just that. This is not a showy play, it is one of the most delicate moments added to further delicate moments of poem, anecdote and life moments.


On Fontini Dimou's simple but stunningly gorgeous set, three chairs, one table and two simply decorated gauze backdrops, Fox moves from one nicely judged scene to another. Howard Harrison's lighting casts the most slowly unfolding pastel of colours (mostly autumnal in feeling) across the stage, as one little scene shifts into the other.

Some perhaps would have fault with the simplistic nature of the direction, however it treats its performer with respect, leaving Fox the chance to breath all the life he can into the interweaving moments of Betjeman's life from his dropping of an N from his name to avoid the German spy jibes and onto his recollections of college and the persuasion of all of its students at that time with their filling of that spare evening hour. It is soft and subtle and then at the most unexpected moments huge explosions of humour which rides through the audience like a laughing simultaneous Mexican wave.

The poetry of Benjamin bleeds in and out of the piece and for those unfamiliar with his work (as was I), you are occasionally never sure whether another poem has begun or the anecdotes continue, such is the flowing and relaxing nature of the script.

Edward Fox is exemplary in the role, capturing a playful and childish edge, belying his octogenarian age. His movement is slow and delibrate as he moves gently from chair to chair as simple easing music from Simon Slater bridges the scenes. Fox delivers the dialogue in a soothing style of an afternoon radio play on the ears, but with bolts of bedevilment out of the blue. A limited effort has been made to make Fox's appearance like Benjamin, with the exception of trilby hat and overcoat, however, this is unimportant, this is all about the words as befits Betjamen.

Sand in the Sandwiches is like a warm comfort blanket, directed with a kind of poetry of its own. Easy on the eye, lilting on the ear and a performer still at the top of his game. Simply a delight.

★★★★


Performance reviewed: Thursday, May 26th, 2017 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton.
Sand in the Sandwiches runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 27th May 2017.
For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/






Popular posts from this blog

Review of Disney's High School Musical by NMTC Youth Society at the Cripps Hall Theatre, Northampton

As a regular theatre-goer, and indeed reviewer, I have learnt over the years that not all theatre is really for everybody. It's pretty obvious a statement really, but with reviewers, unlike regular theatregoers, you end up by default attending shows you might not dream of going to see as a normal customer. Maybe High School Musical is one pretty close to the top of the list I would only see on "official reviewing duty", as it's not really for a 40-year odd person. However, beyond that, the Northampton Musical Theatre Company Youth Society has come up with a really pretty impressive production of Disney's classic teen musical.

This is a very dramatic departure from the inaugural production of the Youth Theatre in 2018, Les Misérables (much more my thing), however, perhaps unsurprisingly it is better suited to the performers here. Their enthusiasm is even more evident to that previous production. Here, unlike the horrors of revolution-torn France, they can have fu…

Review of The Full Monty at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

The 1997 film The Full Monty is one of the best regarded of relatively recent British films, due to it being both a warm and emotionally strong tale, solid comedy and a wealth of acting talent, and it's no surprise that its very theme has spawned an immensely successful touring stage version. It literally overflows with the opportunity to be performed in front of a, probably mostly female, audience, well, the final scene does, in any case. However, what of the rest, and how about for a male audience member? So to speak. Well, it was time to find out.

The first thing that is apparent from The Full Monty stage show, is how faithful this is to the film. Much of the show is what you have seen if you have seen the film, but translated cleverly to the stage, it feels just that little more real and gritty as well. It opens with a nicely staged scene of darkness and flashes of a torch as Gaz (Gary Lucy), his son Nathan (Fraser Kelly) and Dave (Kai Owen) break into their former factory wo…

Review of The Bodyguard at Milton Keynes Theatre, Milton Keynes

The 1992 film The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner and the acting debut for singing megastar Whitney Houston, was a slightly average romantic thriller, which is really mostly remembered for its musical turns from Houston, so, it is perhaps surprising that it took a whole twenty years to make it's transition to the stage as a musical version. Premiering in London in December 2012, ten months after Houston's tragic death, the show has had great success around the world, and with this, it's second UK tour, has a recognisable face in the star role, of Alexandra Burke, former X-Factor winner (curiously not mentioned in her programme biog).
The Bodyguard follows the story of former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer (Benoît Maréchal) who is hired to protect multi-award-winning music star Rachel Marron, following her receiving threats from a stalker.
It's clear from the bold opening performance that Alexandra Burke as Marron is not looking to imitate Houston in…