Breathtaking--gives new meaning to the word "drama."
Mary Whipple | New England | 01/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Winner of the New York Critics Best Play of the Year Award in 1970, this hilariously funny but ineffably sad, five-character play by David Storey, directed by Lindsay Anderson, pairs Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud as two proud men who meet and talk in the garden of what appears to be some sort of assisted living facility. Well-spoken Jack (Richardson) and Harry (Gielgud), dressed in jackets and ties and carrying a cane and gloves, are clearly men of some status as they meet and make small talk--about the news, the clouds, varieties of chrysanthemums, whether Vale Evesham in England is the Garden of Eden, and the fact that their wives are not going to be visiting that day.
When they go off for a walk, two raucous and uninhibited women (brilliantly played by Mona Washbourne and Dandy Nichols) take their places in the garden, completely changing the mood. Kathleen (Washbourne) and Marjorie (Nichols) are obviously from a different background, with different accents, casual attitudes towards clothing and hygiene, bawdy humor, and a willingness to say absolutely anything. The fact that the women joke about having had shoelaces and belts removed and to being admitted involuntarily, one for the second time, ironically change our view of Jack and Harry, who they really are, and why they may be there.
When the men and the women all meet in the garden after lunch, their need to communicate, when they have so little in common, is touching. The men stay true to their class and upbringing and the women true to their own backgrounds, but all get teary at various times, and as they try to help each other, despite the fact their paths would never have crossed in "real" life, their universal need for companionship and understanding is highlighted. As the characters begin to confuse their stories, the viewer becomes aware that despite our hopes, the characters probably belong where they are.
Author David Storey, a Booker Prize winner for his novel Saville, has won innumerable awards for his plays, and this one is breath-taking. The actors are flawless, feeding off each other to make the play come alive. Small gestures and camera close-ups, especially with Richardson and Gielgud, make the drama intimate and powerfully affecting, and the final scene, accented by silent tears, is unforgettable. Productions like this are what theater is all about. Mary Whipple
Sad, Brave And Superbly Acted By Richardson And Gielgud
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/02/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Clouds," says Harry. "Watch their different shapes. See how they drift apart? First sight, nothing. Then just watch the edges. See?" "Amazing," says Jack.
This play by David Storey, preserved on tape and DVD by Broadway Theatre Archive, is one of those things where meaning slips in almost unnoticed between the words. Literal viewers will probably find themselves adrift amidst pauses, fragments of dialogue and inconsequential small talk that appears to go nowhere. Stay with it and you'll enter a world where reality shifts bit by bit, where the tail end of life can seem as hopeless as it seems, in a poignant way, funny and sad, where parallels to Britain's national condition come into focus. More than anything else, you'll find yourself witnessing two star acting turns by Ralph Richardson, then 70, and John Gielgud, then 68.
We meet Harry (Gielgud) and Jack (Richardson) on the grounds of what seems to be a home for the elderly. They are two aging men, carefully dressed, discrete and polite, considerate and...a bit off. Gradually we realize the home for the elderly must be a home for those with mental problems, where treacle pud and making baskets in "remedial" are topics of conversation. They and we encounter Kathleen (Mona Washbourne) and her friend Marjorie (Dandy Nichols), two women from an entirely different class, who have their own stories which are as shifting as Jack's and Harry's. Jack and Harry talk to each other. Kathleen and Marjorie talk to each other. The four talk amongst themselves. Eventually Harry and Jack walk off together. Then Kathleen and Marjorie leave. We realize the next day will be much the same as this day...and this day turned out to be a bit sadder and braver than we expected. However, as Jack points out, "The older one grows, the more one takes into account other people's foibles. If a person can't be what they are, what's the point of being anything at all?"
Gielgud and Richardson, two of the three great acting knights of Britain, made their reputations in the classic roles. As they aged, the British theater changed as playwrights such as John Osborne and Storey found an audience that appreciated the view of an England propped up by tradition and decaying from within. Just as Olivier was able to recast himself by starring in Osborne's The Entertainer, Gielgud and Richardson broke through contemporary barriers by appearing in Home. They do magnificent jobs of it.
This is a recording of the stage play. The action takes place around a table and chairs in the courtyard of the institution. It might seem limiting, except that Storey's words and the acting carry us along. The DVD picture has the quality of a VHS tape; not great but not bad."