Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin's Lane, WC2N 4BG
Seeing Jeremy Irons on stage is a treat to be savoured. Apart from appearing last year as King Arthur in 'Camelot' at the Hollywood Bowl and in Sondheim’s 'A Little Night Music' in New York in 2003, Irons has, for the past 17 years, been working in film and television. Nonetheless in Christopher Hampton’s story, based on the recently rediscovered 1942 novel by Hungarian Sandor Marai, Irons as Henrik commands centre stage.
The action takes place in Peter J Davison’s evocative setting of a remote Hungarian castle in 1940. What follows is an encounter between Henrik, a retired general and Konrad (Patrick Malahide). The pair have not seen each other for 41 years (and 43 days) and now Henrik explores why Konrad vanished without any reason, despite their close friendship of 24 years. In that time Henrik has brooded incessantly over why they fell out and uses this brief meeting to find out answers to some troublesome questions. Did Konrad once intend to shoot him during a hunting party and did he have an affair with Henrik's long-dead wife, Krisztina?
What is apparent in Michael Blakemore’s thoughtful production is that this is a story of male friendship. Henrik reveals: “There’s nothing sadder than the disintegration of a deep friendship between men. We were two very different people, but we were friends. What we had was irreplaceable… You ruined my life. And, you killed something inside me. But we’re still friends.”
So intense is the meeting between the two that, at times, one feels a voyeur on their territory. And, herein lies the basis for the drama. As Henrik relives the past, Konrad barely speaks, but his silence is all. When he has had enough he rises, saying: “Well I think that’s probably everything. I think it’s time I went.” The moment when he touches Henrik’s shoulder is truly touching.
This memorable production, which includes a small part by Jean Boht, provides a fascinating study of two wasted lives – relics of a lost world – which echo the decay of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Director: Jeremy Irons
Author: Christopher Hampton
Opened: 1st March 2006
Closing: 27th May 2006