Sand in the Sandwiches

By Hugh Whitemore

Theatre Royal Bath

Until Saturday

JOHN Betjeman was probably one of our most accessible poets. He wrote about everyday experiences with warmth and wit, lifting them out of the ordinary.

Edward Fox is languid and charming as the one-time Poet Laureate, perfectly capturing his impish irreverence in the face of snobbery or arrogance and his zeal for the preservation of railways, old buildings and Englishness.

A simple set, hinting at the sea shore of the poet’s beloved Cornwall, in the background, is enhanced by subtle lighting. The play’s title comes from his poem Trebetherick, recalling childhood holidays in Cornwall.

Hugh Whitemore’s insightful script leads the audience through the richly varied paths of Betjeman’s life and loves in a measured solo performance by Fox, in the second production of the Theatre Royal’s summer season.

It is often very funny indeed, many of Betjeman’s jokes are at his own expense, and moving as the poet perceives his lack of achievement in middle age compared to his contemporaries.

He had the last laugh with his knighthood and eventual elevation to Laureate.