The Crown

The Crown
Alex as the Duke of Windsor

Monday, September 25, 2006

Body Language

David Benedict in Variety likes the production and is full of praise for Alex's performance:

"The prize, however, goes to Jennings, constantly switching between a plethora of superbly sustained characters. One minute he's a dour, suited Scotsman, the next a pious, white-robed mystic. Best of all is his default position as a New Age guru in beads and a fluting voice not a million miles from Rufus Wainwright."

Full review: Variety

And New York Magazine has the most to say about Alex's performance in "The Queen" so far:

"Even Charles (Alex Jennings) is a figure more to be pitied than censured. He’s always piping up about changing times and the need to be flexible—and you see him through his mother’s eyes, not so much flexible as boneless. I’ve rarely seen body language more amusing than Jennings’s when he directs his chief of staff to make overtures to Blair behind his mother’s back (“The prince feels that you and he are modern men”); he leans away from the phone as if afraid it will turn into Mummy and whack off his head."

Full review: New York Magazine

Friday, September 22, 2006

One More Review and Something Else

The Guardian Leader on 21 September is all about the play and its relevance today:

The National Theatre's revival of The Alchemist - a truly great English play about
confidence tricksters - is as relevant in today's age of supposedly health-giving bottled waters as it was during the South Sea Bubble. The play is not about alchemy but about criminals who cash in on it by inducing the gullible to part with money.

Full leader: Guardian

Rosie Millard in the New Statesman writes another good review of the Alchemist:

"It's difficult to know who the star of The Alchemist is, but Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale, as Subtle and Face, respectively, have huge command of the stage and pass the baton generously between each other. Russell Beale grabs the tricky Jacobean text (there have been only a few minor rewrites) and wrestles it into comprehension. Meanwhile, Jennings dives into a dizzying array of amusing personages: a white-robed mystic, an American feng shui expert, a Scotsman in tweed, each more convincing than the last. As Subtle and Face take more and more money from an ever-growing queue of fools and the action begins to whirl, Jennings and Russell Beale chop and change accent, costume and style without resorting to cliché."

Full review: New Statesman

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

All Sorts

The Alex Jennings Picture Gallery has been updated to include Alex's work over the past couple of years. Details on "The Queen", "The Alchemist", but also on "Riot at the Rite" and other recent appearances.
See: Alex Jennings Picture Gallery

The British Film Institute has an online film and television archive with cast lists, synopses, pictures and video. They have a page on Ashenden, the 1991 series in which Alex played the lead. The page has a full episode and several short fragments on video, but the video is only accessible to UK students, professors, and archivists, unfortunately.
See: British Film Institute

RSC picture archive
The RSC has an online picture archive where you can find some 20 pictures of Alex in various RSC productions, including the early ones (Hyde Park, Taming of the Shrew):
See: RSC

Monday, September 18, 2006

More Alchemists

In The Stage, review by John Thaxter:

"Simon Russell Beale, following triumph as Galileo, gives a superbly inventive performance as Face, house-sitting while his landlord is in the country, teamed up for villainy with Alex Jennings, master of accents and disguises, as the charlatan alchemist Subtle, together with their high-class tart Dol, played for stylish glamour by Lesley Manville."

Full review: The Stage

Philip Fisher for the British Theatre Guide has some reservations about Alex's performance:

"Alex Jennings is Subtle (anything but), The Alchemist, a conman who sports the Michael Gambon drawl amongst friends but constantly reinvents himself for his public. This requires quick changes of both clothing and persona as he switches from Californian hippie to beguiling Scot or posh Englishman. Eventually, there is a feeling that at times he is sending up his roles to a rather greater extent than is entirely necessary."

Full review: British Theatre Guide

And so does Michael Coveney in What's On Stage:

And the much anticipated performances of Alex Jennings as the spurious alchemist, Subtle, and Simon Russell Beale as the chameleon housekeeper Face, are brilliant, but strenuous, exercises in “character.”

Full review: What's On Stage

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday and Other Reviews For the Alchemist

In the Evening Standard Nicholas de Jongh turns to the contemporary and political content of the play. He has some comments on Alex's performance:

"What's more The Alchemist's hopeful deceivers - Simon Russell Beale's endearing butler-turned-housekeeper, who goes by the name of Face and convincingly puts on three different ones, Alex Jennings's deliciously amusing freelance pimp, Subtle, with his little repertoire of false identities, and Lesley Manville's Dol Common, who comes packed with sexual promise and promises - are all involved in the defunct art of alchemy."


"An artful brand of deception and role-play rises initially in a comic spiral of complexity. The modern-dress performances brim with vitality. Jennings's estuary-accented wide boy Subtle sets the deceptions going in a comedy classic performance. Hilariously got up as an American hippie, with headscarf, beads and a voice of glazed, camp affectation, or white-gowned and tranquil, he oozes a grave, misleading sincerity."

