Larkin' About

Larkin' About is a retrospective-come-biography of renowned contemporary poet Philip Larkin. Devised and performed by a cast famous for their roles in long running British radio institution The Archers, it's almost unsurprising that this play is a joy to listen to but a boring mess to look at.

The vocal performances are, as one would expect, superb, with the two leads filling the roles of Larkin, his many lovers and general, omniscient voice-over with a skill and dexterity achieved through years of radio play experience.

Accompanied by live music (from the Antonious Players) used to punctuate the play, add emotional heft or simply play a favoured jazz number of Larkins, the two actors use a combination of first and third person narration to bring the poet’s story to life. The vocal performances are, as one would expect, superb, with the two leads filling the roles of Larkin, his many lovers and general, omniscient voice-over with a skill and dexterity achieved through years of radio play experience.

The music is of a similarly high standard. Although the sound quality of the electric piano does leave a lot to be desired, the two musicians are clearly highly skilled and turn their hand to bouncy, thumping jazz or classical arias with ease.

The staging, however, is really quite awful. The two actors read the entire play from script and awkwardly bumble around the stage without rhyme or reason. There's a lot of leaning on pillars, occasionally obscuring speaking co-stars sat on a chair behind. There’s an overwhelming sense that the visual aspects of this performance have barely been considered.

Some may argue that this doesn’t matter – it's about the words and the music. Of course it's about the words and the music--and these two elements are of a decent standard. But, if you're producing a theatre play the aesthetics must be considered, which in this case they apparently are not.

As a fan of Larkin's work, but with no real knowledge of his personal life pre-Hull Library, I found this show well structured, insightful, and amusing. If this was on Radio 4, it would make an excellent, 4-star programme. Sadly, though, I had to watch the action. Or, to be more precise, the lack of it.

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Performances

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The Blurb

Stars from The Archers delight with this hilarious, fascinating and moving review of Philip Larkin's life and loves. A treasure chest of jazz, songs and spoken words. Beautifully scripted, superbly acted plus fantastic music by the Antonius Players. Intoxicating.

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