Quite a lot of the time I wish that I had been born fifty or sixty years ago. This may seem strange, but when you consider that my parents have seen people like Laurence Olivier in the flesh, it's not so hard to understand why I feel a bit left out!
So when I head that Kenneth Branagh (my all time Shakespeare idol) was kicking off a Donmar season in London with Ivanov, I went all weak at the knees and begged my father for tickets. Strangely the only day dad could get them was on his birthday, so he kinda ended up paying for his own birthday evening out!
I love Chekhov - The Cherry Orchard being by favourite, until last week that is. Never mind that I was at the back of the theatre, and there was tall people in front of me, none of that mattered, because the moment Branagh walked onto the stage, he owned every inch of it, and took my breath away countless times.
Two parts in particular were awe inspiring - at one point Branagh breaks down and falls to the floor, but instead of just collapsing in a heap, he did it in stages, from dropping his head onto his chest, bowing, going on to his knees, sitting down and finally lying on the floor. The control it took to do, and keep the audience spell bound was the work of genius.
The other part was right at the end, when Ivanov has his final breakdown. Branagh has a speech which gets faster and faster, going more and more out of control as it progresses, until he is told to shut up, where upon he slows right down to a word a second, and then almost falls backwards. I'd tell you all to go and see it, but it's finished - sob!
Of course I went and stood by the stage door, and got a few signatures - Gina Mckee was very nice (and very tall), whilst I made an arse out of myself in front of Tom Hiddleston (mixed up Miss Austen Regrets and Lost in Austen, oh the shame) and he was very kind too. Absolute thrill to meet Kevin McNally (pirate Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean), who then went and sat at the next table to where my parents were sitting waiting for me, so they got to talk to him too.
I would say it was a thrill to meet Kenneth Branagh, but he didn't come out of the stage door. Apparently Wydham's theatre has 15 exits, so it's anyone's guess how he slid off into the night!
I got tickets for Twelfth Night (Derek Jacobi) and Madame de Sade (Judi Dench) whilst I was there too, so I was a very happy bunny.
I am so thankful for living this close to London that I can whizz back and forth to see such things. And I can only hope that people I know in 50 or 60 years are as jealous of who I've seen now, as I am of who my father has seen!