"Magic Number Six"
A one-act play written by Paul Gosling.
Review by Rick Davy.
like buses, you wait ages for a McGoohan-based stage play and two turn up
one after the other!
Not long after Brian Gorman's successful "Everyman" piece of work (review HERE), writer Paul Gosling has also used Patrick McGoohan and "The Prisoner" as the basis for a theatre production. Running for 4 performances as part of Leicester's Little Theatre's "one act play" festival, sandwiched between Chekov and Stoppard, "Magic Number Six" tells the story of the relationship between Patrick McGoohan and Lew Grade during the making of the series.
Myself and two TUW readers attended the sold-out Saturday night performance and whilst I initially sat with some trepidation, this trepidation was misplaced and I found it a very enjoyable hour's entertainment.
Firstly, I must congratulate the writer. "Magic Number Six" is a genuinely well crafted piece of work. The injection of humour into what is essentially a dark story is pitched just right (you will particularly enjoy the gags if you're a fan of 1960s ITC-type TV series and their stars), and the relationship between the characters is well observed. The dialogue is very well written (I particulrly enjoyed McGoohan trying to explain the episode plot lines), and Gosling really does deserve genuine praise. I also loved the ending, which tied in with an ongoing reference point throughout the piece. Spot on!
The 3 actors did a fine job and were nothing less than utterly believable throughout. Colin Woods was great as a light-hearted Grade, and whilst Rob Leeson''s McGoohan was a little too unsure and unfocussed in character, he picked up some of the mannerisms and inflexions of the man very well indeed. As Gosling confirmed in his interview with The Unmutual Website (HERE), it was never intended for the leading man to do a McGoohan impersonation, and this was a very wise move. Leeson deserves a big pat (no pun intended) on the back for taking this on and doing well. I reserve my highest praise, however, for Karen Gordon, who portrayed the fictional PA Miss Cartwright. Perhaps she had the easiest task in that she wasn't portraying a real person, but regardless of that she gave a highly entertaining, yet understated and sympathetic, performance.
Anyone that has read my other reviews will know there are always negatives, but these are few in this case. Sadly a key section of dialogue was unintentionally omitted from McGoohan's pitch to Grade (which gave the play its name) and there are quite a few factual and chronological inaccuracies, which could be irksome if one knows the subject matter well. But the writer should't apologise for this, knowledge of the subject from the viewer is a dangerous thing as inaccuracies in the history (which 99% of the audience wouldn't pick up on) or the portrayals (which 99% of the audience wouldn't pick up on) should not detract from the play's overall message. So once, and I should have done this from the start, I forced myself to imagine that I was a "non-expert" viewer, I enjoyed the play a lot more.
So overall, if you can divorce yourself a little from your in-depth knowledge of "The Prisoner" and not be too critical of the lead actors characterisations, and watch it simply as a more generic story of the financing of a big-budget TV series, and the pressures of creating it, in the hubub of the late 1960s ITC merry-go-round, it is a very enjoyable piece of work which certainly deserves larger and wider audiences. Perhaps a DVD or Television production could follow? To quote Lew Grade, "it's so crazy it might just work".
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