Thursday, September 06, 2012

Chariots of Fire in the West End


In the run-up to the Olympics we read that Chariots of Fire would be running in cinemas all over the UK. We never saw posters for the movie while we were there with performances of my one-man play on the rest of the story, Beyond the Chariots, but we LOVED the West End production of the newly staged theatrical adaptation. The staging and "choreography" was just brilliant! And the opening and closing sequences had the cast running about in Team Great Britain 2012 athletic uniforms. Great fun.

It follows the four-time Academy Award-winning film from 1981 quite closely, but they give themselves an extra hour to work in subplots for which the film didn't allow.

At the Eric Liddell Awards breakfast, I told Eric's daughters that I only had two quibbles. Patricia, his eldest said she had two also. I told her to go first. She didn't like how her Aunt Jenny was portrayed. When I performed Beyond the Chariots in Milwaukee I was given a note from Jenny by someone who had been in correspondence with her before her death. In the note Jenny wrote about how much she encouraged Eric in his running. Patricia said Jenny was much more fun-loving than she's portrayed in the film, and now in the West End. Her second quibble was that her father was also portrayed as being more dour than she remembers him to have been. He used to sing silly songs with their mother to keep the Sunday school kids interested in God's Word. Then I shared my quibbles: Their mother is portrayed as a blonde, when she had very dark hair (Patricia also said her accent was far too American, and not enough Canadian). My biggest complaint is that they close the play with--and work into the ancillary literature--the phrase "Harold was faster, but Eric was better." They point out that Harold got faster and faster when training with Mussabini, but the fact of the matter is that Eric's 100yd British record of 9.7 held for 35 years. I did the math, and Harold's Olympic record of 10.6 in the 100m, which he equalled in two qualifying heats, is a virtual tie with Liddell. But to say he was faster than Eric is just not true.

Having said all of this, it's a marvelous play, and I highly recommend it to anyone in or heading to London. I'm praying it will be done on Broadway some day. Maybe I'll be young enough to audition for Eric's older brother.

Mostly I was pleased because they stayed true to the bold stance that Eric took not to run on a Sunday. They didn't pull back anything from his conviction.

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