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The Go-Between at the Apollo Theatre

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 9th Jun 2016 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Composer Richard Taylor should be feeling very proud of himself. For when he was asked who the ideal leading actor should be for a new, musical version of LP Hartley’s much loved story of childhood innocence and betrayal, he suggested... Michael Crawford.

It was a stroke of genius, Crawford is magnificent. For the last 10 years he has been recovering from ME in New Zealand and so it was a shock to see him as the 74-year-old he now is. But his award-winning voice is still beautifully melodic and, though he is now a little stooped (or was that acting?), he gives his character a childlike innocence, played with such vulnerability and sensitivity that there won’t be a dry eye in the house.

In a recent newspaper article he said that he introduced himself to the cast with ‘I’m Michael and I’m terrified’. Last night his nerves were palpable, his hand was shaking and at one point, so was the corner of his mouth. But his delivery never waivered from perfection. His return to the stage is nothing short of a triumph.

Anyone who takes on such a project as this has a right to be nervous, especially after such a long break. It’s an extremely hard show to perform. Richard Taylor may look upon him as his hero but he hasn’t made things easy for him. It’s a chamber musical with lyrics by David Wood but not many real songs, and different harmonies but on-stage pianist Nigel Lilley’s accompaniment is poetic.

Director Roger Haines’ new version sees Leo (the go-between) discovering the diary he had written 50 years before during the three weeks of a hot summer when he stayed, as a 12-year-old, with his friend Marcus at his country pile. Cue the characters from that time who plead with him to release them. And so he relives those days when he fell in love with Marcus’s sister and acted as ‘postman’ for her and her lover, a tenant farmer on her father’s estate.

At times he looks wistfully into the middle distance, at others his pain is visible, and then he looks on lovingly as his memories are acted out before his eyes by a sterling cast which includes Fascinating Aida’s Issy Van Randwyck, majestic as Marcus’s mother; Gemma Sutton as the beautiful, playful Marian, and Stuart Ward as her lover, the macho but tender farmer Ted.

But if anything, 13-year-olds William Thompson and Archie Stevens, should share Crawford’s star billing. Archie gives a very assured performance as the snobbish Marcus. William, on the other hand, mirrors the childlike quality found in Crawford. He executes so well a feeling of bewilderment, while the way he looks at Marian with such love is quite extraordinary for one so young.



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