The theatre looked - and smelled - fabulous, lit by dozens of real wax candles. I envied the people in the stage boxes for whom it must have been a magical, and intimate evening. I was up in the gods, unfortunately, kicking myself for being a £10 cheapskate because when you can't see Mark Rylance's expressive face, well, you've missed out.
Farinelli and the King (written by Rylance's wife) is about the melancholic Philip V of Spain (think Madness of George III but rather less heartrending) and the healing power of music in the form of the castrato Farinelli. It was simply entrancing to hear this lovely aria from Handel's Rinaldo in such a setting.
I can see why the play got 4* from reviewers rather than 5*. Rylance as Philip V wasn't up to Rylance as Cromwell. (What pressure though, to face audiences expecting you to measure up to a role that was the peak of your career.) Now I think of it, I don't think I've seen him on stage since he played Cleopatra at the Globe, which I thought was a bit gimmicky. (Well, the previous Cleopatra I'd seen was Judi Dench and that was some act to follow.)
But I think Farinelli and the King is maybe like a miniature painting. If I'd been in a different seat, enfolded in the light from those flickering candles, close enough to reach out and touch ... it would have been quite a different experience. Sometimes I don't mind the £10 seats for the thrill of being there but this time it felt a bit like peeping through a window.