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ANDREW CROWTHER: Bunthorne is the Aesthetic Poet everyone goes on about, but in my experience of productions it's always Grosvenor who gets the biggest laughs. Also, he has the advantage of being almost likeable. Bunthorne is arrogant, cruel, utterly selfish a crotchety, cracked young man. He's got some good lines, but really he's a nasty bit of work. Does anyone actually like him?
Grosvenor may be a very Narcissus, but you can't help warming to him... I suppose because he's more of a fool than a knave.
HENRY ODUM: Well - I don't know if I particularly like him (the character that is I think it's a great role), but I think we can find him pitiable in a comic sense of course!
The poor wretched fellow is a slave to his overwhelming/overweening desire to be liked well... more than simply liked adored! And in that, I think we see a fault that is all too often observed often among some of our own "celebrities" be they in the Arts, Sports, or Politics.
And what's so funny (I think) is that Bunthorne knows it's true: "...my medievalism's affectation, born of a morbid love of admiration!" and yet can't seem to help himself! He even admits to Patience that he doesn't like poetry and while he could be saying that just as a ruse to win Patience over, I think it's funnier if we feel he really means it. But he just can't let go of all that attention he's stuck in a rut of his own making... and just can't bear to lose the fawning adoration of all those lovesick maidens!
Adoration at all costs, seems to be Bunthorne's motto and in the end we see where it gets him to great comic effect. I think he is pitiable but I have to laugh at him all the same! It's a lampoon of a type that sadly is all too familiar (IMHO).
How many celebrities achieve fame by carefully cultivating a "Bad Boy/Shock Jock" or "Material Girl/Bad Girl", (or etc., etc.), image only to eventually become tired of it and the very people who "buy into it", and inevitably start saying: "I'm different than that! I'm really a nice person! Really! That's not really me!" ... or as Bunthorne would say, "I'm not as bilious as I look!"?
Just another reason why, (IMHO) I think Patience is in many ways a timeless work.
ROBERT JONES: I find Bunthorne a likeable character, largely because he's honest with the audience. If he tried to fool us (and Patience) the way he manages to fool the others, I'd have little sympathy for him. His hypocrisy strikes a timeless human chord for me.
AARON HUNT: Some have said that Bunthorne is a disagreeable character, that he gets what is coming to him, that Gilbert was expressing his own distaste for a certain kind of something in Bunthorne, well, my, oh my...
Bunthorne, to my way of thinking, is a naturally effeminate fellow who has been clever enough to forge a career out of his "attributes", made lemonade from the lemons, so to speak. Unfortunately, Bunthorne has lost touch with his own lie, he is not true to "himself". This character has been "acting" so long that he's forgotten that it's an act, and believes himself to be a more "regular" fellow in private than is really the case. This factor is what makes him tragicomic, in much the same vein that I view Point.
This also distinguishes Bunthorne from Grosvenor, in that Grosvenor has really "constructed" his posturing, and is privately a much more typical sort of person.
DAVID CRAVEN: In fact, this is one of the true points and tragedies of Patience. The person who is, in fact, true to his own self is the one who ends up alone and unhappy, while the people who follow Fads and fail to stay the course end up, at least for a while happy... but then the sequel happens... Bunthorne's Revenge...
TOM SHEPARD: I don't think Bunthorne is particularly unhappy at the end; his ego may be slightly bruised, but he has always "loved himself with passion tenderer still."
AARON HUNT: Is the ending really so unhappy for Bunthorne? I wonder... Bunthorne's unhappiness at the ending is, to my ear, "mock", as is Sir Joseph's "Oh, no...don't do that". Neither of these gentlemen is really desperate to be married IMHO.
NEIL ELLENOFF: No reason Bunthorne should be played as effeminate, just affected.
AARON HUNT: I have never seen an actor play affectation without appearing, at least in part, effeminate, as one of the definitions for effeminate in my Webster's is "marked by an unbecoming delicacy or overrefinement". I can't understand how this can be easily done, but if Mr. Ellenoff would like to expand...
The discussion of Bunthorne has included some opinions that Bunthorne is not really affected/effeminate, but is "putting on", and I must restate that I think that this Grosvenor fellow is acting, whereas Bunthorne is not. I base this on the music that Sullivan gives Bunthorne for "breaking the wall", and chatting up the audience. This is pretty, major music, bright and happy in that ringy key of D (I know you all thought I wasn't reading that discussion), and Bunthorne continues to speak poetically, even when unobserved. Sorry, he don't do no changin'. Has anyone actually seen a production where Bunthorne was Oscar Wilde one moment with the chorus women, and Charles Bronson at the first private moment? Bunthorne is what he is, although he thinks he ain't and this is the tragedy.
NEIL ELLENOFF: In America, one way one can sound affected is by affecting a British accent.
MICHAEL WALTERS: Oh charming!! But it reminds me of a letter to The Times last weekend. There had been a discussion about Americanisms that had invaded the British culture. Someone asked if there had been anything that originated in Britain and "caught on" in the States. Someone else replied: "Yes, the English language. Unfortunately it didn't last!"
NEIL ELLENOFF: In Britain, would anybody affect an American southern or western accent?
ED GLAZIER: I think any attempt to play Bunthorne as too sympathetic would make the work more serious than it ought to be. He is not Jack Point, who I believe really loves Elsie. Bunthorne being left alone at the end is not a tragedy; he deserves it. I don't think Bunthorne really loves Patience, or anybody but himself. It's the attention that he craves. Why does he pursue Patience? True, she is refreshingly devoid of the aesthetic excesses of the rest of the women around and Bunthorne admits his distaste for poetry, etc.
However, I think the real reason Bunthorne pursues Patience is simply that she shows no interest in him. It is not enough that all the other maidens love him. He wants everyone to swoon after him.
The pursuit is much more important than the capture. I've played Bunthorne with a similar affected, pseudo British accent that has been mentioned here. In my last traversal of the role, I tried to speak with a much more American accent in the scene of confession to Patience, resuming the affected accent after Patience's final rejection. I have worn a shoulder length wig as Bunthorne. I would like to see a production where Bunthorne's solo takes place in his bedroom and is done, perhaps, in front of a mirror. I would like to remove the wig during the first part of the recit. as he reveals the sham.
NEIL ELLENOFF: Has anyone commented on the "fact" that when choosing the name Bunthorne, Gilbert really meant (pardon the vulgarism) Pain in the ass?
MICHAEL WALTERS: Oh dear!! Really! I'm pretty sure "bun" did not mean that in Gilbert's day.
ELLEN SPEAR: It's a nice speculation, but remember that slang varies greatly from country to country and changes radically over time. Compare "be firm, be firm, my pecker" from Trial by Jury.
Page Created 21 August, 2011