"Thanks to the skills of Frayn and director Michael Blakemore I was gripped throughout." so spoke a board outside the Wyndham theatre. Naturally, my perverted mind had me laughing at the idea, but I sadly have to report that the director did not literally grip me during the play (much to my disappointment!).

Aheeeeeeeem! Earlier in the year at my university I'd picked up a spring programme for the National Theatre, and whilst flicking through it at half 8 in the morning, stumbled across Democracy. Read about it and thought it sounded interesting, and saw the name Roger Allam. I wasn't properly awake yet, and I sat there knowing that the name was familiar....AHA! He was the original London Javert in Les Mis, who I used to sing along with on the cd (but enough about that!). That alone had me wanting to book up the show, plus it was in the Travelex £10 season, so why not? All happy with my self, I then went on to draw over all the faces in the programme (complete with compulsory horns and moustaches), and then fell asleep for a while.

Suddenly I'm off to Rome with the uni, and absolutely skint! Then once back from Rome, it was mother's day, and my mum was taken to see Phantom. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd never see Democracy, and huffed and puffed for awhile. Then whilst walking down Charing Cross Road one day, I see unfamiliar yellow, black and red lights at the Wyndham theatre. Mumbling my typical "Ay?" I walked towards it, and what should it be, but Democracy, now in the West End!! (It's colours whilst at the NT had been blue, black and white, but I think these are an improvement.... anyway). Looked through a flyer and kicked myself for not seeing at the NT, as the prices were now far too high for me. *Cue another few months of huffing everytime I walked past the theatre; the play that never was!* Then, after reading the flyer PROPERLY, I noticed it said "student tickets £15" - ahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!!!! *Manic laughter* So yesterday my sister and I got a pair of tickets, in the royal circle, row B, riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight in the centre, brilliant seats! I'm not sure how 'excited' Asti was on seeing the show, and she warned me that were it 'rubbish', it would be all my fault and that death might be involved.............................................um, alright then!

The Wyndham theatre is so (I hate to use the word) cute, named after it's funder - there's this hilarious picture of him in the programme! Is a very cosy place inside. As we walked in, an usher said, "The bar's that way!" WHY did he feel the need to tell us this?? Did we look like a pair of alcoholics? Ha! Everyone, and I mean everyone, was really well-dressed. Now, it was an extremely hot day, and look we had to travel over an hour on the bus to get there, so I was um, wearing rolled up jeans and a plain blue top. I felt so out of place! MUST get myself some smarter clothing (heheh, would love to get a dress that flows out behind me, would give me the excuse to run along corridors!). Had no one next to me throughout the play, was lovely. And wow, a theatre that has working air-conditioning!!!

Onto the play. Obviously political, I'll just copy and paste a brief summary:
West Germany, 1969. Willy Brandt
(Roger Allam) begins his brief but remarkable career as the first left-of-centre Chancellor for nearly forty years. Always present but rarely noticed is Günter Guillaume (Conleth Hill), Brandt’s devoted personal assistant – and no less devoted in his other role, spying on Brandt for the Stasi.
We hear the play from the point of Guillaume, as he reports to the Stasi, clearly in 2 minds about the whole situation. Is interesting to watch him slowly gain position, enter into confidences of those around him, until finally personal assistant to Brandt. Was quite funny the way he'd quickly turn and say things like, "And then I got angry!", turn back round, and shout at the other person onstage. But the best scenes were by far between him and Brandt. He did this fantastic painful grin at him, always made me smile. Brandt has by this time been informed that Guillaume could possibly be a spy, so is constantly playing with the notion with him, talking about spies, then glaring hard and long at him, with the other squirming in his chair, having to feign ignorance. Is quite sad for Guillaume, as he's grown to like Brandt, and just wants out of the whole thing, fear of being caught growing ever closer. Caught of course he is, and then we watch as Brandt's life falls apart around him.

Conleth Hill was fantastic (would never know he was Irish!), and really felt for him at the end, as he sat there under that lone spotlight. Ahem, Roger Allam was of course wonderful - he didn't actually talk that much, but everything was in his gestures, the tilt of the head, arch of an eyebrow, all spoke volumes. Very suitable for the character of Brandt. My mum, who used to live in Germany during the 60s, has often in the past suddenly chanted, "Willy Willy!" (pronounced Villy) and now I finally understand why! I've said for ages Mr Allam sounds like a tutor of mine at uni, and after seeing him live, he is EXACTLY like him, down to mannerisms, laugh, height (even telling the awful jokes!). At the interval, Asti turned round and said to me, "Oh gaaaaawd you'll never guess who Roger Allam reminds me of!" When I'd said this to her a few months earlier, she said I was "so wrong", huh! So now I have a karate sensei who I keep expecting to break into "Master of the House" and a uni tutor who could unleash his version of 'Stars' upon me at any point....

The set was great, 2 tiers, with stairs in the middle, which the characters would scale up and down all the time (another reason why those seats of ours were perfect, still managing to be on eye level with the actors even in the royal circle!). Like how they gave the idea of travelling on a train, with lights flashing, and the actor's eyes quickly scanning stuff (the way you do on a train, eyes darting back and forth, heheh!). At the end, all the documents on the shelves fell off, representing the breaking of the Berlin wall (either that or it was a terrible accident!), and Asti leaned over and said, "Oooh I'd hate to have to clear all that up every night!" 3 cheers for that poor soul! So yes, a great play, wonderful performances all round (there were many other characters, but the main 2 are who I clearly remember), am glad I finally caught it!

2ND AUGUST 2004



Cat Nip, all its characters & the artwork Trudi Castle;
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