Williamson, not seen on the London stage for 16 years, is starring in his one-man show Jack - a Night on the Town with John Barrymore at the Criterion Theatre. After a typically flamboyant entrance from the auditorium his unnerving performance - tense, hesitant - left the audience wondering if it was the actor or the character who was reaching for lines.
Apparently in character Williamson, 55, made some comment to the audience about a spotlight missing him. Most seemed to think it was part of the play. Then he turned to the audience and said, 'I don't want to do this any more. I'm sorry this has cost you money,' and left the stage.
A couple of minutes passed as the audience whispered and broke into ironic clapping. The company manager, Peter Gardner, appeared on stage to announce: 'This is a first for me too.' Rehearsals for the two-hour show had been very strenuous, he explained. 'I am sure that when you see the show again - for the first time - you will appreciate what a marathon it is. At least you had one moment of drama tonight.'
After mixed reviews, the theatre was only half full for the tribute to Barrymore, a 1920s matinee idol whose career was ruined by drink.
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