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Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Wednesday, 8 October 2008 11:42 UK
Walliams makes West End debut

By Jonathan Blake
Newsbeat reporter

Little Britain star David Walliams has made his West End debut in a version of Harold Pinter's acclaimed play, No Man's Land.

Newsbeat reporter Jonathan Blake took his seat among the critics and celebrities on the opening night.


As the bell rang for the audience to take their seats, Russell Brand sat sipping his bottle of water through a straw a few rows from the front.

Cast of No Man's Land
Walliams stars alongside actors including Michael Gambon (front)
Not far away, Eddie Izzard studied his programme whilst people shuffled past to take their seats.

When the lights went down and silence fell, it was clear this was no ordinary opening night.

Little Britain star David Walliams was about to leave women's clothes and fat suits behind for a while and play it straight on the West End stage.

And the play he's chosen, No Man's Land by Harold Pinter, is about as far away from catchphrase comedy as you can get.

There is a lot of conversation, with plenty of dramatic pauses, but very little actually happens.

With any play by Pinter, who for many is the greatest living playwright, the audience can struggle to work out what is going on.

But that doesn't stop this production, which also stars Michael Gambon, who plays Professor Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films, being tense and at times, very funny.

Engaging performnace

We first see Walliams, 37, stride on stage about half an hour in, returning to his master's house to find a strange man sitting and drinking.

His character, Foster, is well dressed, confident and ever so slightly camp.

No Man's Land billboard
David Walliams proves he can do 'serious' acting in No Man's Land
For a moment it was hard not to expect him to flick his hair and declare his love for the prime minister.

But only for a moment. Because Walliams quickly brings his character to life as a menacing, unpredictable man serving the rich old drunk he works for as a henchman.

Speaking in a softened cockney accent, he gets a laugh or two with his subtle comic timing.

And although it's a long way from running around pretending to be rubbish transvestite Emily Howard or mad Scot, Ray McCooney, his performance is engaging.

Celebs' verdict

Celebrities, sat among the critics and theatre students in the audience, were impressed.

Comedian Eddie Izzard told Newsbeat: "I thought they were very good, I love Michael Gambon and he did great, and I thought David Walliams did great as well."

I thought they were very good... I thought David Walliams did great as well
Eddie Izzard

Dominic Cooper, who recently starred in the film version of the West End musical Mamma Mia!, told Newsbeat it was a brave move for David Walliams.

He said: "In at the deep end, but he was wonderful. Brilliant on stage, had a wonderful presence and was perfect for the role."

But although David Walliams might be the name that's getting everyone's attention, the real star of the show is Michael Gambon.

He made the audience roar with laughter with a single glance, and moments later had them gasping with sympathy.

At the end of the show, the cast lapped up enthusiastic applause, and laughed when David Walliams got confused about how many bows to take.

Maybe it was nerves, or maybe relief that at least the beginning of his 'straight acting' career was over.

No Man's Land is currently showing at the Duke of York's theatre, London.



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