Life Support

Previewed 30 July 1997, Opened 5 August 1997, Closed 18 October 1997 at the Aldwych Theatre in London

Simon Gray's new play Life Support in London starring Alan Bates and directed by Harold Pinter.

Jeff Golding, a best selling travel writer is witty, articulate and charming. He is also a womaniser and an alcoholic whose life has reached a crisis. A bizarre accident has left his wife in a coma and as Jeff waits by her side, details of their turbulent life together begin to emerge. Simon Gray's profound and humourous play looks with great humanity at the truths and fictions we all employ when confronted by life-changing events.

The cast stars Alan Bates as 'Jeff Golding' with Georgina Hale as 'Gwen', Nickolas Grace as 'Jack', Frank McCusker as 'Pat' and Carole Nimmons as 'Julia'. Directed by Harold Pinter with set by Eileen Diss, costumes by Dany Everett, lighting by Mick Hughes and sound by Tom Lishman. Simon Gray's West End theatre plays include Quartermaine's Terms, The Last Cigarette, The Common Pursuit, Old Masters, The Holy Terror, Butley and Otherwise Engaged.

"Alan Bates spent a fraught hundred minutes last night valiantly struggling to deliver the kiss of life to a new Simon Gray play, which washed up in the West End - looking more dead than alive... there is no real theatrical line of development. No situation or character changes... Bates' performance, with rare yelps of grief shattering his facade of ironical aloofness, does not strike a single false note... Although Life Support lasts only 100 minutes it feels longer. Harold Pinter nicely points the play's occasional comic touches and the elegant sketches from Gray's very basic characterisations. But Pinter cannot disguise the play's aimlessness." The London Evening Standard

"In Simon Gray's last play, Simply Disconnected, there was a writer of best-selling travel books who was exposed by his wife as a total fraud. Now that same character, Jeff, turns up as the hero of Life Suppoer; and Gray, in a work that is quietly moving if somewhat lacking in theatrical dynamism, shows that even frauds and buffoons are capable of suffering grief... The hero, Jeff, author of such alliterative best-sellers as A Chump in China or Bananas in Borneo, sits by the bedside of his dying wife raking over his grief and guilt. Her vegetative state, we eventually learn, is partly the result of his own negligence; but her very unreachability forces Jeff to confront his fraudulence not just as a writer of spurious travel books but as a husband and human being. Behind the play lies a very honest impulse: the recognition that we learn to love too late and that depth of feeling is often achieved only at the point of loss... But, although the play has an authentic pain, its confessional format is not wildly dramatic: Jeff is so much in control of his own self-loathing that there is little room for opposition and challenge. Given that limitation, it is hard to imagine a better production than Harold Pinter's... Frank McCusker as the observant doctor, Nickolas Grace as the gay brother, Carole Nimmons as the agent, and Georgina Hale as the bed-bound wife, lend weight to characters who exist largely in relation to the hero." The Guardian

"Throughout Life Support, Simon Gray's new play. Gwen lies vegetating in a hospital bed. Meanwhile, her husband Jeff waits; and talks to her in the hope that she will hear, and, first whimsically and later desperately, encourages other visitors to talk to her too; and imagines her replying to him; and blames himself for his share in her condition and for past problems; and blames her a little... Gray catches each stage and each aspect of Jeff's plight, with humanity and multi-faceted irony... Gray's poetic cleverness and wit are not in doubt. And yet Life Support is an insubstantial play... As Jeff, Alan Bates gives his best stage performance for several years... In the role of Dr O'Brien, Frank McCusker's puckishness is perfect; as Gwen, Georgina Hale actually manages to be just what the role should be - haunting. The playing between Bates and these two actors could not be more perfectly judged." The Financial Times

"The starting point of Life Support has tremendous dramatic potential. In a big, airy hospital room, Gwen, a beautiful, doll-like woman, lies comatose. Her husband, Jeff Golding, hovers around her trying to absorb the awful notion of her `vegetable' state from which, as the counsellor sent to talk to him explains, only a miracle could reverse. So far, so Whose Life is it Anyway? But rather than exploring the morality of pulling the plug, the playwright Simon Gray has decided instead to offer a subtle portrait of a marriage which makes a small but striking claim for the transforming power of love... Bates inhabits his role as comfortably as a crumpled linen jacket; he has all the creases of a typical Gray hero: the self-disgust, the anger, the loneliness, the guilt, the grouchiness, and, naturally, the passion for cricket. But while his moving, marvellously detailed study of a man stifling his despair beneath a mask of ironic semi-detachment is a consistent pleasure, it can't bring this inert, oddly unsatisfying play to sparkling dramatic life." The Mail on Sunday

Life Support in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 30 July 1997, opened on 5 August 1997 and closed on 18 October 1997