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James McAvoy and Hayley Atwell take to the Donmar stage for an afternoon of tragedy

You don't realise how little you actually get to hear James McAvoy Scottish brogue. So little in fact that the first few lines he spoke this afternoon, at the Donmar's  rehearsed reading of Bajazet, had me thinking he was putting it on.

It is at once a testament to his skill at adopting accents for his many film and TV performances and a shame that he doesn't get to play roles where he can use his own lovely, natural voice. I so want to hear more of it and @_gabriellasf is right he must play Macbeth  (just not at the Globe).

But James McAvoy's Scottish accent was just one of the bag of treats of this afternoon's one off. Joining McAvoy in a seated performance where much is said in just the manner of turning the script pages were Hayley Atwell, Ruth Negga and Alex Jennings. It's the sort of cast list that you couldn't ever imagine being brought together for a fully fledged production but such is the joy of rehearsed readings.

We were also treated to a brief introduction by Alan Hollinghurst, who translated the Jean Rancine play for a production at the Almeida back in 1990 and the Donmar's current production of Berenice in which Mrs McAvoy, Anne-Marie Duff, is starring.

The two plays are different beasts he said in that the latter is more subtle in its tragedy and the former a blood bath by comparison.

I enjoyed Berenice and Bajazet equally, the first is a love triangle this is essentially about two women who love the same man and are prepared to make big sacrifices to get what they want. Bajazet (McAvoy) is caught in the middle. He's at the mercy of Roxane  (Atwell) whom he doesn't love and who is his murderous old brother's lover and Atalide (Negga) his child-hood sweet heart who would rather he submitted to Roxane than face inevitable death.

Both of these Rancine plays have satisfyingly strong female characters and male characters facing interesting dilemmas. He writes wonderful exchanges between the sexes and I'd love to see a full production of Bajazet. In fact I was imagining it in my head as the actors spoke the words. Of course in my imagined version the dramatic denoument would all take place on stage and not be Greek tragedy-esque, reported action.

Rehearsed readings are nearly always rare treats wrapped up as something very casual and unassuming and this was no exception.

And if you want to hear Mr McAvoy talking in his natural voice here's a little YouTube clip of him on Parkinson - he just happens to be talking about filming sex scenes but don't worry about that ;0)

Poly was there to share in the joy of another fab rehearsed reading and you can read her thoughts on her blog.


Lovely direct link, Hayley Atwell played Mr W's sister in Brideshead Revisted and they also made a short film together called Love Hate.