★★★★★ Untold Stories | Master of his craft Alex Jennings exuberantly brings Alan Bennett’s autobiographical theatre production ‘Untold Stories’ to life in two warm and masterful accounts entitled ‘Hymn’ and ‘Cocktail Sticks’.
‘Hymn’ takes a look at the role of music during childhood, as a memory. The powerful dialogue between the actor and the string quartet oozed of cleverness, reminiscent of assembly at school and those hymns that every child knows inherently. The comedic value of this piece was expressed as a wonderful light hearted account. Although remaining upbeat and witty, there was an undeniable sadness, perhaps something which is inevitable through nostalgic reflection. The character portrayed reminded me of a character from ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’; a comforting kind of comedy; some might say timeless.
‘Cocktail Sticks’ was an immensely pleasurable memoir which emotionally takes you so far before throwing in yet another joke to raise spirits; timing here is flawless. The transitions from time periods is excellently executed with events unfolding through Bennett’s memories, both joyful and melancholic.
I guarantee there is something that everyone can relate to in this performance, from the humdrum of everyday life, Father’s with no social aspirations, or Mother’s who long to be sophisticated cocktail party hosts. For our readers at The Gay UK, there were commonly used phrases which will create uncontrollable fits of laughter regarding men of a sensitive disposition. But from so much high spirited memories, a sudden silence dramatically demanded reaction, dealing with both mental health and ageing issues.
In reflection, the joy of the theatre is in the unexpected. Go and engage in something you wouldn’t ordinarily consider watching. The theatre provides an intimate venue between oneself and the stage, with the audience creating a comforting atmosphere. So here are my strongest recommendations to get out of the cold, and feel warm inside by watching ‘Untold Stories’. It is a truly engaging memoir full of substance and comic genius. Simply superb!
At The Duchess Theatre, London from now until 15th June 2013. Running time: 1 hour 50 mins including 20 min interval. Tickets range from £12 – £59.50 Box office: 08444 124659