Bit of a crush

In the long, quiet evenings, when the Bombay Sapphire fumes mingle with the sweet opiate scent of dead dreams, I am apt to have an intimation of my future self as a white-haired, chiffon-draped, Soho gin-hag who rises at three to dine on Turkish delight and the memories of her one big success at the Donmar ('Micky Grandage couldn't give notes for weeping'), devoting her days to 'bringing on' taut young men in tights with a penchant for pentameter.

If that happy day were upon us now, Tobias Menzies would be Head Boy of my harem of thespian talent.

He is the only actor to hold his own against Timothy Spall in Pierrepoint, Adrian Shergold's quiet masterpiece about the last hangman in Britain. Spall's performance is one of such subtle, layered brilliance - both meatily concrete and profoundly delicate, an iron-flavoured millefeuille of blood, belief and bewilderment - that even Juliet Stevenson, as his wife, simply scrabbles at the edges of his epic, understated Albert.

Menzies appears in a few brief scenes as Lieutentant Llewellyn, Pierrepoint's traumatised temporary assistant executioner in the German war camps, and manages to shine by matching Spall's self-absorption. Beautifuly understated and with that rare ability to hold a silence, he speaks his few, tight-lipped lines from the depth of one disoriented, despairing, dignified soul to another.

Equally memorable as Brutus in Rome and William Elliot in that quivery-lipped Persuasion, Menzies has that intriguing, versatile ugly beauty (a kind of cross between Guy Henry and Benedict Cumberbatch) which should secure a long and successful career quite unlike my own anticipated degeneration into obscurity, alcoholism and perversion.

He does sound a bit like a newsagent though.