fashion,  Films,  theatre

The Motive And The Cue – Live From The National Theatre

Many cinemas are now showing National Theatre productions on the big screen, and last week, The Light Cinema in Walsall showed a new play, The Motive and the Cue, written by Jack Thorne and directed by Sam Mendes. This premiered on 21 April 2023 at the National Theatre in London, and is now having sporadic filmed showings at selected cinemas around the country. The film of the play portrays the behind the scenes history of the 1964 Broadway modern-dress production of William Shakespeare ‘s Hamlet which starred Richard Burton as the title character in a production directed by Sir John Gielgud .

The history of this play was fraught due to clashes in style and personality of the lead and his director. Sir John Gielgud was one of theatres most legendary stars, and had himself played Hamlet in the late 1920’s at the very young age of 27, but was now a bit of a forgotten man, lost in the blaze of Sir Lawrence Olivier, and the ‘angry young men’ of modern theatre. Richard Burton was at the height of his fame, and had just married Elizabeth Taylor, but his film career, which promised so much, was already jaded by the stardom his relationship with Taylor brought with it, and his roles although paying well, were often below his talent. Richard knew he was too old to be playing Hamlet, and struggled with the ‘own clothes – like a rehearsal’ concept that was Gielgud’s vision for this play. He also struggled with Gielgud’s way of directing, almost like a kindly father at times, and yet also bordering on condescending when he seemed to be acting the role himself, a role that almost belonged to him.

Mark Gattis is just so brilliant as Gielgud, this giant of Shakespearean Theatre almost forced into this director role due to lack of job offers. He is at times heartbreaking as he never loses his dignity, and the scene where he employs a rent boy, only to just chat with him is very moving, as is his reaction when a drunk Burton ruins a read through. Johnny Flynn is a sexy, attractive Burton, vibrant and attractive, but also overflowing with insecurities and vulnerabilities, more so now he’s married to the biggest star in the world. You wonder why he didn’t ever want Elizabeth to attend a rehearsal, was he worried her glamour and star quality would eclipse his, where he should have the spotlight on him?

Tuppence Middleton brings all the glamour and beauty as Elizabeth Taylor, and the scene where she speaks to Gielgud, and reveals the truth about Burton’s relationship with his father is another highlight, and shows her earthy sensibilities and empathy for a man she truly adored.

The Motive and the Cue is a stunning piece of theatre that works just as well as a film, with the staging being perfect for the widescreen treatment.

At selected cinemas now.

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