The Crown

The Crown
Alex as the Duke of Windsor

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cranford and Fairy Tales


The two series Alex has been filming this year, "Cranford" and "Fairy Tales" are due to start being broadcast in the week of 17-23 November. Alex appears in the episode "Rapunzel" of Fairy Tales. An exact date and time has not yet been given for either, but they will be broadcast on BBC1.

Fame and Fortune

Alex appears in "Fame and Fortune" on BBC Radio 4 today:

"Frederic Raphael's sequel to the television classic, The Glittering Prizes, returns to the group of friends who met at Cambridge University in the early 1950s. The series chronicles English social life and public and private values in the last quarter of the 20th century.

1/6. Adam Morris is now a successful writer, but still as ambivalent as ever about his Jewishness. In their middle years, have the friends fulfilled their promise or sold out?

Adam Morris ...... Tom Conti
Francesca ...... Poppy Miller
M Mike Clode ...... Mark Wing Davey
Alan Parks ...... Alistair McGowan
Ronnie Braithwaite ...... Roger Hammond
Gavin Pope ...... Alex Jennings
Fran Pope ...... Jilly Bond
Tim Dent ...... Stephen Critchlow
Tory Girl ...... Georgina Rich
Rachel Morris ...... Flora Montgomery
Jonty ...... Benedict Cumberbatch
Henrietta ...... Fiona Button
Jack ...... Nicholas Chambers
David ...... Simon Greenall
Denis Porson ...... Nigel Havers
Jill ...... Harriet Walters
Giancarlo ...... Jon Glover

The play is available for listening online for 7 days after the broadcast:
The Saturday Play

Dombey and Son

The BBC will be broadcasting an radio adaptation of Dombey and Son late November. The details:

"Woman's Hour Drama – Dombey And Son Ep 1/20 - Monday 19 to Friday 23 November
10.45-11.00am BBC RADIO 4

Alex Jennings stars as Charles Dickens, with Robert Glenister (Hustle) as Paul Dombey in a radio dramatisation of Charles Dickens's novel depicting the spectacular fall of a major London trading house, dramatised by Mike Walker.

Dombey's hopes for the family firm are centred on his infant son, Paul, and Florence, his devoted daughter. However, Paul dies, Dombey's second marriage ends in disaster and the firm is ruined, and only Florence has the strength and humanity to save her father.

The cast also includes Fenella Fielding, Geraldine James, Pam Ferris, Nicky Henson, Trevor Peacock, Helen Schlesinger, Adrian Lukis, Claire Rushbrook, Katy Cavanagh and Abigail Hollick."

Friday, October 26, 2007

Baldi Repeat

Alex will appear in a (repeat) episode of the radio detective drama "Baldi" on BBC 7 next Wednesday, October 31. The episode will be available online for a week after the broadcast.

"Shelter: The murder of a homeless man links a Dublin squat with the history of art. Starring David Threlfall. Episode 6 of 6."

BBC7 - What's On

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alchemist Promotion

From our correspondent in Florida:

The promotional trailer for The Alchemist is available on
YouTube

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lori's Review

As many of the critics note, the success of a production of Present Laughter depends on the strength of its Garry, and Alex is more than up to the challenge. At Friday night's performance (the stalls nearly full), everyone around me was thoroughly enjoying the show and Alex's performance, and signaled it with loud and enthusiastic laughter. In addition, a couple of women next to me were waxing poetic over his clarity of diction -- rightly so, I think!

Everyone else has touched on the greatnesses of Alex's performance, so I'll just include three more. I really enjoyed the subtlety and variety he brought to Garry, a part which could be tiresome in the wrong hands. The righteous anger with Roland Maule (or rather, the anger with the kind of bad theatre Maule stood for); the Act Two loneliness, listening to potent 'cheap music'; the emotional intimacy with Liz and (in a different way) Monica: all of these things anchored and humanised the character.

I appreciated a few touches which seemed like Noel Coward to me, even though Alex wasn't doing an impersonation at all -- for example, his habit of throwing his arms wide to make a point reminded me of one of Coward's characteristic stances in cabaret performances (or at least the clips I've seen).

However, I also appreciated that he wasn't playing Noel Coward -- something which some of the critics seemed to want -- but instead was playing Garry. The seduction scene at the end of Act One was all the more powerful because it wasn't the more effete Coward but a Garry set up by the text. (And it was very powerful indeed!)

A great evening for Alex fans and for fans of Coward's work who don't require the baggage of the great man as well. (I say this, by the way, as a woman who proudly displays three small portraits of Noel in her study and who plays her boxed set of Coward CDs all the time.)
Fabulous stuff, wonderful Alex!

Monday, October 15, 2007

And More Reviews

David Benedict in Variety is full of praise for Alex:

Although not all the cast members are up to their sublime level, the frankly glorious Alex Jennings and Sarah Woodward sweep aside doubts about the play.

...

In a role he was born to play, Jennings makes ease look, well, easy. Despite peacocking about in a series of dressing gowns, Jennings never confuses charm and smarm; he sweeps about the stage like a cross between Rex Harrison and a well-bred wolf.

