Courtenay epitomises Larkin

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EVENT: Tom Courtenay - Pretending To Be Me

Venue: Pocklington Arts Centre

Review BY: Julia Pattison

Not surprisingly, this performance of Pretending To Be Me was a sell-out, with the audience eagerly anticipating the moment when internationally-acclaimed stage and film star Tom Courtenay stepped on to the stage to present his one-man show.

Pocklington Arts Centre was the ideal venue for Tom Courtenay’s own dramatised interpretation of the works of Philip Larkin, the poet and Hull university librarian.

The intimate surroundings lent themselves to the actor’s wonderfully dry delivery, and relaxed, informal manner; you felt you were sitting with Larkin in a front room.

Who would have thought that Larkin’s aversion to the poetry of Ted Hughes, and his fear of death would lend itself to such dark humour?

Tom’s enthusiasm for Larkin’s prose as well as his poetry shone through, and he used a great deal of material from Larkin’s articles and letters.

We learnt about the poet’s childhood, his parents, “home is so sad”, his love of jazz, and his reclusive lifestyle.

Larkin himself said that “deprivation for him was what daffodils were for Wordsworth”, and through this engaging performance we got to know and understand the private persona of the poet better.

“What will survive of us, is love,” said Larkin... ‘An Arundel Tomb’, one of his best-known poems, reveals the more tender observer in this plain-speaking, sceptical poet.

It was just as if Larkin was speaking to you directly; no wonder this talented, modest actor was knighted in the Queens New Year’s Honours List of 2001.