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R S V P / INTO THE NIGHT

British, Yes, but We Loved It

October 07, 1994|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Wednesday's opening-night performance of the Royal National Theatre company's "Racing Demon" at the Doolittle Theatre. A party followed at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. The play is part of the UK/LA Festival, the British cultural bash.

When Prince Charles Arrives, He'll Explain It: Asked about the festival, the play's British director, Richard Eyre, said, "Excuse me, I don't mean to be unpatriotic, but what exactly is that?"

Who Was There: No matter how great the production, theater does not get a massive turnout. Among the 1,000 at the play (300 at the party) were James Doolittle, Gordon Davidson, Candice Bergen and husband Louis Malle, Anita and Louis Nye, Nancy Livingston, Samantha Eggar and performance artist Rachel Rosenthal whose remark about theater in Los Angeles was: "It's like when you put a veneer on something and it doesn't stick. But you keep putting it on year after year."

Quoted: Lead actor Oliver Ford Davies, on opening in Los Angeles after doing the play for four years in London: "All first nights are terrifying. But when you've been doing a play for a long time, it's really a feeling of 'supposing for some reason we don't do it at our best.' I'd just be very, very angry with myself. And I won't know why. That's one of the maddening things about being an actor. You don't know why you're good one night and not so good another."

Best Homecoming: Playwright David Hare said he first came to L.A. at the age of 17. "It was fantastic. England was still pre-Beatles, sort of pre-revolution. It was a very cold, repressed, miserable country. So to come here, and find all these people with their jeans cut off and having such a wonderful sybaritic life was liberation for me."

Cast Nervousness: The main fear the company had, Hare said, is that the Anglican church, the subject of the play, "is for a large part of the Los Angeles population a very distant subject." Co-star Alastair Galbraith's dry comment was: "We knew there wasn't a Church of England cable channel here." The audience loved it.

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