THEATRE / A Brodie of some note: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Strand Theatre

Here's an idea for a theme-party that would get the neighbours talking. The men all come in drag as Miss Jean Brodie, fluting in those prim yet preening Morningside tones, wrists sharply angled out, bearing impossibly erect, court shoes gleaming. The wives all come dressed in gym slips as her 'garulls' - Edinburgh's Marcia Blain School in the comfort of your own living-room.

After all, ever since Maggie Smith played Muriel Spark's dangerous heroine in the film, Miss Brodie has threatened to coarsen into a purely camp turn.

But Patricia Hodge, who now takes brilliant possession of the role in Alan Strachan's revival of the Jay Presson Allen adaptation, lets you see that it's actually a strange form of emotional repression, of a libido gone haywire, that has turned this war-bereaved Thirties spinster into a woman who lives through her elite cadre of disciples, to whom she offers apparent freedom from bourgeois stuffiness but whose destinies she is out to control.

Every nuance of the comedy is there in Miss Hodge's performance, particularly in the marvellous encounters with Edith Macarthur's disapproving headmistress. 'Chrysanthemums - such serviceable flowers,' Hodge declares, glancing at her boss's vase and inflecting the line with such serene disdain you expect the blooms to curl up and die on the spot.

She maintains the balance between what is magnificent in Miss Brodie with superb aplomb, but also gives out early hints of what is incipiently tragic about this 'born fascist'.

If the actress's fragile, bone china beauty serves to make her thoroughly convincing as a sort of teacher who would stir the hormones of pre-pubescent girls, it also brings out the paradoxically ascetic side of Miss Brodie's sensuality. When she slaps her former lover, the art teacher (David Yelland), you can really feel in the unsettling release of tension that this has been their first physical contact for three years. And in her misguided confidence that she's got all her acolytes taped, Hodge lets you see a woman who is as much a danger to herself as to them.

The 'creme de la creme' are a bit low- cholesterol in this production, though Jackie Morrison gives a splendidly judged portrayal of the clever pupil who, recruited to be Miss Brodie's spy, eventually becomes her betrayer. The Presson Allen adaptation, with its clunky flashback structure of the traitor-turned-nun being interviewed about her life years later by an American journalist, has none of the feline deftness of the novel's contrasting flash- forward technique. With sets constantly sliding on and off, the show feels both choppy and lumbering and the final stage picture with Miss Brodie, the nun and her younger self all picked out by spotlight can't be accused of over-subtlety in reminding you of their life-altering inter-relation. The production is worth seeing, though, for Hodge, who unites the audience in a communal schoolgirl crush.

'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', Strand Theatre, London WC2 (071-379 5062)

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen