The Lichfield Garrick hosted the one-man show Burton this week, lifting the lid on the life of one of the acting world’s best-known names.
It starts on Richard Burton’s 46th birthday, in a non-descript apartment in Switzerland. We are starting on the inevitable decline of the third act, following his successful Hamlet, his performance in Cleopatra, his narration of good friend Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood.
His time in the Hollywood glare of his marriage to Elizabeth Taylor, has soured him into drink soaked regrets and recriminations over his career choices, his personal choices, his relationship with his two daughters.
This one man show, performed by Rhodri Miles, written by Gwynne Edwards, and directed by Gareth Armstrong follows the Hollywood bound trajectory of Richard Walter Jenkins, the 12 of 13 children, born into abject poverty in 1920s Wales, and how through the war years, and a meeting with a charismatic teacher who would change his life, the support of his older siblings, and their often fractured relationship, one of the more interesting acting careers developed.
In his time, Richard Burton was a leading film and Shakespearean actor, who did not always get the quality of work he would have liked, but he was more than well paid for it with an instantly recognisable voice and look, which Rhodri Miles has worked hard to perfect.
The show is made up of anecdotes and tales from Burton’s life, and is a fine mixture of pathos, regret, success, humour, and copious amounts of name-dropping.
The show finishes on a sad note, but Burton still has the optimism and grit that saw the first 46 years of his life filled with adventures, based on a natural talent that was formed in the crucible of hardship.