From Sir John Gielgud: A Life in Letters a note from the actor written during the U.S. tour of No Man’s Land in 1976:
The Pinter play is a huge success, thank God, and we have packed houses and a throng of people coming round after every performance. So I feel we are very lucky indeed, though the previous month in Washington was rather a bind, too big a theatre and a sticky lot to play to.
I once saw a musical at the Kennedy Center and agree with JG that the venue is way too big for musicals and plays. I imagine for much of the audience in the theater, it would have been hard to clearly see and hear the cast of No Man’s Land. Reading about the mad stampede last month for tickets to the upcoming run of Hamilton in D.C., I wonder how many of those who managed to get a ticket will be similarly disappointed by their experience at the KC this summer.
Newly listed on eBay, the program for the National Theatre’s production of No Man’s Land at the Lyttelton Theatre which ran from January 20 – February 24, 1977 with Michael Kitchen in the cast.
As in a theatre, the eyes of men,
After a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
Are idly bent on him that enters next,
Thinking his prattle to be tedious;
– Richard II
Perhaps the case for some supporting actors but not for Michael Kitchen, who would have beguiled even if both Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir John Gielgud had left the stage.
For EH, who expressed an interest in seeing more of No Man’s Land, as it’s no longer available on YouTube in its entirety. I still don’t get the play, but I do enjoy reading articles about it that shed some light, like this entertaining NY Times piece with Christopher Plummer ( ❤ ) and Jason Robards, who starred in the 1994 revival on Broadway.
And via KT comes onemanz.com’s excellent review of the latest Broadway revival of No Man’s Land starring Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, a production which apparently rivaled the original:
With the supporting roles filled by Michael Kitchen and Terence Rigby, even the recording of the original production is an English language equivalent of listening to a string quartet performing a timeless piece of classical music. So much so, revivals have never quite done the work justice, until now.
Thanks, KT, for sharing the review and also for alerting me to the video setting!
Michael Kitchen played the character of Foster in another Harold Pinter work, No Man’s Land. The stage production premiered in London in 1975 before Michael Kitchen replaced Michael Feast in limited engagements in Toronto (Sep. 13, 1976 – Oct. 9, 1976), Washington D.C. (Oct. 11 – Nov. 6, 1976), and on Broadway (Nov. 8 – Dec. 18, 1976). The cast then returned to London for a final five-week run in early 1977. Fortunately, prior to the show closing it was filmed for posterity and later broadcast by the BBC in 1978. This clip from almost the end of the play is the best part, in my lowbrow opinion.
The play was pretty inscrutable to me. But that may be because I skipped over all the scenes of drunken rambling, i.e. most of the play as far as I could tell.
From a review in the Village Voice (Nov. 22, 1976):
…the new boy, Michael Kitchen, is an inventive and potentially powerful comic actor, with great suppleness of emotional color.
And from the AP in November 1976: