REVIEW: Sand in The Sandwiches: A celebration of John Betjeman, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, until November 12.

Edward Fox

Edward Fox

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Not the least of the play’s pleasures is the evident delight Edward Fox takes in the role of John Betjeman, a delight he easily, comfortably makes us all share.

That niggling back-of-the-mind voice protesting “But I haven’t got the least in­terest in John Betjeman” is quickly stilled – and replaced with a much more positive “You have now!”

From the opening seconds in this one-man tour de force, Fox grabs us with an engaging, seemingly effortless performance – an apparent effortlessness which belies the depth of skill which underpins this beautiful portrait of a warm, amused and amusing man.

There are plenty of priceless, laugh-out-loud moments just as there is also wistfulness, gentleness, wisdom and poignancy, Fox delivering it all with oodles of charm and obvious, fully-justified affection.

But maybe the piece’s greatest success is the way writer Hugh Whitemore and then performer Fox seamlessly interweave the poetry. You barely notice the transition so cleverly do Fox, Whitemore and director Gareth Armstrong show the poetry to be – in wit and warmth – the natural emanation of the man.

This is a beautiful piece brought to life by an absolute master of his craft.

Phil Hewitt

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