The fourth in a series of fan encounters with favorite actors.
The first thing I used to do upon arrival in London, after ten hours on an airplane, was sleep. The next thing I’d do was grab a Time Out to find out who was performing in the West End. I probably should have done it before I arrived, but I hated finding about things that I’d miss because I didn’t schedule my trip just a little bit sooner. Or later. I really can’t win. In March, 1999, I changed the dates for a trip to London at the last minute, and I lucked out. I was able to catch one of the final performances of Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs with Ewan McGregor.
This was just two months before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace hit the theatres. I was a huge Ewan McGregor fan, mainly because of Shallow Grave. I honestly can’t remember if I’d seen Trainspotting at that point, but I did come to appreciate the movie after avoiding it for many years.
The play was at the Comedy Theatre on Panton Street, which has 796 seats, meaning it’s fairly small for the West End. The tickets were sold out except for a few seats in the front row, which went on sale a couple of hours before each performance. I was willing to try for one, so I went early to stand in line at the box office. There were only four people there, so I was pretty confident I’d get a seat. The three young people ahead of me were American college students from the East Coast, studying in London. We got to chatting. We had plenty of time to kill, and I really enjoyed their company.
I noticed a fellow walking toward the theatre, talking on a cell phone. It was Ewan McGregor. I waved at him and asked if I could take his photograph. He looked around to see if I was talking to him, as if there was somebody I’d rather photograph standing nearby. He put his hand over the phone, saying politely that he’d finish his phone call and come back for the photo. The students and I were really excited, although Andy was pretending to play it cool. I struggled to get my camera out of my bag without dropping it on the pavement. We debated whether he would come back, but I was certain he wouldn’t let us down. He came around the building again, with a cigarette in hand, and he posed on the steps with Marilyn, Meredith and Andy. Ewan McGregor was so friendly and down-to-earth, and when I spoke to him, he looked right into my eyes. His eyes are very blue, very large, and quite mesmerizing. When a crowd began to gather around us, he left to go backstage.
The box office opened soon after, or maybe it was a long time later. I was too starstruck to notice. We got our front row tickets, and then the students and I had a couple of hours before the play started. Naturally, we went to a photo lab to get the photos developed, ordering lots of copies for everybody. Then we parted company to get dinner. I met them again in the front row as we took our seats. There wasn’t a curtain, so we could see the set, which was a messy art student’s apartment. Our seats were next to a bed covered in clothes. I had that funny feeling you get when you sense somebody is nearby. Sure enough, the house lights went down and then came up almost immediately onstage. The clothes on the bed began to move. Ewan McGregor was buried under the clothing, and as far as I could tell, he’d been there the whole time. I would love to know what strange and silly things he heard from the audience during the run of the play!
Little Malcolm, by David Halliwell, is about an art student who’d been expelled from his college. He and his cohorts plan an elaborate revenge involving the kidnapping of the college president. They act out the various stages of the plot, and it’s all outrageously funny. At the end, it takes a very dark and tragic turn, but mostly it’s a comic romp. Malcolm is meant to remind us of the Hitler, how he was both ridiculous and dangerous, or so I’ve read. I was simply caught up in the performances. All five cast members were wonderful: Ewan McGregor, Sean Gilder, Joe Duttine, Nicolas Tennant, and Lou Gish. The play was directed by McGregor’s uncle, Denis Lawson, who appeared in the original Star Wars films.
Normally, I would go around to the stage door after seeing a show, but that evening the entire cast rushed off to the Comic Relief Benefit. During curtain call, the cast came out in red clown noses (a Comic Relief tradition). I used my cheap pocket camera to get a few photos. I would never take photos during a performance, but I couldn’t resist the curtain call. Instead of hanging out at the stage door, I went out for coffee with Andy, Marilyn and Meredith. I stayed in touch with Andy, and we’re still facebook friends.
I was not impressed with the new Star Wars films, to say the least. I still love Ewan McGregor, but I’m behind watching his more recent movies. Sean Gilder and Denis Lawson appeared in Horatio Hornblower, my favorite mini-series. Lou Gish died of cancer in 2006, which I only just discovered while preparing this piece. I saw Nicolas Tennant in another play in 2002…but that story will have to wait. It’s a good one, and it’s coming soon!