To the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for the first public performance of Francis Beaumont’s 1607 The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Which, let it be said, is very funny, very finely played (including by Pauline McLynn and Phil Daniels, above) – and very long. Last night’s show came down after 3 hours and 20 minutes at 10.50pm. Some relief – for which, much thanks – was provided by short interludes at the end of Acts I, II and IV, with an additional 15-minute ‘privy break’ as a more conventional interval.
The 4-minute or so interludes, which feature music and a little comic dancing, allow one to stand and stretch, which really is a necessity, at least if you are sat in certain of the Playhouse’s seats. I was in Pit Row D (again – but I’ll learn), jammed between two strangers who during the opening hour and more engaged with me in a subtle and slightly distasteful turf tussle for leg-room. Cushions have been added since my first visit but there is still the sense that one is paying a significant chunk of change (£45 on a normal night) for a refined form of torture. Try to remember, you keep saying to yourself, the play’s the thing – and not cramp, bum-ache and the painful torsion necessary to turn one’s side-facing body towards the stage.
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