Bloody brilliant it was boyo, to be in the theatrical presence of the incarnation of the larger than life, more dramatic than in death – to sit and watch Richard Burton still the house to silence and feel the towering rage of his voice in Mark Jenkins, by now internationally famous, Playing Burton.
There, on the stage of the Everyman Palace Cork, the renowned actor, Josh Richards, not just played the role of Richard Burton but, at times, he was him. In an amazing performance he became the voice in all its depth and rich theatricality; he was the raconteur telling Hollywood scandal and then he became the sad, pathetic, staggering, shivering, shaking, falling down drunk. This was a towering performance.
The 90 minute story opens with the BBC announcing Burton’s death and there on stage in a black poloneck and red cardigan Burton tells his story from boyhood in the valleys, to Oxford and then the wildness of fame and Hollywood.
In a clever script, he manages to read his obituaries and confront the snooty British critics who felt he had sold himself and his talent short, by becoming famous in movies. Josh Richards did a wicked range of voices of Olivier, Gielgud and a range of other character types as well as playing several Shakespearian roles.
This was a tour-de-force of theatre.
Guy Masterson, who directed, has another hit on his hands in Britain, with his work on the new one-man show Morecambe, the comedian.