Full review: Evening Standard

Kate Bassett in the Independent isn't that keen:

"This production will, I suspect, get funnier. At the final preview which I attended, Ian Richardson's Sir Epicure Mammon, luxuriating in wanton fantasies, kept falling disappointingly flat and Jennings's gamut of accents (from American to Scots) isn't all that hilarious. Nonetheless, Tim McMullan is splendidly silly as a swishing mock-Spaniard and Russell Beale is, as always, outstanding, with dry comic timing and moments of terrific flamboyance - staggering like Frankenstein's Igor out of an exploding laboratory. He also imbues Face with disturbing psychological depths, almost Iago-like festering jealousy and unloved misery."

Full review: Independent

Christopher Hart, in the sunday Times, is impressed though:

"The two leads — Alex Jennings as Subtle and Simon Russell Beale as Face — are excellent, but so are their satellites, not one of them ever threatened with eclipse. And how hard they all work, not only delivering complex verse at full pelt, but managing a dazzling array of daft accents and silly costumes. Sometimes the accents obscure the verse, but it seems a fair exchange. Jennings is one moment a camp hippie guru, then a tweed-suited Scotsman with a ludicrously strangulated accent."

Full review: The Times

The London Theatre Guide, like most reviews comments on the way Alex and Simon Russell Beale work together:

"It is the colour and character of this pair in particular that give Jonson’s comedy the flair that it demands, though all members of the large cast contribute to the sense of craziness in Hytner’s fast-paced production."

Full review: London Theatre Guide

Susannah Clapp in the Observer has only praise for both actors:

"There is Subtle, the chancer who will impersonate (if it's possible to impersonate a fiction) a wizard who can convert the base into the precious, and make people's fortunes: Alex Jennings, lolling in his dressing-gown, packs dandified scorn and low-life shrewdness into one lift of an eyebrow."

"But it is of course the double-act at the centre which makes or breaks the play. It's unlikely that this one will be bettered for the next two decades. The range is tremendous. Jennings turns himself in seconds from a cross-legged, beaded Californian hippie to a furrowed squint-eyed dominie. Russell Beale plums it out as a moustachioed blazer, and scuttles around limping like a broken tripod. Forget Marks & Spencer, Ant and Dec, Posh and Becks: it's Russell Beale and Jennings - working together for the first time - who are the essential new combo."

Full review: Observer

On its website the National Theatre has added a reviews page:
National Theatre

And some pictures of the production:
National Theatre

and one more for The Queen:

Cosmo Landesman in the Sunday Times:
"Alex Jennings looks nothing like Prince Charles, but conveys the man and the mummy’s boy perfectly."

Full review: The Times

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Alchemist Exposed

To accompany the new production of the Alchemist the National Theatre has published a book called "The Alchemist Exposed" by Robert Butler.

"An essential guide to Ben Jonson, the play and its background, The Alchemist Exposed follows the company and creative team of Nicholas Hytner’s new NT production as they strip back the years to reveal the true nature of The Alchemist. In this new book in the ‘National Theatre at Work’ series, Robert Butler explores Jonson’s world and everything that makes his play bang up-to-date. Published by the NT with Oberon Books. Priced £10"

Friday, September 15, 2006

More Queen Reviews

There are new reviews for "The Queen":

Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman has a less favourable review than most:

"There is no shortage here of crowd-pleasing impersonations. Alex Jennings makes an anguished Prince Charles, with his characteristic lockjawed grimace."

Full review: New Statesman

The Independent is more enthusiastic, Robert Hanks starts with a general statement:

There's a grand journalistic tradition of bragging, whenever a British film or a British star snags a gong or a statuette, about the "strength in depth" of British acting. Helen Mirren's Golden Lion at Venice for playing Queen Elizabeth II offers a perfect opportunity to start the celebrations; but watching the parade of talent in The Queen - Michael Sheen, Roger Allam, Alex Jennings - I felt a surge of glum anger at the terminal crumminess of the British film industry. "Strength in depth" is a nice way of saying that actors who by rights ought to be international stars are stuck in secondary roles.

And on Alex:
"And they are human beings. After McCrory's performance, the boldest here may be Alex Jennings' Prince Charles who, on hearing of the death of his former wife, the mother of his children, lets out an involuntary cry of agony - as any man would."


James Christopher in the Times Online:

"The Prince of Wales (Alex Jennings), a Blair supporter, wrings his hands and fumbles around in his kilt, willing his stubborn mother to do the decent thing."

Full review: The Times

First Alchemist Reviews

Last night was the press night for "The Alchemist" and the first reviews are out.

Michael Billington in the Guardian gives a very favourable review. He says about Alex:

"Alex Jennings's masterly Subtle is a Blackfriars bamboozler who can turn himself at the drop of a coin into a camp American guru, a white-robed saint or a canny Scottish accountant; he gives you the feeling that Subtle gets even higher on role-playing than he does on daylight robbery."

