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Anthony Head

Anthony Head - "Otherwise Engaged" Play - Engaged by male angst and bare breasts

Lisa Whitehead

Monday 12 December 2005, by Webmaster

OTHERWISE ENGAGED - Criterion Theatre

YOU can’t ignore life! If you try to ignore it, it will move on and begin to ignore you.

In a nutshell that is the moral of Otherwise Engaged, Simon Gray’s satirical, award-winning comedy, which is enjoying an all-star revival.

Richard E Grant deservedly takes most of the plaudits in the first revival since the original 1975 production with Alan Bates, Nigel Hawthorne, Julian Glover and Ian Charleson, which later transferred to Broadway with Tom Courtenay and Michael Gambon.

But the full cast deserves praise for first class performances too.

Witty, urbane, sophisticated and selfish, publisher Simon Hench (Grant), has taste discretion, and is accustomed to keeping himself at a graceful distance from the messy distractions of family and friends.

He has a problem - several actually - only he does not know it yet. Settling in for a morning in his lavish home with his new recording of Wagner’s Parsifal, Simon is besieged by unwelcome visitors and his cool demeanour begins to buckle, as life catches up with him.

It is a welcome return to the stage for Grant, who has starred in more than 60 films, including the 1987 classic Withnail and I. More recently he has been seen in Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and Colour Me Kubrick with John Malkovich.

Anthony Head, who plays boozy journalist Jeff Golding, made his name on stage, but is best known for his TV work, including playing Rupert Giles in US show Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the Prime Minister in Little Britain, plus coffee commercials.

David Bamber is good as Bernard Wood, as is Peter Wight as Simon’s brother Stephen. Amanda Drew, who plays Beth, and the perky Amanda Ryan, who takes the role of Davina Saunders, both rose to the occasion.

Saunders made light of spending 10 minutes with her bare breasts on display.

This is a great revival that is startling and hilarious. It stands the test of time and asks questions that are more relevant today than they were 30 years ago.

Otherwise Engaged is at the Criterion Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, from Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm, with matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 3pm. Tickets are 10-40 from the box office on 0870 060 2313.