Saturday, 16 February 2013

Another Country - Huhne Junior at the Oxford Playhouse

There are lots of great things about living in Oxford but one of them is the chance to see some stunning student drama productions.

Last week – on Valentine’s Day in fact – I booked tickets for Another Country, Julian Mitchell’s famous public school play. Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of a group of public schoolboys struggling to work out what they believe in after the suicide of a fellow pupil rocks the school.

I was lucky enough to see the play in the West End thirty years ago, when it starred a young Rupert Everett and an even younger Kenneth Branagh. So I had high hopes for the production by the weirdly-named student company Screw the Looking Glass – and I wasn’t disappointed.

But two performances towered over the rest at the Oxford Playhouse. The actors playing the parts taken by Everett and Branagh 30 years ago were by turns charismatic and moving, insightful and funny. I found myself gripped whenever they were onstage, not quite so gripped when they weren't.

I stupidly hadn’t bought a programme so when I got home I checked out who these fine young actors were and nearly fell off my chair in surprise. The actor playing Guy Bennett (based on spy-in-the-making Guy Burgess) was none other than Peter Huhne, a second-year languages student at Oxford and the son of former cabinet minister Chris Huhne. As virtually the whole world knows, the student’s bitter text messages to his father were read out in court following Chris Huhne’s guilty plea for perverting the course of justice and were plastered across the papers for days afterwards.

Huhne Junior is only 20 but talk about impressive. How on earth he got through the media firestorm, carried on with his studies and gave a towering performance like this I don’t know. But then again, as all great actors know, the show must go on.

PS. The other fine performance was by Jo Allan, as Bennett's Marxist sympathiser friend Tommy Judd.

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