Sean Reads Poetry

Last Update: 27 April 2002

In this little publicised early-evening platform performance, Sean joined fellow-actors Edward Fox, Simon Williams, Eleanor Bron and Julian Glover to read a selection of poems by Philip Larkin at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

There was very little advance notice of this charity event, which is one of a series of occasional poetry readings organised and introduced by bestseller novelist Josephine Hart, who is married to millionaire Maurice Saatchi.

The performers sat in red velvet chairs arranged in a row across the front of the set for The Constant Wife, in which Simon Williams was appearing about an hour later.

The Edwardian drawing-room set was an incongruous setting for Sean, who looked grave, modest and low-key. For the event, Edward Fox wore a beautifully tailored suit, and Simon Williams wore an elegant casual polo shirt and dark blue suit.,Sean was wearing a pale grey-green jersey short-sleeved shirt, and trousers in a slightly darker grey-green, with black slip-on leather shoes. His hair is still very, very short - ready for the Boromir wig again!

Having never before seen Sean in the flesh, one thing struck me: not only was Sean taller than I had expected (and he was standing next to Eleanor Bron, whom I know to be a very tall woman) but even broader in the shoulders. His arms were looking very strong - has Sean been bodybuilding?

The 24 poems were arranged into four groups, and Sean came onstage for the second and third groups, reading one poem in each group. While the others were reading, Sean occasionally allowed a twitch of his lovely twisty grin to pass across his face, at some of Larkin's famously dry and witty lines.

His first poem was Money. He spoke the words in a quiet, quite conversational style, rather quickly, which contrasted with the other performers. The second poem Sean read was Dockery and Son. He read this a little more slowly. This is a poem in which Larkin, who never had children, discovers that the son of a man who was a fellow-undergraduate is now at the university where Larkin worked. It expresses a sense of emptiness about his own future, contrasting the way in which he feels Dockery has made use of the time since they were students to produce a future in the form of a son. It is about time and emptiness.

As the performers left the stage for the last time, I noticed Sean, who was seated at the right nearest the exit, turn to Eleanor Bron and gesture as if to say, "Won't you go out first?" She gave a tiny shake of her head as if to say, "No, dear, you just walk on ahead," but he is clearly an extremely well-mannered man who feels quite uncomfortable if he finds himself walking through a door in front of a lady.

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