Bridge Theatre, London – until 26 October 2019
You might well cross your arms and look as grumpy as Zoë Wanamaker here. Ultimately, Nancy Harris’ new play Two Ladies proves to be symptomatic of the Bridge Theatre as a whole – brimming with quality and superficially appealing but frustrating in the end and one really is left questioning what is being brought to London’s theatre ecology here.
On the one hand, it is great that plays putting women front and centre like this are being produced in such a high profile way. And as this pair of presidential first ladies, Wanamaker and Zrinka Cvitešić (a welcome returnee after Once) both bring a powerful sense of personality to the stage as their unique political perspective is given room to flourish.
But from intriguing beginnings, such promise is squandered. Harris’ plotting grows steadily more haywire for no good reason at all. And her decision to draw such close parallels to Melania Trump and Brigitte Macron both stifles dramatic potential and neuters any larger point the play might have hoped to make. And again, that ending, sheesh.
Nicholas Hytner’s production does little to address any of the critical issues. And considering it is his theatre, it is surprising that once again a play feels so ill-suited to this space (cf Nightfall), despite the best efforts of Anna Fleischle’s design. The much-vaunted flexibility of this auditorium (which has had its moments) does little to mitigate its cavernousness and that’s something no amount of macaroon-scented air can address.