In the evening, after the 'Platform' at the National, I headed straight over to the Duke of York's Theatre for Claire Van Kampen's new play, 'Farinelli and the King'. I booked this back in March, so it has been a long wait, but it did not disappoint!
The theatre's interior has been changed for the production - with seating on stage, steps up to the stage and, most impressively, 6 hanging candelabras, with actual candles.(the first 3 rows were all warned that they would have to leave their seats during the interval, so that the candles could be changed) There are also candles for the footlights, and onstage (although they have used electric spotlights, too!)
The play itself was excellent - Mark Rylance was undoubtedly the star of the show as King Philip, from the opening scenes as he discourses to a goldfish, through return to active rule, but he was surrounded by a very strong cast - Edward Peel as de la Cuadra (Prime Minister), disapproving strongly of, well, practically everything, Melody Grove as the Queen, Huss Garbiya as the Doctor, and Sam Crane as Farinelli (with singing by Rupert Enticknap)
The size of the theatre, and the way it has been set up, meant that the experience was a very intimate one - as at the Globe, there were lots of entrances and exits through the auditorium (which is fun, if you have a seat on the aisle!), there were also moments when the actors spoke to us directly (we were, temporarily, local residents, farmers and poachers)
And the music was lovely. The plot revolves about the decision of the queen, acting upon her doctor's advice, to bring superstar (Castrati) singer, Farinelli, to Court on the hope that hopes music will cure the King's 'madness' and melancholia. The idea works, on the whole.
Crane, as Farinelli, is beautifully subtle, reacting and responding, frequently in silence, to the more showy performances of the other actors. Farinelli is billed as the world's greatest singer, and when he sings, Crane is replaced by opera singer Rupert Enticknap, who performs the arias. This takes a little getting used to, but is very effective, distinguishing between Farinelli the performer, and Farinelli the person.
I am so glad that I went, and now I really want to see Mark Rylance in more live stuff. In fact, I'd really like to see this production again. Although I don't think that will be possible, as it is sold out and in any case the run is fairly short and I don't think I'd be able to get to London again in the right time scale.