Exaggeration isn't Garry's mode of expression, it's his way of life. Leaping on top of the grand to observe himself in one of the full length mirrors lining Tim Hatley's boldly turquoise, sharply angled set, he cries "Oh God, I look 98." In fact, he's bordering on 42. Jennings, however, reveals both Garry's boyish bravado and, in the nighttime seduction scene, the mature intelligence usually hidden beneath his entertaining bombast.

Jennings' timing is so flawless he even finds space to stretch punctuation to delicious comic effect. Attempting to extricate himself from last night's love-struck ingenue, he trots out the line, "Don't love me too much, Daphne." But he halts momentarily on the comma to search for her name, indicating just how common an occurrence this is.

Full review:Variety



And Matt Wolf in the International Herald Tribune doesn't much like the play or the production:

But any "Present Laughter" stands or falls on its Garry, a role Jennings bats out of the park. Self-aware but never overly self-adoring, his aspish wit never so astringent so as to turn us off, Jennings gives us a Garry who exists within the confines of farce (Tim Hatley's set contains the requisite doors) only to realize, Feste-like, that life isn't necessarily a laughing matter.

Full review: IHT

Official Pictures

The National Theatre has put some pictures of the production up on the website:


See for more pictures: National Theatre

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Live at the National

Yesterday I got to see Present Laughter for myself. After reading all the reviews a chance to make up my own mind. I had a wonderful time, laughed a great deal, and really enjoyed Alex's performance. After some of the slightly mixed reviews I was getting doubtful, but there was absolutely no need. Alex did take a slight fall towards the end of the performance and fell down the stairs. He hurt his foot in the process.

I got to meet him for a few minutes after the show and he was very friendly, taking time to talk to us in spite of his injury. It was very good to see him again! More news later.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Stage - Review

The Stage has a favourable review of both the production and Alex:

"The part of Garry Essendine - a successful romantic comedy actor who attracts adoring young women and men in Noel Cowards’ 1942 play - could have been written for Alex Jennings. He gets the over-acting, outrage and moodiness, underpinned by the usual artistic angst, insecurity and querulousness, perfectly. The masterly Jennings can also get a laugh merely by lifting an eyebrow and turns quizzicality into an art form. Essendine is a huge Hamlet-sized role, rarely off-stage but, apparently inexhaustible, Jennings is as riveting in the final minutes as at his first appearance."

Full review: The Stage

Thursday, October 04, 2007

BBC Radio Interview

There was an interview with Alex on BBC radio 4's front row on Monday, you can listen again for 1 week through the Front Row Homepage. Alex talks about "Present Laughter", "The Queen", "Stuff Happens", and about being the voice of BBC2's "The Restaurant".

Thanks Penny!

More Reviews


Michael Billington in the Guardian isnt very happy with the production, but is full of praise for Alex:

Ever since Coward played him in 1942, Garry has been seen as the ultimate matinee idol, whose impenetrable charm compensates for his narcissistic vanity. Alex Jennings, however, offers a superbly executed re-interpretation. Wrapping himself in a new dressing gown as if he were a Roman emperor, Jennings does not stint on Garry's self-esteem; at the same time he suggests he is the only truth-teller in a world of lies. He rounds on a talentless playwright, Roland Maule, with the moral fervour of Molière's Alceste. And, harassed by amorous intrigue on the eve of a tour to Africa, Jennings brutally exposes the sexual hypocrisy of his inner circle. It is a richly funny performance that confirms Coward's innate puritanism.

Full review: The Guardian



Nicolas de Jongh in the Evening Standard is less enthusiastic:

"Howard Davies, not a director whose productions have ever revealed himself to be on close terms with a sense of humour, and Alex Jennings, who clearly adores flouncing around in one dressing gown and several piques, take too old-fashioned, heterosexist and superficial a line.

The interpolation of news bulletins about war manoeuvres makes Present Laughter seem preposterously selfabsorbed. There are interesting psychological and sexual nuances that need exploring rather than concealing as Davies and Jennings contrive: Garry proves randomly bisexual rather than faithfully heterosexual, manifests dread of middle-age and loneliness.

He does break out in genuine erotic desire and anger when his business partner's adulterous wife, Lisa Dillon's vamping Joanna, attempts to seduce him and threatens his cocooned existence. He turns rattled when his male admirer, Pip Carter's unsuitably weird rather than gay Roland Maule, arrives to harass him.

Jennings, a bit mature to play Coward's forty-ish heartthrob, registers no such complexities. His comically pointed performance, like Tim Hatley's set, is sedately grand and imposing. The thin slither of the creaky plot,which shows up like an overdue limousine, does not reach climactic pandemonium."

Full review: Evening Standard



In The Times Benedict Nightingale has some doubts:

"Garry is Coward’s half-mocking, half-admiring portrait of his own sophisticated self, and we’re not in doubt of his narcissism from the moment Alex Jennings, who plays him at the National, leaps on to his piano to preen himself in the giant mirrors that line the odd, tapering, turquoise drawing room that Tim Hatley has designed for him. Nothing finally matters to him but his ego, his career and his impending African tour.

