Theatre

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The Independent Culture
W H Auden (inadvertently) gave Larry Kramer the title of his 1985 play The Normal Heart, but we won't hold that against him. More recently, he wrote the most moving scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral, where John Hannah reads his valedictory poem. Quite good going for someone who has been dead since 1973.

"He was a man of enormous intellect and tremendous courage," says actor Dudley Sutton who is playing him in Strictly Entre Nous, a new play by Vince Foxall. "He abandoned his role as Court poet of the Left and went to live in America. There was a freedom there that simply didn't exist at home." Sutton himself is experiencing a certain freedom these days now that his days as Tink in Lovejoy are over. Regular TV work has given him what he describes as "a pension" and a bungalow in Cornwall but just when he had settled down to dreaming of finding a good script, this one plopped onto his doormat. "It's an extraordinary piece of writing about the last night of Auden's life in which he is confronted by the ghost of his younger self, but I also get to play his friend Christopher Isherwood and even Thomas Mann's daughter Erika."

Over at the Southwark Playhouse, men are also playing women in Akimbo's hit production of The Rivals (with Ivan Cartwright, above, as Mrs Malaprop), back by public demand. Both plays should further confuse those in search of a neat definition of gay theatre.

`Strictly Entre Nous', BAC: 071-223 2223

`The Rivals', Southwark Playhouse: 071-620 3494

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