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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Theatre - Auden: Truth Out of Time - National Theatre Platforms

Star rating – 8/10

What better way to spend 45 minutes than to listen to some of the finest poetry read by the likes of Damian Lewis, Jeremy Irons and Eileen Atkins? This National Theatre Platform was hosted by Josephine Hart, who is something of an Auden aficionado. (And in the audience we were accompanied by none other than John Major and his faithful wife Norma.)

I confess to not knowing much about Auden save the beautiful poem made famous (infamous for some) by the film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. But this was a fascinating introduction to his work. Josephine Hart told how he read natural sciences at Oxford, before converting to literature, and how this scientific perspective informed his verse.

He conveyed perfectly the fear of the 1930’s that something really bad was going to happen in his poem to mark the day that Hitler invaded Poland, ‘September 1, 1939’ (which just also happens to be my birthday). Jeremy Irons read the poem beautifully, and conveyed fully both the chill and the humour of the occasion that Auden sought to convey.

‘The Unknown Citizen’ is a brilliant evocation of the ordinary, the mundane, the unquestioning attitude of much of middle England and the wonderful and gorgeous (biased- moi?) Damian Lewis conveyed these feelings to a tee. Eileen Atkins recited the haunting sad tale ‘Miss Gee’ with more than shades of Eleanor Rigby about her sad, spinster existence.

Auden was gay. He said that he just couldn’t see the attraction of women at all. And his ‘Tell me the Truth about Love’ is a very moving piece indeed. Damian Lewis was again perfect in his recital. But it was inevitably his ‘Funeral Blues’ which moved me the most. Again, the lovely Damian Lewis more than did justice to the haunting lines of loving and losing so memorably and evocatively.

Again I challenge you to spend a more profitable 45 minutes than this doing just about anything. Outstanding and beautiful.

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