What with the barney over Boris’ bungled brainstorm to get Big Ben’s bells to bong on Brexit day, you’d be forgiven for being sick to the back teeth listening to stories about bell ends by now, but the West End experienced its own type of clanger last week.
At the opening night of Ian Rickson’s starry new production of Uncle Vanya in the West End, Ciarán Hinds, who plays the pretentious professor Serebryakov, got more laughs than he bargained for when he rung a handbell a little too vigorously, causing the hammer inside to fly off at speed, mercifully missing the assembled actors and any breakable props.
Serebryakov’s demanding nature is typified in his much discussed use of the bell to summon members of the household at his every whim, so its dramatic malfunction prompted one of the biggest guffaws of the night, even in Conor McPherson’s comedy-heavy adaptation.
It was expertly saved in the moment by Hinds, who impatiently shouted out his request instead while the broken bell whizzed off into the wings, while the shocked faces and stifled laughter among his cast mates ensured that the incident appeared little more than an amusing F-you to the professor’s pompous and entitled character.
Pure serendipity that it bore more than a passing resemblance to the time gaffe-prone MP Jeremy Hunt broke a handbell in an almost identical fashion. Perhaps Rickson should keep it in the show after all.
Tabard is The Stage’s resident gossip and diarist. firstname.lastname@example.org