No Man’s Land (UK Tour) Review
Ian McKellen – Spooner
Patrick Stewart – Hirst
Owen Teale – Briggs
Damien Molony – Foster
Venue: Theatre Royal, Newcastle
Date: Wednesday 17th August 2016 (7:30pm)
No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter was written in 1974 and first performed in 1975 and known as an absurdist play. That means that it is about a person who cannot find any meaning for life and this is done in quite a dark comedic way at times. I will admit though that I did not massively look into what the play was about before seeing it. I was more excited that Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart were not only going to be on stage together again but actually doing a small tour with the play. Very lucky to have them grace the stage in Newcastle at the Theatre Royal.
Just want to also mention that I would have certainly made a trip to London to see these two legendary actors on stage, as they are doing a 12 week stint after some previews in the West End. After they have visited Brighton and then Cardiff having already been to Sheffield last week. I think they have done well to do some different places and spread it out over the UK, even more pleased we had the pleasure in the North East as we often get missed out!
During the first act I found myself rather confused and had no idea what was actually going on at times in the play, as I was really making sure to pay attention to follow on with the story with lots of dialogue to take in. By the interval I was trying to piece it all together. Hirst was a rich man and lived in a big house, he had met Spooner in a pub that night and brought him back to the house. What exactly for I guess we can decide on our own for that one. It is evident by the amount they drink that he is an alcoholic, we did get some funny moments and lines as well. Not forgetting Stewart crawling across the stage, when Briggs and Foster enter it throws things into even more uproar as we try to work out who exactly they are.
My thoughts on the first act summed up that we cannot actually believe anything anyone is saying or work out who is telling the truth, we are presented with plenty of different options for this and I guess the viewer can pick which one they like best? The two men are supposedly both poets and spent time together at University, sharing many of the same male and female, but was Hirst mistaking Spooner for someone else? Well, he plays along anyway and gives us some hilarious reactions to the situation. By the ending and the last few lines though it seems to work itself out that while it was very strange and weird at times it had the point that as you get older your memories can consume you. A photo album is mentioned constantly but we never get to see it, rather forgetful moments as well as it shows that the man is not totally switched on anymore as he clutches to what he thinks is his past. But really he was in no man’s land. A place you don’t ever really want to be, I took that to be the point of the play that the whole time he was in No Man’s Land . . . A very dangerous place to be.
I have always wanted to see Ian McKellen on stage, it was certainly one of my Theatre goals so to have that honour was truly fantastic. He really is a truly incredible actor, in what must be a difficult role with plenty of dialogue which he absolutely nailed! I still cannot actually believe that I have now seen him (and met him at the stage door, wow!). Then add in that Patrick Stewart was also in the play sharing the spotlight, knowing they are great friends off stage makes it even better. This is where they look right at home and you can so tell that they enjoy it a lot. Stewart showing an amazing range of emotions and parts of his character as the play went on.
In smaller roles we had Owen Teal as Briggs more recently known from being in Game of Thrones, while his role was pretty small he was very effective in adding the more comedic side with his gruff voice and manner. Damien Molony the youngest member of the cast as Foster was very engaging and put in a great charismatic performance he really owned the stage in his moments and that was fantastic to watch.
It never fails to impress me seeing a play with not many performers especially for a show that was 2 hours 5 minutes long (20 minute interval). Incredibly well done to the Theatre Royal for getting this real treat of a play and performers!