Jennings’s Garry is interestingly different from those we’ve seen in recent years: Ian McKellen, who emphasised the actor’s fear of ageing and self-regarding infantilism; Simon Callow, who suggested a surprising seriousness beneath the thespian extravagance and fruity vox; Peter Bowles, who caught a steely aloofness and an inner melancholy as well as a suave exterior; Tom Conti, who was, well, Tom Conti. For Jennings, Garry is a defensive, harassed man who comes alive when he decides it’s necessary to perform the role of the stricken lover saying farewell, or the much-abused victim of others’ cruelty, or anything that’s not the near-vacuum of himself.

Since the plot has Feydeauesque twists, with Garry using his spare room as a hiding-place for his lays – one a gurgling deb, the others respectively the wife and the lover of his two closest friends – Jennings gets plenty of opportunity to be the man who never knows when, or if, he’s acting.

Some of this is decidedly funny, but doubts intrude. For all the self-criticism, isn’t the portrait fundamentally self-serving, especially when this crypto-Coward is caricaturing and mocking Pip Carter’s Maule, a would-be dramatist of the kind the real Coward was to assail in the kitchen-sink era?"

Full review: Times


David Benedict in Variety is full of praise for Alex:

"In a role he was born to play, Jennings makes ease look, well, easy. Despite peacocking about in a series of dressing gowns, Jennings never confuses charm and smarm; he sweeps about the stage like a cross between Rex Harrison and a well-bred wolf.

Exaggeration isn't Garry's mode of expression, it's his way of life. Leaping on top of the grand to observe himself in one of the full length mirrors lining Tim Hatley's boldly turquoise, sharply angled set, he cries "Oh God, I look 98." In fact, he's bordering on 42. Jennings, however, reveals both Garry's boyish bravado and, in the nighttime seduction scene, the mature intelligence usually hidden beneath his entertaining bombast.

Jennings' timing is so flawless he even finds space to stretch punctuation to delicious comic effect. Attempting to extricate himself from last night's love-struck ingenue, he trots out the line, "Don't love me too much, Daphne." But he halts momentarily on the comma to search for her name, indicating just how common an occurrence this is."

Full review: Variety

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"Present Laughter" video

The What's On Stage website has some footage shot after the opening night, with some short Alex interviews:

What's On Stage

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Linda's Review

I went to see a preview of Present Laughter last night and it was wonderful. Alex Jennings was born to play this role--he was an absolute triumph. The Noel Coward play had a terrific cast--the story is that he's famous actor and a serial philanderer whose wife left him years ago, but with whom he still works along with his agent and business manager. He is unable to say no to any of the beautiful woman who parade through his life and his ex-wife and colleagues think it is time for him to change. There are always people coming and going through his studio (wonderful set) at all hours.

Liz, the wife, is gorgeous, very witty and deadpan which makes her even more funny. He has a wonderful Miss Moneypenny-type secretary who manages every bit of his life with firm efficiency--she was excellent. Women and men desire him and fall in love with him all the time, and he's actually quite a bit in love with himself but despairing that his looks are going as he reaches middle age (40). He wears wonderful clothes including the most fabulous flowing silk shawl-collared dressing gowns, worn over regular clothes (like long smoking jackets, I guess). He was droll, pouting, selfish, debonair, witty, angry, despairing, howling, laughing--he was on the stage almost the entire time in the best role of his life. His comic timing was impeccable and there were so many subtle moments of understated comedy that you would miss if you weren't watching him so closely (as I was), because the rest of the cast was also so good. He commanded the stage with the ease of a man in his prime as an actor and had the audience in the palm of his hand. It is un-missable--his best role to date.

What a treat is in store for those of you who will be seeing this play. I hope he wins an Olivier for it--I don't see how he could not!

The First Review: The Telegraph - "Impossible to like – or laugh at"



Charles Spencer doesn't like "Present Laughter", the play or the production, but he likes Alex's performance:

"Alex Jennings undoubtedly gives a virtuoso performance, delivering Essendine's great arias of self-pity with aplomb, climbing on top of the grand piano the better to examine how he looks in the mirror, and launching into testy tirades of disapproval and unearned grandeur with palpable relish. Because he is such an attractive and charismatic actor, Jennings almost pulls off the trick of making you like the character, as Coward intended, but even this actor's prodigious charm isn't quite up to that impossible task."

"Too many of the performances lack the precision and panache that Coward demands, and a couple of them are so poor that it is hard to believe this is a National Theatre production rather than the work of a struggling regional rep.

Sarah Woodward shows how it should be done, with her superbly comic performance as the actor's gruff, disapproving secretary, finding laughs that don't seem to exist on the page, and Sara Stewart has exactly the right steely glamour as the wife who finally reclaims the errant Essendine.

Despite their endeavours, the impression remains that this is a botched shot at an overrated play."


For the full review