CRITIC'S QUOTES

One Night at The Aristo

At Apollinaire's Grave

Curses and Sermons

The Beard

Black Aspirins

Hair

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PRESS

The Beard

Michael McClure’s hour-long two-hander is a little piece of theatrical history that ranks alongside Jack Kerouac’s "On the Road" and Alan Ginsberg’s "Howl" as a milestone in the annals of the American Beat movement. First performed in California in the mid-1960s, it outraged the authorities (it climaxes in a witty simulated sex act that perhaps explains the otherwise enigmatic title) and saw the actors charged with 'lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place' and arrested. Nic Saunders' welcome revival at the Old Red Lion demonstrates that The Beard has lost little of its power to shock and - perhaps more importantly - intrigue. The action consists of an encounter in eternity between Hollywood glamourpuss Jean Harlow and famed outlaw Billy The Kid. As these two icons engage in tenderly vicious verbal foreplay in their existential otherworld, in classic Beat fashion the circular dialogue blends the commonplaces of the American Dream with the paradoxes of Zen Buddhism. Mysteriously resonant (and occasionally obscene) phrases are launched back and forth by Harlow and The Kid in incantatory, ritualistic fashion as their flirtation gathers pace. It’s fascinating stuff, played to hypnotic effect by Christopher Daley and Victoria Yeates.  – Metro

Victoria Yeates (resplendent in white silk and mink) and Christopher Daley (full of baby-faced allure in his awkward britches) are magnificent as the Kid and Harlow and they are impeccably directed by Nic Saunders. – The Stage Newspaper

The perfect balance of physicality and intelligence in The Beard. I am delighted with the masterful direction of the rebirth of Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow in London. It’s a jewel! – Michael McClure

The first revival in almost forty years of Michael McClure's obscenely poetic reverie on myth and sexuality is an opportunity to reclaim a very interesting small play from being relegated to a minor footnote in theatre history ... Barely an hour long, the play sustains its poetic intensity and evocative mood without overstaying its welcome ... Nic Saunders directs with a clear sensitivity to the play's tone and meanings. – Theatre Guide London

This revival by Nic Saunders acts as a reminder of some of the more bizarre events that took place in theatres during the late 1960s and with good performances – British Theatre Guide

... well decorated and finely acted production ...  – The Spectator Magazine

... this production is undoubtedly a powerful piece of drama ... – Camden New Journal

THE BEARD - to me - was sensational. The music of Terry Riley builds up the tension in eternity, which is the setting for the action. Two characters, Jean Harlow and Billy the Kid. You are so close you can see the grime in the fingernails of Billy, has he risen from the grave or is he just a dusty cowboy? The evening goes by in a rush with two exceptional performances from Christopher Daley and Victoria Yeates who, despite being English, maintain impeccable American accents throughout, some feat. Michael McClure has always had a foot in rock and roll and it shows in THE BEARD. – Beat Scene Magazine

Michael McClure’s writing has been described alternately as a 'blob of protoplasmic energy' (Allen Ginsberg) and 'one of the more remarkable achievements in American literature' (Times Literary Supplement). An acclaimed member of the Beat Generation, McClure caused more drama than even he had intended with 'The Beard' when San Francisco police arrested the actors playing the two lead roles on August 8 1966. The accusations included 'obscenity', 'conspiracy to commit a felony', and 'lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place'. When the authorities' charges were dropped, a triumphant two fingers was given to the suffocating restrictions of theatre censorship. Unfettered by the play’s fascinating legacy Nic Saunders' production quickly establishes itself as provocative theatre in its own right. The Old Red Lion's seats have been re-upholstered in blue velvet, echoing the night-blue backdrop and chaise-longue: these and a glittering chandelier evoke McClure’s darkly poetic vision of eternity. A rumble of minimalist repetitive chords plays as Jean Harlow (Victoria Yeates) and Billy The Kid (Christopher Daley) appear and seem through their movements, momentarily, to hang in mid-air. Both RADA graduates, they immediately assert their ownership of the stage: Daley through a swaggering brooding belligerence, and the white-satin-clad Yeates through paradoxically hostile flirtation. This is a text to be delivered like music: deliberately devoid of characterisation it’s driven by echoes and sounds both snarling and sensual, a stream of hallucinogenic consciousness. Daley especially wakes up its poetry; every movement of his body brings shimmering life both to its obscenity and its sensuality.
Yeates responds with a performance both savvily witty and elegant, displaying the excitement and fear in a petulant encounter that gains crucial coherence as it develops into a potent sexual dance. McClure was in the audience on opening night, and the look of delight on his face was testament enough to the production’s idiosyncratic power. – Time Out Magazine

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