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Enigmatic Variations - Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt - Donald Sutherland - Savoy Theatre

Art - Yasmina Reza - Albert Finney - Tom Courtenay - Ken Stott - Micheline and Sean Connery - Wyndham's Theatre

Yesterday I went to the Preview of Enigmatic variations, a play by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, born in France in 1960, it was revived by Alain Delon in 1998. The play has been translated into 18 different languages and last 1hour and 1/2 without an interval. Donald Sutherland's wife of 30 years,Francine Racette ( a French-Canadian former actress) saw the play in Paris and convinced him to do it. He took it first to Toronto and them to Los Angeles and it was a sell-out!!! It is Sutherland's first stage play for two decades and his return to the London stage after 36 years. He graduated at the University of Toronto and studied acting at the London Academy of Music and Drama in the late 1950s. (He was know as Dumbo because of being very tall with big ears and crooked teeth). He has had many health problems - an old back injury, polio, pneumonia, hepatitis, acute appendicitis and tonsillitis (both removed), wrenched knee and spinal meningitis contracted on the set of Kelly's Heroes. He is missing his wife who has invested in his play as she is at home looking after her sick mother (I am not the only one!!!) and children. They have three children and his dog was not allowed to enter GB so he is very lonely. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and is a member of France's Ordre des Arts et Lettres.

I was sitting next to amiddle-aged woman that was a huge fan. She was talking about his charm - she was very excited - about his pale blue eyes. She drew particular attention to one photo in the programme where he looks especially handsome. When I told her that I had seen him give an interview on a talk show, she anxiously asked when and which channel, but I could not remember. She was very disappointed. She looked through her binoculars for the entire 1 and 1/2 hours!!!

The play Enigmatic Variations is a history of a Nobel Prize novelist writer Abel Znorko, played by Sutherland, who lives alone on a Norwegian island and has correspondence with the love of his life for 15 years after living together for some months. He prefers that they live separate lives and this keep their love alive, so they write to each other every day. However, she married but did not tell him and after two years she died. Her husband finds the letters and decides to continue the correspondence in place of his wife. The novelist has the letters of the love of his life published in a huge book. Then a journalist - actually the woman's husband - goes to interview him and a very funny play is the result. The journalist Erik Larsen is played by the Broadway actor John Rubinstein who has a Tony award for "Children of a Lesser God". It was a very entertain yet moving love play and will go to New York after London. It is a "family business" - the translation is by Roeg Sutherland who was named after the director of Don't Look Now, Nicolas Roeg, and is the first collaboration with his famous father.

I found this play had a great coincidence with a charter of my life. When I was 17 I met an Argentinean boy at Copacabana beach. He started to write to me and I did not answer but my mother did write to him in my place for a long time. Then one day he came back to Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires with his parents to meet mine, and then I understood how serious the love story was. Firstly he found out I did not seem to know much about what I had written to him, he thought it all very strange.I did start to write to him after he left and, of course, it was completely different to what my mother had written about, so he stopped writing and the love affair was no more??? A similar occurrence comes in the play "So Long at the Fair" where a well-educated lady (played originally on the London stage by Deborah Kerr) writes the love letters on behalf of her poorly maid to a young lad she meet at a fair: than an attraction comes about between Deborah Kerr and the young man.

Sutherland is mainly a film actor, with more than 104 TV and movies to his credit, including MASH directed by Robert Altman; Casanova by Fellini, Klute directed by Alan Pakula in which he stared with Jane Fonda who won an Oscar and became one of the great loves of his life and they lived together for three years. It was the cause of the break-up of his second marriage to Shirley Douglas by whom he had the twins Rachel and Keifer Sutherland the actor and director (famous for the breakdown of his engagement to Julia Roberts).Donald Sutherland starred in such films as Ordinary People, JFK, 1900 directed by Bertolucci, The Dirty Dozen, Robert Aldrich-1966, Kelly's Heroes-1970, Don't Look Now with Julie Christie; he became a sex symbol after his scene with Julie. His latest movie - due for release in August - is Space Cowboys and stars Clint Eastwood and James Garner.

Another French play was discovered in Paris by Sean Connery's wife Micheline which gave Sean Connery 'debut' in the West End as a producer in "Art". It opened in London in 1996 and was a huge success with Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott. During its run it has had 14 changes of cast. The latest cast-change gives Patrick Duffey - former Dallas star - his West End debut. As Duffey says "it was a great PR idea to revitalise Art with the Dallas guy and the Waltons guy". the play consists of a cast of three, one of whom buys a modern painting which is completely white with nothing on it whatsoever. The play is very much a play about the fragility of male friendship rather than a debate about the nature of contemporary art. The play is by Yasmina Reza, directed by Matthew Warchus.
When I got the tickets to see "Art" I got two very nice seats for Marina Andrade Lima and myself for that production and also for the "better than sex" (according to Mick Jagger) "De La Guarda", an Argentinean production which was showing at the Round House at that time. Marina was in Paris and let me down so I had to sell her tickets and she doesn't know what she missed, the theatre and ME!!! I really enjoyed the performances.

On the night of the opening of the Tate Modern the cast of Art were there publicising the play, because it is about modern art. Duffey is a very family-orientated man and has been on talk shows talking about his career and family. Channel 4 hosted a Dallas Night showing highlights from the series. Sue Ellen did NOT shoot JR!!!


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