Betjeman Play in West End

The one-man play with Edward Fox portraying John Betjeman (“Sand in the Sandwiches”) opened its brief West End performance earlier this week at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. The play premiered earlier this year in Oxford. See previous post. It is reviewed in today’s Guardian–alas, not favorably:

It’s a labour of love. But Hugh Whitemore’s script…along with Fox’s often strangulated, monotonous vocal delivery, and Gareth Armstrong’s bland, static staging, could all do with some love of a tougher variety. And a kick up the theatrical backside. It’s all so tediously tasteful…But it makes incredibly dull theatre. Fox may not physically resemble Betjeman, but he captures his sweet sense of fun and, when given the chance, demonstrates that he can do more than sit in a chair, cuddle a teddy bear and look glum…The show is often best when Betjeman is at his most self-deprecating, but he remains emotionally elusive as Whitemore hurtles through the biographical detail:… CS Lewis (his reviled Oxford tutor), Evelyn Waugh (who tempted the high-Anglican Betjeman’s wife to Rome), WH Auden (the pair went “church crawling” together) all get name checked.

Michael Arditti writing in the Sunday Express was more kind:

Whitemore’s affectionate, elegiac portrait depicts Betjeman in late middle age reminiscing about his school days, rustication from Oxford, time as a prep school master straight out of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline And Fall, his literary friends, tempestuous marriage and long affair with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish. Betjeman’s air of genial melancholy is perfectly captured by Edward Fox…His performance is a total delight.

After Saturday’s performance the play goes on tour again with stops at points such as Cambridge, Brighton and Bath. Details of the touring schedule are available here.

According to Out magazine, the Turner Classic Movies channel is observing Gay Hollywood month and will feature a gay themed film each Thursday during June. The final offering (presumably on 29 June) will be the Hollywood adaptation of Waugh’s The Loved One. Out describes this film as:

…a crazy comedy from the 60’s…it could be the gayest movie of all time. It is based on an Evelyn Waugh novel, has a screenplay by Christopher Isherwood, costars John Gielgud, and features cameos from Tab Hunter and Liberace. It’s totally bonkers.

UPDATE (4 June 2017): A reference to a more positive review of “Sand in the Sandwiches” in today’s Sunday Express was added.

UPDATE 2 (9 June 2017): Lloyd Evans writing in this week’s Spectator declares “Sand in the Sandwiches” to be “the perfect play for those who feel the West End should be an intellectual funfair. It sets out to amuse, surprise, divert, uplift and nothing more… Edward Fox reminds us that when Betjeman said ‘Edwardian’ he rhymed the second syllable with card, not sword.”

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