Saturday, 9 June 2018

Two Halves of Guinness at the Museum

Anyone less than 50 (and many people older) will have seen Star Wars. As well as seeing the movies, most of us will have collected the toys, models and other merchandise which went along with the film’s success.

Trevor Littledale by remyhunterphotography.co.uk
One of the film’s main protagonists (the donor/mentor according to Todorov and Propp) was Obi Wan Kenobi, a mystical wizard cum knight tutor played by famed British character actor Alec Guinness. Despite having worked on stage and in film for decades, Guinness was famously worried that his part in Star Wars would be his defining role, leaving his portrayal of the entire D’Ascoyne family in Kind Hearts and Coronets, of Sidney Stratton in The Man in the White Suit, and even his playing of Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he won an academy award, forgotten. According to Guinness’ son Matthew, when Sir Alec met a child fan who said he had seen the Star Wars ‘a hundred times’ he said to the young chap “Well, do you think you could promise never to watch it again?”

The one man play Two Halves of Guinness, performed by Trevor Littledale, finds us meeting Guinness in a cosy bar as he faces crippling insecurity after taking part in the creation of the Sci-Fi epic. Not only does it inspect the actor’s personal anxieties, it also looks at the relationship he had with other British acting luminaries such as Olivier and Coward, his conversion to Catholicism, his upbringing, the war, and the premonitions he often had, leading to the warning he gave James Dean on the night before his fatal car accident.

Littledale characterises Guinness perfectly, using miniscule body movements and changes in expression and voice to become another character within the monologue. The ‘two halves’ of the title refers to the two distinct sides of Guinness’ personality; the dark, anxious, insecure side brought about by being born illegitimate to an alcoholic mother and never really knowing who his father was, being taken constantly from digs to boarding houses while he was growing up, adding to his sense of vulnerability. The other half, the lighter side, looks at his life as an entertainer. How, once he’d decided to become an actor, he simply looked up John Gielgud in the directory and phoned him to ask for acting lessons. Gielgud was unable to oblige personally, but the two became firm friends.

The play is being performed in Brighton Toy and Model Museum, a space which lends itself well to the performance as Trevor feels that the proximity of the audience to the actor adds vital intimacy to the play as it unfolds.

For booking information and to buy tickets for the show when it is staged in October, simply follow the link to Eventbrite

Blog by Dan Cash, opinions are author's own.

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