Almeida Theatre backstage tour
Review: Finally I got to see Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre

Martin Freeman joins my tea and cake list and the Clybourne cast Q&A

DSCN2966 OK, I should probably explain. I've long harboured a desire to have tea and cake with certain famous people and by desire, I don't mean anything other than wouldn't it be nice to sit and have a good old natter over a pot of tea and a large slice of moist Victoria sponge filled with cream and jam.

Ben Whishaw has long been on the list, indeed the list probably started because of him. Not least because I'd love to have a good old natter over a cuppa but also because he looks like a man in need of a good slice of cake. Incidentally, I recently discovered an interview from around the time of his Hamlet in which Trevor Nunn said all the women of the cast were obsessed with his food intake and continually asked him what he'd eaten.

Mackenzie Crook is a recent addition for similar reasons because, as I think I commented in my The Aliens review, he makes Mr Whishaw look fat.

But now there is Martin Freeman who easily makes it onto the list following last night's performance and comic quips at the Clybourne post-show Q&A. He is a funny man and it was great to see him making the jokes rather laughing at him in character.

Much of what he said that was funny was a case of 'you had to be there' but trust me, he would be an entertaining tea-time guest.

Which brings me sort of neatly onto the Q&A itself. I'm going to write a review separately, this is just a recollection of what was discussed and will contain spoilers.

Naturally, the fact that racism and prejudice are explored in a way that is humourous was discussed at length. Several of the actors commented on how the type of laughter varies from night to night. Sometimes it can be a response to the humour at a superficial level, which some found disturbing but other times it is guilty laughter or awkward laughter.

Martin Freeman described the first preview performance, which had a large group of American students in the audience, as like Beatlemania with virtually every line getting a laugh. Director Dominic Cooke warned them all afterwards that it probably wouldn't be like that again. And it hasn't been.

The final scene when Kenneth's ghost appears was also discussed at length as it has such a contrasting tone to the rest of the second act. It was described as being the least Bruce Norris scene in the whole play. Sarah Goldberg who plays Betsy & Lindsay said it served to show where the roots of all the problems had come from.

However, one audience member questioned whether in bringing it back to the tragic history of the middle-class white family was a side step around the key issue of racism. In effect a safer way of ending the play. Most of the cast conceded that the ending was a little bit safe.

I felt the ending served to show that despite believing that we have in some way progressed beyond such racism and prejudice, we haven't actually moved as far forward as we think. The 'ghost' of prejudices past still haunt and influence the present.

There was also a bit of discussion about what it was like having Norris there during the rehearsal period. Apparently, Cooke and Norris are completely different people but nonetheless got on really well. Cooke is, apparently, only the second male director that Norris has got along with. The cast said it was invaluable having him along as it meant they could ask lots of questions.

The biggest change Cooke made was to have the cast sitting for the second act rather than standing as described in the script. Freeman said it meant they had to concentrate on dialogue delivery without any of the distracting embellishments of moving around.