A slice of British theatre that is a “throw-forward”

A slice of British theatre that is a “throw-forward”

By Peter Tromp

It’s not every day that you get to chat with West End royalty. DELENA KIDD and GARY RAYMOND are two thespians who have been at it almost twice as long as I have been alive. The collective experience the husband and wife team has amassed over the years positively radiates from them when you’re in their company.

In between chatting about the local Cape Town theatre scene, which they seemed very interested in, and recent adventures in TV and film starring opposite the likes of Idris Elba and Benedict Cumberbatch, we touched upon the production they have brought to South Africa, namely ‘Entertaining Angels’. Written by Richard Everett, it will be showing at Theatre On The Bay until April 5.
Kidd plays vicar`s wife Grace in the play, someone who has spent a lifetime on her best behaviour.
Now, after the death of her husband Bardolph (Raymond), she can enjoy the new-found freedom of being able to do and say exactly what she wants.

But the return of her eccentric missionary sister, Ruth (Wanda Wentham, who also happens to be Cumberbatch’s real-life mother), together with some disturbing revelations, forces Grace to confront the truth of her marriage. Set in a vicarage garden, the play is filled with sharp-edged comedy and probing wit, a combination Kidd calls “a real blast of England.”
The impression that I was left with as the actors went back into the theatre to continue their rehearsals is of two theatre diehards. As Raymond said in the interview, “theatre is where we started, and although film and TV can be lovely, ideally, as an actor, if you had a choice, you’d probably only do theatre.”

This is what the pair had to say during our chat.

How does it feel to be in SA to perform some theatre here?
Delena Kidd (DK): This is actually our fifth time here in South Africa. The first time was a long, long time ago in 1973, when we toured Johannesburg and when our daughter (Emily Raymond), who’s with us in the play, was still a child.
This is our fourth time here in Camps Bay. The last time was in 2012 with ‘Quartet’. We love coming here to perform. There’s no theatre quite like it.
Gary Raymond (GR): It’s quite a respite from the weather we’ve been having in London recently, so that’s an added bonus.
DK: It’s heavenly, is what it is.

What can audiences look forward with the show?
DK: It’s a real blast of England. It’s a comedy, but it’s also got quite a few serious moments; just reflections on life, about life after a funeral and how people manage to pull their lives back together. Oftentimes things tend to come out of the woodworks.
GR: Something’s been hidden for about 35 years, and it gives the characters, and the audience quite a bit to think about. It’s a comedy with some dark undertones, but Richard (Everett) never lets things get too glum. He always maintains that sense of humour throughout.

Tell us a little about each of your characters.
DK: My character is a very talkative and bossy kind of woman who thinks she’s pretty funny. She spent her life serving 200000 cups of tea while being the vicar’s wife, and now she has to deal with people not wanting her anymore.
GR: I don’t want to say too much about my character, because that might spoil quite a bit of the plot. I will say though that something happens at some point in their relationship that affects the man deeply and he isn’t able to totally communicate.

What can you tell us about the particular voice of the writer?
DK: It’s very much like plays from earlier eras, but with a modern edge. I think that makes it very compelling for the audience.
GR: I would say his voice is not as abrasive as many modern writers. I’m especially thankful that there’s no cussing in it. Thank goodness for that.
DK: Just to return to what I said earlier, I don’t want people to think that it’s a throwback to any earlier style of theatre. If anything, it’s a throw-forward.

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