Promoting his autobiography a pocketful of happiness on a nationwide tour, actor Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park, Portrait of a Lady, SpiceWorld the Movie, Horrid Henry: The Movie, Can you Ever Forgive Me) entered the stage at the New Theatre, Cardiff (May 28th), wearing the long coat from Withnail and I, in character. Grant immediately comes across as a high-extrovert who’d do or say anything for a laugh, not true of all Hollywood actors, and revelled in the spotlight, discussing his particularly difficult childhood in Swaziland with a father who suffered a serious drink problem and a mother who left for another man, which led to him being sent to boarding school, a miserable experience.
These are pretty extreme accounts which could be disturbing but for Grant’s ability to get a laugh, repeated laughs, about any subject or experience, as he moved on to accounts of his early life as an aspiring, jobbing actor in England and his crush on acting coach, Joan Washington, who he was to marry, as her toyboy. In this endearing performance, we have super-amusing accounts of their relationship and there were belly-laughs across the theatre over his story of their ‘getting together’ on a cold, winter night and, later, her passive resentment over his infatuation with Barbra Streisand.
I looked across the audience and saw numerous people crying when Grant talked about his wife’s cancer and her decline – the last few weeks and days – and Grant was evidently choked, eyes welling with tears, as he shared with the audience the grief that he and his daughter go through now.
Grant has a phenomenal memory and was fluent and natural through the performance and the long Q and A sessions, where he revealed who his least favourite actor is (no spoilers), the eccentricities of famous people (get to his show!), the worst film he was ever in (a well-known one) and how odd it was to see Star Wars Destroyer Ship doors being pulled open (in Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker) with ropes behind the sets – not as slick and mechanized as he thought – and his difficulty in not compulsively making sound-effects to the annoyance of co-stars.
This generosity was extended later when he went through an exhausting book-signing session.
Grant is someone you’d want to go to dinner with or on a helter-skelter night out in London. We experienced joy and pain and a lot in-between. Worth every buck and I’d go to the sequel.