Film - Withnail and I: A pre-review


Ian Ham went to Cheltenham Playhouse last night to watch Withnail and I. He wrote this pre-review before he went (although he assured us it's not because he wouldn't be capable of writing it afterwards)...

Withnail and I. What more can be written about this oddball of a film? Haven’t seen it yet? WHY NOT? Have seen it and not liked it? YOU’RE WRONG.

I think that about covers everything you need to know. Perhaps some facts, you say? It stars the now Oscar nominated Richard E Grant as the eponymous Withnail, and Paul McGann and the not- eponymous I. It was written by the wonderful Bruce Robinson as a sort of autobiographical account of his late 60s Camden-bound days. And it’s a lamenting love letter to the end of an era.

But enough about facts! IT HAS A DRINKING GAME! The players have to match the characters' drinks as they meander their way through the film. For the more discerning players amongst you: it may be advised to swap out some of the more esoteric drinks with blander affairs. Lighter fluid tends to repeat on one. Perhaps not.

This is the lovely theatre
Tonight, however, no drinking games are to be had. Tonight, we sit down in one of Cheltenham’s little hidden gems (above) to watch it in almost complete sobriety. For we are in the midst of a Cheltenham Playhouse Film Season! And I couldn’t be happier. The Playhouse is managed by a 77-year-old man in the body of a 44-year-old, and he had a brilliant brainwave.

This is Paul Scott, the 77 year old in a 44 year old body
The theatre has periods of down time between the plethora of plays and musicals that get staged there throughout the year. Electrical items have to be tested, things have to be painted, items have to be tinkered with, that sort of thing. While that’s going on, the stage stands empty. A few years ago, the old/young manager decided to show films to fill the gaps. And this year’s crop is a belter. Last night I saw 1963’s The Haunting (later to be made into the blockbuster Netflix series), tonight I see Withnail and I, and tomorrow night I watch Blade Runner – Final Cut (which I’m a bit excited about because I haven’t seen that version before). The only reason I’m not watching the upcoming Airplane, Wizard of Oz and The Blues Brothers is that my wallet is making small whimpering noises, and real life needs to be attended to over the weekend. Please head to the website to check out what’s on. There’s another film season coming up at the end of March. I’m not even looking at that selection yet until my molten debit card resolidifies.

And I also really recommend watching Withnail if you get a chance. You may think it’s a film about excessive alcoholic debauchery and creative swearing, and you’d be right. But it’s also a wonderfully well written and endlessly quotable film that deals with two friends approaching an end of an era. Not just the end of the decade, but circumstances meaning the eventual ending their friendship. And their determination to go out with a bang by going on holiday by mistake.

Follow Ian on Twitter @ianham_

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Find out WHAT'S ON at the Cheltenham Playhouse