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Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Culture Diary: An Evening With Al Pacino

Living in London has offered all manner of opportunities for theatre, comedy, music, cinema and book events (and I've been too busy to blog about them all). Thankfully, many of these do not break the bank, though sometimes a chance so good comes along, it's impossible not to hit 'buy' and watch as your balance lowers. An Evening With Al Pacino was one such case.

I've taken to getting e-mail alerts for London theatre tickets via Gumtree, hoping for last minute bargains or tickets to sold out shows. This was how I managed to bag tickets to Kevin Spacey in Clarence Darrow earlier in the year. However, I thought my luck had run out with regards to Al Pacino's one off event at the Hammersmith Apollo, until I searched Viagogo on a whim and found some affordable seats.

The atmosphere at the venue last Friday was electric, the excitement tangible. The evening opened with a montage of many of Pacino's best known performances and hoots and applause filled the space. When the man himself appeared on stage there was a standing ovation, a fitting reaction to one of cinema's most iconic actors. Joining him as interviewer was Britain's beloved film critic Mark Kermode, a man whose knowledge of cinema made him an apt match for Pacino. 

There is always a slight worry when seeing one's heroes for the first time. Will they live up to perceptions or will their talent be undermined? As Pacino thanked the audience it soon became clear that we needn't have worried. Humble, gracious and witty, we were in for an incredibly special evening, and one which proved to be one of the best events I've attended since moving to London.

Talking about his career, starting out in the Actors Studio, getting cast in The Godfather at the insistence of Francis Ford Coppola, we were gifted a real insight into Pacino's rise to fame. It was wonderful to hear of his feelings of inadequacy and inexperience as he did his best to play Michael Corleone in the 1972 hit. He even admitted to wanting to be fired he felt so out of his depth among the rest of the cast. While we sat listening raptly to his every word, I couldn't help but feel that despite his ridiculous fame he was incredibly down to earth.

The evening was broken up with clips from some of Pacino's other performances, including the recently released Danny Collins. Time was allowed for discussion of his foray into directing, including his documentaries Looking For Richard and Wilde Salomé. What was clear throughout, was the respect Pacino has for his fellow actors and co-stars. He seemed more willing to shower praise on others than dwell on his own success.

As the night drew to a close, following a series of banal audience questions (I mean seriously, who stands in front of one of the greatest screen actors of all time and asks about what he does to stay in shape?), Pacino concluded the show with a haunting rendition of a poem by Oscar Wilde: The Ballad of Reading Gaol. It was a fitting conclusion to an amazing evening and gave us a taste of what it would be like to see Pacino in a theatrical production.


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