Students of deportment and dirty but timid old men will find much to interest them at the Jermyn Street Theatre, where Susie Lindeman is conducting a course in how not to show your knickers. Wearing a black minidress that barely clears her rear, Lindeman repeatedly bends over or sinks on to a low chaise longue but, at the crucial moment, twists her body so that in 70 minutes not once is a millimetre of seam or gusset on view. My female companion and I agreed afterward that never had we stared with such fascination at another woman's bottom.
These interest groups apart, however, I see little reason for anyone but Yasmina Reza (best known as the author of Art) and her entourage to attend Hammerklavier. The one-woman show has been adapted, by Lindeman and the director Mark Kilmurry, from Reza's novel of the same name, which seems to be a long love letter to herself. We hear a string of incidents involving Yasmina - who is sometimes righteous, always adorable - and another person, nearly always a schmuck. Yasmina meets a friend who "is in the midst of separating from his wife and tells me all about his troubles [big smile]... He is suffering, but everybody suffers. I'm listening to him. Aren't I suffering?" Finally, she interrupts to ask a serious question, which he must answer truthfully: what does he think of her necklace? It's awful, he says. "You're right," she tells him, "but from now on we are no longer friends."
Much of evening consists of this sort of pseudo-charming anecdote, which Lindeman, a slender, middle-aged gamine, delivers in a girlish Gallic accent. Looking at her young son, she sighs that in the future the time when "I was everysing to him" will be only a memory. Another friend says that Yasmina is full of energy, a comment contradicted by Lindeman's walking just a few steps this way or that, then posing, eyes wide and lips pursed, to pipe another little story. Everything on the set and in Lindeman's costume is either red or black (black walls, red satin stool, red velvet robe), adding to the preciousness of the enterprise by making her look like a Valentine present in a fancy box.
The exception to Yasmina's effervescent condescension is her father, who is dying of cancer. He summons her to the bathroom, to regard his naked body (this sounds worrying, but it seems that it's only part of the delightful intimacy between them). His shoulders, he says, are like Auschwitz, his belly that of a woman seven months pregnant, his legs those of Conchita (their unattractive maid). He avoids a friend of Yasmina's who is dying of Aids. But then he thrills his daughter by embracing the man and making the transparently false remark that the two are survivors.
One night Yasmina asks her father to get out of bed and play the adagio from Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata for her. (He has previously insisted that she is clever enough to play it herself. "Oh, no, papa," Yasmina tinkles.) He is too weak, and jumbles the notes in "a glutinous mass". Yasmina drowns the noise with a burst of cleansing laughter.
That Reza is indeed clever is not in dispute, given the favourable reception of her plays. But this evening offers no wit - only the batting of her eyelashes and the stamp of her tiny foot.
To 27 September (020-7287 2875)Reuse content