I love my National Theatre Entry Pass – it provides opportunities for young people to access groundbreaking theatre at discounted rates. When they told me John Lithgow – the voice of Lord Farquaad – was not only starring in a show but also doing a Q & A, and I could see both for £8, I booked it straight away.
(Dinner at the National Theatre)
Lithgow was interviewed by Nick Hytner, Director of the NT. The first thing I noticed when he stepped on stage was how tall he was! It was a memorable opening as Lithgow described being born in a prop box. Born into a thoroughly theatrical family, Lithgow spent his childhood summers with his Dad’s Shakespeare troop in Ohio, starting with the small bit parts and graduating up to the young leads.
Lithgow was no fool and secured a scholarship at Harvard. He describes himself as the ‘best actor in Harvard by osmosis’ only a small underestimation of his evident dramatic talent (!) and a time of prolific output – he featured in some 8 or 9 plays per term and his repertoire had by this time expanded from Shakespeare to encompass several Russian playwrights among others . On some kind of Erasmus swap Lithgow made it to LAMDA which conferred on him a love of London and a convincing English accent, he describes it as like ‘swallowing a horsepill of Englishness’.
Lithgow also passed comment on his lifelong profession of acting deeming it a reckless and stupid career path. He has done numerous other things on top of acting to fill the quiet season from writing children’s books to conducting orchestras. He does this he says to avoid the actor’s agony of ‘waiting to be wanted’.
With this backdrop I ran off to speed munch my dinner and then returned to the front row to see Lithgow perform the lead role in Pintero’s Victorian farce, The Magistrate. Damien Lewis loved it - he was sat about 6 rows behind me, desperately trying to keep a low profile. The play was everything I’ve come to expect from comedy at the NT, riotous, professional, splendid and slightly mad. The script set the action firmly in London and with my local interests that really pleased me! As ever the staging was central to the success of the play, this time it both rotated and rose on expensive mechanical, silent sets. Lithgow provided some hilariously comic moments particularly when acting out being attacked by a dog who obviously wasn’t there! And I loved the song about trying to guess the age of a lady; it was suggested you might chop her leg off and count the rings!
The Magistrate is on until March, there are plenty of discounted seats available and I can’t recommend it high enough!