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‘Proves that classic mysteries never go out of fashion’: THE LADY VANISHES – Touring

In Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre, Reviews, Scotland, Ticket recommendations, Touring by Lauren HumphreysLeave a Comment

Relatively obscure British crime writer Ethel Lina White’s greatest legacy is her 1936 novel, The Wheel Spins – two years after publication, Alfred Hitchcock directed the film The Lady Vanishes, widely regarded as one of British cinema’s greatest works, based on her book.

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Harvey – Review

In by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London
****
Written by Mary ChaseDirected by Lindsay Posner

Maureen Lipman and James Dreyfus
There are few shows in town more charming than Lindsay Posner’s re-working of this 1940’s all-American fable. Widowed Veta Simmons lodges with her daughter in the home of her wealthy brother Elwood P Dowd. Yet much is amiss, for as Simmons strives to keep up a genteel facade of normality, Dowd’s closest confidante is Harvey, an invisible giant rabbit and much of the play hinges upon the anguish that his behaviour causes to his loved ones. 
This parable of the savant, who in today’s jargon would be classified as somewhere on the autistic spectrum and yet who sees his world with a clarity denied his fellows, has already been explored in Rain Man and Forrest Gump. Yet Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winner preceded those modern classics by some decades and as her Harvey lifts the curtain on a petty-minded small town, so we see Dowd’s noble and chivalrous pursuit of all that is good in life, shine out as a beacon amongst his morally flawed peers, all signed up to the rat-race.
James Dreyfus is Dowd bringing a comic pathos to a beautifully created character. We laugh at the witty excellence of his performance though with a compassionate chuckle rather than the poking of cruel fun at a Bedlam lunatic. Dreyfus convinces us of his belief in Harvey and at the same time plays the straightest of bats as his (and the company’s) pinpoint timing sees the plot’s farcical elements unfold delightfully.
Opposite Dreyfus is Maureen Lipman’s Veta. Amongst the best actors of her generation, Lipman commands our sympathy as she strives to find a suitor for Myrtle Mae her grown daughter, whilst supporting her brother’s mental frailty. We feel her frustration at the difficulties she has to manage, yet at the finale we almost weep at the loving compassion she shows her sibling. Powerful stuff indeed, although glossing over the physical abuse Veta inadvertently suffers in the local sanitarium, as comedy rather than the ghastly brutality that it truly represents, is perhaps the script’s only flaw. It was to be another thirty years before Jack Nicholson’s Randle P. McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was to define how the cruelty of mental institutions should truly be portrayed.
Dreyfus and Lipman lead a marvellous troupe. Ingrid Oliver’s Myrtle Mae nails the awkward self-centredness of a girl on the cusp of womanhood, whilst Sally Scott’s psychiatric Nurse Kelly is a clever portrayal of cutely cognisant compassion. David Bamber is psychiatrist Dr Chumley, a medic who undergoes a Damascene conversion of his own with Bamber giving the complex role the comic mania it deserves. The play’s endgame sees Linal Haft, in a tiny role, play a cab driver whose revelatory monologue moves both hearts and minds. (And those eagle-eyed and over 40 may recall Haft’s Melvyn, the much put-upon son to Lipman’s Beattie in the BT 1980s ad campaign.) 
Peter McKintosh’s set displays an ingenious elegance as interlocking revolves shift the action between home and clinic, whilst meticulous design in both costume and wigs set the time and tone perfectly.
Old fashioned for sure and with American accents that occasionally grate, the show is a curiosity of a production, but nonetheless bravo to the Birmingham Rep and its co-producers for having taken it on the road. When late into the second act, as Dowd reveals that during his lifetime he has known what it is to be “smart” as well as what it is to be profoundly pleasant, it is with a moving wisdom that he reports (and we feel chastened), that “being pleasant” is nicer. An allegory with the feel-good warmth of an adult fairy tale, Harvey makes for excellent theatre performed by a fabulous cast.

Runs until 2nd May 2015

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Review: Hay Fever (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

My first thoughts on seeing the audience shuffling in to the Theatre Royal Brighton for a Thursday matinee were – ‘if there’s a fire, we’re all toast: most of this lot are old enough to have known Noel Coward personally. Or his dad.’ Thoughts of age are inescapable: apart from anything else, today is leading […]

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Review: Hay Fever (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

My first thoughts on seeing the audience shuffling in to the Theatre Royal Brighton for a Thursday matinee were – ‘if there’s a fire, we’re all toast: most of this lot are old enough to have known Noel Coward personally. Or his dad.’ Thoughts of age are inescapable: apart from anything else, today is leading […]

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Review: Gutted (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

We love new writing. We love it even more when a London writer whose work we’ve been following steps up a level: in the same way as David Eldridge’s remarkable In Basildon won him fresh respect at the Royal Court, Rikki Beadle-Blair’s newest script Gutted edges him alongside Mark Ravenhill or Steven Berkoff in the […]

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Review: Gutted (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

We love new writing. We love it even more when a London writer whose work we’ve been following steps up a level: in the same way as David Eldridge’s remarkable In Basildon won him fresh respect at the Royal Court, Rikki Beadle-Blair’s newest script Gutted edges him alongside Mark Ravenhill or Steven Berkoff in the […]

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Review: Glasgow Girls (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

In Musicals, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

Since this is a first London run, as soon as I mentioned on Facebook I was going to Glasgow Girls, everyone asked: “What’s it like?”. A floodgate opened. It’s like Andrea Arnold directed Blood Brothers; likeViva Forever had a political plotline; like Calendar Girls with less leukaemia and more streetdance; like “Springburn Awakening”, if you know […]

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Review: Glasgow Girls (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

In Musicals, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

Since this is a first London run, as soon as I mentioned on Facebook I was going to Glasgow Girls, everyone asked: “What’s it like?”. A floodgate opened. It’s like Andrea Arnold directed Blood Brothers; likeViva Forever had a political plotline; like Calendar Girls with less leukaemia and more streetdance; like “Springburn Awakening”, if you know […]

The post Review: Glasgow Girls (Theatre Royal Stratford East) appeared first on JohnnyFox.

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Review: Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Theatre Royal Haymarket)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

What can you remember of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – Mickey Rooney with an unconvincing set of false teeth and a cringingly awful Chinese accent? Audrey Hepburn cool as a January cucumber in her swept-up chignon, tiara, pearls and yard-long cigarette holder? The gamine, twittery but ultimately loveable party girl around whom New York whirls like […]

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