Review: Funeral Flowers, Bunker Theatre - getting drawn into the world of a 17-year-old trainee florist
Review: Maggie Smith recalls A German Life, Bridge Theatre

From the archives: My Ben Whishaw New York encounter

My first trip to New York, prompted by Ben Whishaw making his Broadway debut was pre-Rev Stan's Theatre blog (yes there was a time).

The Pride ben whishaw poster lucille lortel
He was in The Pride at Lucille Lortel Theatre with Andrea Riseborough and Hugh Dancy and there was an encounter with Ben Whishaw afterwards which I wrote about on my old blog.

Having hinted at said encounter in a post on Rev Stan's Theatre Facebook page (check it out/like etc) I've been asked for the story (link to the original post is here).

This has been mildly edited because I know better now:

Yesterday was another mammoth walkathon clocking up about 16km (pedometer decided to reset itself halfway through the day). Did the International Center for Photography in the morning then walked down to the Empire State Building and onto the Flat Iron Building which has to be my favourite of everything I have seen.

Then I just strolled, strolled, strolled through Greenwich Village stopping for cups of tea, a bit of shopping and a huge slice of cheesecake (decided to throw food intolerances to the wind and treat myself).

And then the reason I am here: The Pride. The Lucille Lortel is a curious theatre. You virtually take two steps off the street and you are in the auditorium. There is no bar or kiosk of any sort just the stage, seating and a loo. No wonder the tickets prices are so high, with the programmes being free it's the only source of income.

Signed by the cast, Playbill for The Pride, Lucille Lortel
Signed by the cast, Playbill for The Pride, Lucille Lortel

Anyway, the play was marvellous but I won't write about it here. What I will say is that I broke all my rules about encountering actors/famous people I admire and hung around at the stage door to get Ben Whishaw's autograph. I got the rest of the cast too so they didn't feel left out. (Hugh Dancy just signed and handed back and seemed in a hurry, Andrea Riseborough was chatty)

Ben was the last out and tried to sneak off down the road but I called him back (yes I shouted at Ben Whishaw in the street!) as there were a few of us waiting in the freezing cold.

He was really sweet though looking a bit embarrassed that he'd tried to sneak off.

A lady got her programmes signed first saying she'd come all the way from the West Coast.
It was then my turn and so I said I'd come all the way from London and it was a great play. He thanked me and said: 'We've come all the way from London too'. (Which isn't strictly true as Hugh Dancy lives with his wife Claire Danes in New York but I wasn't going to correct him.)  He took his time to sign his name so at least you can read it, unlike the other scribbles. And he took the time to look everyone in the face as he handed back the signed programmes rather than just signing, handing back, signing, handing back etc.

And that was it. Brief and to the point.

Of course, afterwards I thought of all the things I should have asked or said kicking myself all the way back uptown to my hotel but in a way, I'm glad I didn't because I probably would have made a tit of myself by saying something stupid. Which is why I have the rule about celeb encounters: Don't do it you'll only make an idiot of yourself and then feel mortified afterwards.

And if you want to read my review of The Pride, here is the text, again with a bit of mild editing (original is here):

Ben Whishaw has not let me down with his choice of plays, so far, and there was a lot riding on this one as it was the reason for deciding to visit New York. So when Sunday night finally came, cue excited anticipation.

The play is written by Alexi Kaye Campbell who was an actor himself and this may sound like a slightly peculiar thing to say but it is definitely an actors play. Kaye gives the three central actors two different characters to get their teeth into, setting the story around two groups of people living 50 years apart and switching the action between the two.

In the first, set in 1958, Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough play middle-class married couple Philip and Sylvia. Sylvia is working on some illustrations for a children's book written by Oliver (Ben Whishaw).

When Oliver meets Philip there is an instant attraction and a relationship of sorts ensues. It is a relationship shaped by a time when homosexuality was illegal and seen as a treatable 'affliction'. It is also a relationship that Sylvia suspects.

Jump forward to 2008 and Philip is a photographer who has just dumped his boyfriend Oliver for yet another infidelity. Sylvia is their best friend.

With a far more liberal and supposedly accepting attitude from society towards homosexuality, the issues switch to the price of that sexual freedom.

Whishaw, in a radio interview, said the play is about love. And simply it is but it is also about how society's attitudes towards being gay impact and shape that love and the people in love. It's a serious subject matter but dealt with, with bursts of lightness and laughter.

The play debuted in and is set in London, so some of the references to parts of the city may have been lost on one or two of the audience members but it wasn't noticeable and the level of applause at the end implied it was thoroughly enjoyed.

But did I applaud vigorously? Do you need to ask? Of course, I did. The cast were cracking, the play was both entertaining and engaging and Mr W didn't let me down - even when I stopped him heading off up the street to sign an autograph afterwards.