Review: Two Halves of Guinness at the Devonshire Park Theatre by Roger Paine.

STAGED as part of Eastbourne’s annual, and increasingly popular ‘The Studio Season’, this homage to the life and work of Sir Alec Guinness, who died in 2001, was an astutely staged collaboration for Seabright Productions by writer Mark Burgess, director David Parry, and designer Hilary Statts.

With Chris Withers (lighting), and Helen Skiera (sound), they are a group of like-minded professionals several of whom have worked together on other successful productions.

This was the seventh play by Burgess in which Trevor Littledale, who played Guinness, had appeared. Familiarity was a distinguishing feature of an enthralling evening.

The format had Guinness, clutching his Lifetime Achievement Oscar, sitting alone reminiscing about his career and gently leading the audience through the ups and downs of his personal relationships, marriage, hinted-at homosexuality, and active RNR service in World War II.

From registration of “father unknown” at birth in 1914 to world-wide fame as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy, both of which he did his utmost to distance himself from.

Between these times, Guinness became a household name thanks to his unfailing ability to switch from stage to screen and back again with unparalleled success.

Reinforced in later years when he played MI6 master-spy George Smiley, in the adaptation of John le Carré’s novels for television.

In addition to early appearances with Gielgud and Olivier on the West End stage, it is probably Guinness’s roles in iconic films such as ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, in which he played eight different parts; ‘Lawrence of Arabia; and ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, which won him an Oscar for Best Actor, that he will be best remembered.

Littledale’s portrayal of these many different characters, despite not being a dead ringer for the man himself, except for his baldness, was flawless and touching.

A spell-binding production in every respect.