FUll review at: Guardian

Paul Taylor also gives a favourable judgment in the Independent:

"Quick-change artistry is the kind of transformation at which the charlatans are genuinely adept. Playing together for the first time in their distinguished careers, Alex Jennings and Simon Russell Beale are a joy as Subtle and Face, the mutually resentful duo who, with sidekick-whore Dol Common (excellent Lesley Manville), turn the house that Face is looking after in his master's absence into a crazy dream factory. Tailoring his act to each victim, Jennings dazzlingly shuffles identities that range from a Haight-Asbury-style hippy to a pious New Age guru and a fluting Scot."

Full review at: The Independent

Benedict Nightingale in the Times Online is equally enthusiastic about the production and Alex's performance:

"Each appearance gives Russell Beale and Jennings the chance to prove not only that they are slick collaborators in crime but that there is no funnier or more adroit double-act on the London stage.

In a series of twinklings Jennings is a beaded Californian guru manipulating dupes in a singsong bleat, then a grave Indian mystic in virginal white, then a crabby, rumpled Presbyterian."

All three praise the way Alex and Simon Russell Beale work together.

Full review at: Times

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

First Queen Reviews

The Moviefone review by Kirk Honeycutt states:
"Prince Charles (Alex Jennings, stiff but correctly so) comes off as the voice of modernity in the family, but also a bit wimpy as he fears assassination in the days following his ex-wife's death."

Peter Whittle in the Sunday Times of 2 September describes Alex's performance as: "Jennings’s all-at-sea Prince of Wales".

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quentin Blake

Alex will be one of the readers at the Royal National Theatre's platform "Quentin Blake and Friends" on Friday 22 September. The other readers will be Simon Russell Beale and Lesley Manville.

From the RNT's announcement:

"Roald Dahl Day

In celebration of the inaugural Roald Dahl Day, a special appearance by Quentin Blake, Dahl’s principal illustrator and the first Children’s Laureate. He presents a unique insight, through talk and live drawing, into working with Dahl.

Alex Jennings, Lesley Manville and Simon Russell Beale perform a selection of some of the much-loved work that Dahl and Blake created together."

The talk will start at 6 o'clock.

More information: National Theatre

Monday, September 11, 2006

First Glimpse Of the Alchemist

Alex has just started previews for "The Alchemist" at the National Theatre in London. The play opens on September 14. There is an intriguing short film advertising the play on the National Theatre website:
National Theatre

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Queen in Venice

"The Queen" got a good reception at the Venice Film Festival. Alex plays Prince Charles in this drama about the aftermath of Princess Diana's death. Helen Mirren won the best actress award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth.

The Telegraph has a review of the film by David Gritten and a picture gallery, with some pictures of Alex:

"The obvious temptation to caricature, say, Prince Philip or Prince Charles (painfully troubled, in Alex Jennings's portrayal) is admirably resisted."

Full review: Telegraph

Variety has a review by Derek Elley and another picture, just a short mention of Alex here:

"Supports are all on the button, with often creepily accurate body language -- from Yank Cromwell's blithe Prince Philip, through McCrory's snide Cherie, to Baze-ley's cocky Campbell and Jennings' contrite Prince Charles."

Full review: Variety

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Alchemist Interview

The Independent (7 September) has a short interview with Alex and Simon Russell Beale on the upcoming production of "The Alchemist".

The interviewer is Paul Taylor, who describes Alex as tall and debonair. In the piece Jennings states that: "my career has been based entirely on seeing Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines at an impressionable age."

On The Alchemist:
Yes, you're about to get my nearly-50-year-old Eminem," threatens Jennings. There are dizzying changes of tack. "We've played around with the idea of getting muddled and suddenly swapping performances", he explains.

On his absence from the theatre for a while:
"Nowadays, I suggest, the clients would all long to be made famous. "Yes, fame is the modern drug of choice," agrees Russell Beale. And fame (in the sense of becoming a household name) is something that has managed to elude these two superb actors. "Well, we've been slogging away in the theatre, I suppose," says Jennings. After Stuff Happens (the David Hare drama in which he portrayed George W Bush), Jennings decided to have a break from the stage and get in front of a camera again. He has played Diaghilev in a television drama about The Rite of Spring, and he is Prince Charles to Helen Mirren's monarch in the forthcoming The Queen."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Riot pictures

Some pictures of Alex playing Sergei Diaghilev can be found at Rachael Stirling's website. Rachael Stirling played Marie Rambert in the tv film "Riot at the Rite".

An interesting background article on the production can be found at:Ballet Magazine.

No real mention of Alex, but information about a production and a good picture of Alex as Diaghilev.

Friday, September 01, 2006


These are the Alex Jennings diaries. Just a way to keep up with what Alex is doing, where he can be seen, and what news there is on the internet. He appears in the new Stephen Frears film "The Queen" as prince Charles. This film is all about the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana, with Helen Mirren playing the queen. And Alex is rehearsing at the National Theatre for the new production of "The Alchemist" with Simon Russell Beale and Lesley Manville.