The gloriously bedecked Wyndham's Theatre is a suitably fetching venue for this tale about a mild-mannered guy who ultimately reflects on his place in the universe.
Set in New York, international star of stage and screen Matthew Broderick plays Mark Williams, a teacher of astronomy in the basement of a planetarium.
A sincere, knowledgeable and kind man, he stoically ploughs through his lessons having to contend with a mixture of students with a mixture of abilities. As laughter from an adjacent classroom punctuates his lessons, Mark is aware that his manner of teaching might not be particularly dynamic.
Ian, the relentless would-be academic, was played by Sid Sagar, alongside the clueless Mrs Pysner, played to great laughs by Jenny Galloway.
Mark’s family life is homely if a little mundane. His wife Anne, played by Elizabeth McGovern, is more interested in organising events that Mark can’t get his head around, maybe from a weariness that has set in. His relationship with his teenage son is little more than short conversations shouted upstairs.
His life, although stable and safe, is perhaps a little unfulfilling. All this begins to change after a chance meeting with a younger lady, Angela, played by Rosalind Eleazar, who warms to Mark’s attentive ear.
Angela is learning to be a nurse and she attends to Norman, a patient fighting against cancer, and it is her curiosity about the stars that starts to turn Mark’s head and they become closer. Much closer.
But when Ian unexpectedly critiques his character and teaching style, much to his chagrin, it makes Mark look at himself and his life in a new light.
The staging was very effective. Mark’s classroom was set at the front of the stage, which lifted away to reveal a rotating set of three venues: Mark’s home, Angela’s home and Norman’s hospital room, which rotated for each scene change. Broderick plays Mark with the necessary sincerity and kindness his character requires with flashes of the inner man, his inner thoughts, desires and frustrations.
The show flows well with the script dotted with funny moments and all the cast performed well, even though my viewing was just the second night and the production felt like it was still finding its feet.
One minor criticism is that, while in the class room scenes, Broderick seemed to spend quite a few moments at his desk with his back to the audience. Other than that I would give this production 4 stars out of 5, which in the big scheme of things seems paltry compared with the number of stars in the universe, but is actually a well-deserved positive outcome for The Starry Messenger.
Written by Garry Vaux