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Video: This Sunday's theatre question is about those special and spontaneous curtain call moments

10th Birthday list: My favourite theatre curtain call moments

I love curtain calls at the end of plays. It's a revealing time when characters are shaken off - or not - when faces perhaps show the person underneath the acting mask.

Swan Theatre view from the stage
View from the stage at the RSC Swan Theatre. Photo Rev Stan

They can also be a time of japes, fun and banter.

From time to time over the past 10 years of blogging I've mention curtain calls, they even have their own category in my end of year awards on occasions, so I decided to compile a list of  my favourites:

1. Only on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.

2. Another last night, this time the end of the run was all a bit too much for the cast of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Daniel Mays looked like he'd been crying backstage and Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint were fighting tears.

3. And another last night...Mark Strong couldn't hide his emotions at the end of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic but instead of tears, he mouthed a satisfied 'yes' while making a fist.

4. At the curtain call of cold war drama Anna, National Theatre, there was a polite request from the cast who held up a series of cards which spelt out 'No Spoilers'.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre seen from the fly
From above: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage. Photo: Rev Stan

5. There was no sign of their characters' rivalry at the end of Mary Stuart, Almeida Theatre as Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson had a lovely curtain call hug. 

6. James McAvoy proved just how quickly he can snap out of character at the end of Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre. After doing an emotionally charged death scene, just moments later he bounced back on stage, grinning and giving the enthusiastic audience the thumbs up. 

7. The cast of Boy at the Almeida, themed their curtain call to match the play which explored isolation and loneliness.  Frankie Fox who played the boy faced in the opposite direction to the rest of the cast. It was a nice touch.

8. At the end of Nice Fish, Harold Pinter Mark Rylance and Jim Lichtscheidl are hoisted up into the gods by fish hooks. What you expect is that they'd get unstrapped out of view and take the backstage route to return for the curtain call but no, they were just lowered in a comically ungainly fashion to the stage to join the rest of the cast. It was a fitting end to a funny and surreal play.

9. After the performance of Sweet Bird of Youth, Old Vic, Kim Cattrell kissed Seth Numrich on the mouth - because you so would if you could get away with it. Go, girl.

10. The rapturous applause was dying down at the end of the Pitman Painters, Duchess Theatre and the actors turned to leave the stage but as they did one of them (can't remember which), leaned towards Trevor Fox and was seen the mouthing the words: 'You were rubbish though'. Actors, such wags.

11. Having absolutely zero desire to be on stage I never thought I'd ever find myself holding hands with a professional actor and bowing to an applauding audience. The actor was Freddie Fox who dragged me from my seat for the curtain call having been roped in to play 'The Flower' during a Southwark Playhouse production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. You can read the full story about my stage appearance here.

Curtain call style - two special mentions

Sam Troughton generally looks miserable at the curtain call. Poly and I joke about it but there was that one occasion when he smiled and actually looked pleased/happy. The play? Beginning at the National Theatre. It was a comedy so maybe that's the key.

Ben Whishaw has a distinctive curtain call style. Regardless of the play he always gives an energetic and elastic bow that looks like he is trying (and succeeding) to touch his nose to his knees. Obviously a bit of a yoga fan.

Do you have a favourite curtain call moment? Let me know in the comments.

You might also like to read:

10th Birthday: 10 plays that in hindsight feel appropriate for this period of lockdown and social isolation.

National Theatre announces 4 more brilliant plays to be streamed online.

From the archive: First night review of Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate.