Otherwise Engaged

Play by Simon Gray. Witty, urbane, sophisticated and selfish, publisher Simon Hench is a man of taste and discretion, who is accustomed to keeping himself at a graceful distance from the messy distractions of his family and friends. But he has a problem - well, several actually - only he doesn't know it yet. With his wife away Simon Hench is looking forward to a long, luxurious listen to his brand new recording of Wagner's Parsifal. But the sex problems of his unprepossessing lodger and his brother's desire to share his anxiety over his prospects for an Assistant Headmastership turn out to be just the beginning of a string of interruptions which increasingly draw Simon himself into a vicious vortex of accusations and recriminations... and his usually cool demeanour begins to buckle as life finally catches up with him.

NOTE: This play is not suitable for children.

1975: Original West End London Production

2005: 1st West End London Revival

Simon Gray's London theatre plays include Butley, Life Support, Quartermaine's Terms, The Last Cigarette, The Common Pursuit, Old Masters and The Holy Terror.


1975: Original West End London Production

Opened 30 July 1975 (no previews), Closed 2 October 1976 at the Queen's Theatre (now Sondheom Theatre)
Transferred 4 October 1976, Closed 21 January 1978 at the Comedy Theatre (now Harold Pinter Theatre)

The original cast featured Alan Bates as 'Simon Hench', Ian Charleson as 'Dave', Julian Glover as 'Jeff', Nigel Hawthorne as 'Stephen', Mary Miller as 'Beth', Jacqueline Pearce as 'Davina', and Benjamin Whitrow as 'Wood'.

Directed by Harold Pinter, with designs by Eileen Diss, and lighting by Leonard Tucker.

The role of 'Simon Hench' was played by Alan Bates from Wednesday 30 July 1975 to Saturday 7 February 1976; Michael Gambon from Monday 9 February 1976 to Saturday 29 January 1977; and Hywell Bennett from Monday 1 February 1977 to Saturday 21 January 1978.

Prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast, played at the Oxford Playhouse from Tuesday 8 to Saturday 19 July 1975, and Richmond Theatre from Monday 21 to 26 July 1975.


2005: 1st West End London Revival

Previewed 25 October 2005, Opened 31 October 2005, Closed 28 January 2006 at the Criterion Theatre

A major revival of Simon Gray's comedy Otherwise Engaged in London starring Richard E. Grant, Anthony Head and David Bamber

The cast featured Richard E Grant as 'Simon Hench', Liam Garrigan as 'Dave', Anthony Head as 'Jeff', Peter Wright as 'Stephen', Amanda Drew as 'Beth', Amanda Ryan as 'Davina', and David Bamber as 'Wood'.

Directed by Simon Curtis with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Tim Mitchell, and sound by Clement Rawling.

Prior to London's West End this production embarked on a short regional tour with the same cast: Bath Theatre Royal from Wednesday 21 September to Saturday 1 October 2005; Oxford Playhouse from Monday 3 to Saturday 8 October 2005; Milton Keynes Theatre from Monday 10 to Saturday 15 October 2005; and Woking New Victoria Theatre from Monday 17 to Saturday 22 October 2005.

Richard E. Grant's London theatre credits include 'Algernon Moncrieff' in Nicholas Hytner's revival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Aldwych Theatre in 1993; and 'Camp Guard' in Sean Mathias' semi-staged performance for charity of Martin Sherman's Bent at the Adelphi Theatre in 1989.

David Bamber's London theatre credits include the roles of 'Phil Newsome' in Mike Bradwell's production of Richard Cameron's The Glee Club at the Duchess Theatre in 2002; and 'Guy' in Roger Michell's production of Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg at the Criterion Theatre in 1994.

"Simon Hench, an Oxford-educated publisher, intends to spend the afternoon alone with Wagner. Superbly played with sneering arrogance and hard-boiled egotism by Richard E. Grant in flared cords and denim shirt, he takes his new Parsifal out of its sleeve, lovingly places it on the turntable, settles on to his leather sofa in his luxury London sitting room and surrenders ecstatically to the first few bars. Cue the first of a series of interruptions that wreck his plans... Simon Curtis's well paced, exceptionally funny production proves totally engaging." The Mail on Sunday

"Simon Gray should be pleased with this revival. I first thought Richard E Grant was being unrelaxed. Not so. This is a harsh, intelligent, passionately cold performance... The play's flaw is repetitiveness: a series of encounters to show Simon's disengagement. Its strength is its icy even-handedness: it's hard to like anybody" The Sunday Times

"Otherwise Engaged could as well be named Semi Detached, in deference to its leading character Simon Hench played somewhat unconvincingly by Richard E Grant. Simon, a London publisher, wants nothing more from his Saturday than to listen to his new Parsifal recording. But his quiet day is rent with interruptions. This under-cast revival written by Simon Gray, directed by Simon Curtis is the first since the 1975 original. It retains much of its fascination, although now it is something of a period piece... I love Simon Gray's rants; his characters insult one another with brio. It's a pity Grant is so apologetic about them. With a couple of exceptions Peter Wight as the brother, Anthony Head as alcoholic best friend the cast tend to fall into the cardinal Simon Gray trap, talking like typewriters instead of people. The play is, like its leading character, brilliant but damaged." The Daily Express

"The best thing about Simon Curtis's lively revival of Simon Gray's hit 1975 play is Anthony Head - familiar to all Buffy The Vampire Slayer fans - as a drunken, lecherous writer. He's hilarious. Richard E Grant plays the arrogant publisher whose indifference to others gets its comeuppance in a hugely engaging slice of snooty British life as it used to be." The Sun

Otherwise Engaged in London at the Criterion Theatre previewed from 25 October 2005, opened on 31 October 2005, and closed on 28 January 2006.