By Sue Bullivant
I saw this play by journalist Rod Beacham at the Edinburgh Festival last August with Cathy Crawford, former head of Mirror Readers' Service.
To our amazement, it was brilliant. A one man show, the performance by Philip York was incredible (apparently he went to drama school with Maxwell’s daughter, and met him a couple of times); an interpretation rather than an impersonation, there were moments when, in my not particularly humble opinion, he totally captured the essence of the fat old git.
Without in any way being an apologia for Maxwell's life, it gave his point of view, and almost made it possible to understand and even sympathise with his bitterness at the snobbery and racism with which he was greeted when he started a new life in England after the war, and his resentment at not getting credit for being a patriot and decorated war hero.
And all the time the spoilt little Aussie rich boy – ‘about as English as a kangaroo sandwich’ - was being accepted by the establishment and allowed to buy The Times and the Sun.
The bullying, megalomania and disregard for the niceties of the legal side of big business came across, but the performance and writing still conveyed his humour and charisma as well as the undimmed sexual confidence of a man who, in his youth, had been Hollywood handsome.
This bloke Beacham has clearly done his homework. The Daily Telegraph described it as ‘a spell-binding tour-de-force’.
See it if you get the chance (I think it’s still touring).
The play was still doing the rounds of the provinces last month when Mike Tully (who, for his sins, worked more closely with the Fatman than most people) saw it in Guildford. However he was not quite as impressed by the portrayal as Sue was. Nevertheless, if anybody can track down a run-sheet for it, we’ll be happy to post it. -Ed.