Previewed 12 February 2003, Opened 18 February 2003, Closed 26 April 2003 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London
Tom Courtenay stars as Philip Larkin in the 'one-man' play Pretending To Be Me in London for a strictly limited eight week season.
The poet Philip Larkin has moved home; surrounded by packing cases, playing selections from his favourite jazz LPs, and making himself cups of tea - and later whiskies - he reflects wryly on writing and life. The evening is both hilarious and moving, shifting seemlessly between Larkin's outrageous wit and the poems, which Tom Courtenay plays with powerful directness and simplicity.
The cast for Pretending To Be Me in London stars Tom Courtenay. It is directed by Ian Brown with designs by Tim Hatley, lighting by Jason Taylor and sound by Mic Pool. This production transfers to London's West End after a critically acclaimed season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in November 2002. This play is devised by Tom Courtenay from the writings of Philip Larkin, after an idea by Michael Godley.
Sir Tom Courtenay's film roles include The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Billy Liar. His performance in the role of 'Pasha' in David Lean's 1965 classic Doctor Zhivago earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Courtenay earned a second Oscar nomination for The Dresser - recreating a role he made famous on stage for which he received as Tony nomination. His most recent West End role was as 'Serge' in the original cast of Art at the Wyndham's Theatre. Philip Larkin was one of the foremost figures of 20th Century English poetry, but feared his epitaph would be: 'They f*ck you up, your mum and dad'. Other familiar poems are 'An Arundel Tomb', 'The Whitsun Wedding', and 'High Windows', all of which are included on stage in Pretending To Be Me.
This is a glorious celebration of good old, down-to-earth and quite simply 'Great' Britain. In Tom Courtenay, we have, without doubt, one of the best actors the world has ever seen. As he performed his own play about one of this nation's truly great poets, Philip Larkin, it was a privilege just to be there. I believe that both Courtenay and Larkin exude exactly what the English have always excelled at - unpretentious brilliance... Courtenay's one-man, utterly hilarious drama unfolds against a backdrop of our hero's enforced departure for his long tenure as Hull University's diligent librarian... And even if you don't know much about Philip Larkin, you will love this festival of heartening laughter." The Daily Mirror
"Tom Courtenay's one-man show about Philip Larkin, devised from poems, letters and other writings, has grown and grown since I saw it in Leeds three months ago. It is as if this great actor had himself worked through Larkin's inhibitions and inner remoteness.... Courtenay's cunningly engineered, gawky body language, which speaks of passionate inhibitions, and his melancholy voice, which is all drab glitter, are richer than ever. Poetry becomes drama and a natural overflow of life. A wonderful and unforgettable evening." The Sunday Times
"Self-deprecating, unaffected, shy, opinionated, gentle, amused, his carefully honed word-perfection deliciously disguised as spontaneity, he needed to 'be on the periphery of things' (a librarian in Hull). He hated children, he found women leaky and he scorned Ted Hughes for his clotted poetry. He was ecstatic about jazz, relentlessly Eeyore-like, haunted by death and, old softie that he was, tried to protect worms from peckish birds. Courtenay pretends to perfection, creating a witty, moving life-in-the-day of the poet in his 60s. Hesitant, diffident, but becoming more boisterous as he knocks back the Famous Grouse, he brought a lump to my throat several times, in particular with his recitation of Maiden Name and The Whitsun Weddings. The racist, sexist, womanising Thatcherite who emerged from Andrew Motion's biography is, mercifully, nowhere to be seen. Probably because he didn't exist. Larkin may not have been the sentimental old sweetie-pie Courtenay suggests, but of his humanity and genius Courtenay's affectionate, low-key portrayal gives us no doubt. The two of them are irresistibly good company. A performance to treasure; indeed, a tour de force which, as someone said (not Larkin who despised a cliche as much as a gush) should be forced to tour." The Mail on Sunday
Pretending To Be Me in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 12 February 2003, opened on 18 February 2003 and closed on 26 April 2003.