Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"An Audience with... Sir John Mortimer" - September 2007

Subtitled "Mortimer's Miscellany" this was a bit of a departure from the usual "Audience with..." format at The Citizens. Joined on stage by a pianist and flautist, Sir John Mortimer shared memories of his life as barrister and writer and gave performed readings of some of his favourite poems, writings and sketches. In these he was joined by the excellent Nichola McAuliffe and Liza Goddard in bringing the pieces to life.

Best known as the creator of "Rumpole of the Bailey" much of the evening focused on legal anecdotes and his relationship with his father, while other segments touched on politics and marriage. Despite appearing physically frail at times Sir John is clearly mentally sharp and while the format may be suited to a gentle evening's entertainment, the content was frequently anything but gentle. The performance of Cavafy's "Waiting for the Barbarians" spoke more tellingly about current politics than any newspaper editorials, while a number of his anecdotes were filthy enough that they would have been at home in the routine of an Edinburgh Fringe stand-up.

It is these moments of Mortimer's 'bite' along with the performances of McAuliffe and Goddard that leave a lasting impression, as many of the legal anecdotes are of the variety one finds in Christmas stocking-filler books (as the show's subtitle suggests). The musical interludes were a nice touch that added to what was an enjoyable evening, if not quite what we had expected.

3 Heckles

Helen Smith said...

Hello
How interesting that you've seen this - I've just reviewed a biography of John Mortimer by Valerie Grove (for a magazine, not on my blog) and she says that he has been performing Mortimer's Miscellany pretty much unchanged for more than 30 years, using a pool of actress friends to perform the two parts on stage with him. He obviously doesn't do it for the money but for the sheer love of performing. I had the impression that he only trotted out it out very rarely these days - for fundraisers and so on. I was just sitting here wishing I'd had the chance to see it when I saw your review. Glad you enjoyed it. Maybe he'll be doing further performances this year - I'm going to try and seek one out.

Waldorf said...

Looks like it's going to be in London in November: http://www.celebrityproductions.info/displayer_productions.php/81/Mortimer gives the full itinerary. He certainly liked being the centre of attention, although I did say to Statler that it would have been good to see it maybe 5 years earlier when he was a bit physically sprier. It's interesting to hear what Valerie Grove said about it being largely unchanged though.

Despite the fact he's a couple of years older than my grandfather he coped with a 2 hour performance well. Even though there was an interval he spent the entire duration of it doing book signings and chatting with people. Assisted by a sherry!

Let us know when the review of the biography is published. It might be one to put on my Christmas wishlist.

Helen Smith said...

Hello Waldorf
The biography is rather subdued - it details events from his life rather than dishing out lots of gossip or going all-out to entertain, as Mortimer himself might. To some extent, it seems to be a rebuttal to Graham Lord's recent biog which was unauthorised and revealed several family secrets, including the big one that Mortimer had a son with Wendy Craig. Although I found Valerie Grove's biog interesting, I felt that John Mortimer's verve was missing from the pages, which is why it made me want to see Mortimer's Miscellany. I'll try and catch it in London in November, I think - thanks for the link.