Theatre: The blonde enemy within
PLENTY ALBERY THEATRE LONDON
Thursday 29 April 1999
In the wake of Kate Nelligan (Canadian) and Meryl Streep (American), we are now given the Australian actress, Cate Blanchett, who recently made such a magnificent job, in the movie Elizabeth, of redefining our perception of another pretty important example of English womanhood.
But the part of Susan badly defeats her. Indeed, if Kent had gone into the project with the express intention of exposing the weaknesses of what now looks to be a severely overrated play, I don't see what more he could have done - bar, say, cast Ms Blanchett's compatriot, Dame Edna Everidge, and subject her to comparably unprotective direction.
The play is full of reppy, smug satire of English diplomatic circles and other national types. The laughter this invites, though, is as repellantly clubby as the ethos it attacks. An actress needs to make you veer between sympathy for and alienation from Susan and her increasingly crazed, driven superiority to these folk. Her performance should keep you tantalised about the extent to which the character is, on the one hand, a victim of post-1945 disillusion and, on the other, a woman whose fiercely brandished wartime memories are a convenient cover for a pre-existing personality disorder: a constitutional inability to tolerate human intimacy except in the abnormal, ecstatic snatches of dangerous undercover work.
A lean, imposing blonde, Blanchett looks terrific in the mountingly chic frocks worn by Susan as she launches into a more and more hysterical psychiatric exhibitionism. But the actress's erratic, wildly over-italicised attempts at a posh English accent give her performance the air of being a parodic sabotage-job on Susan, as do the sudden alarming accelerations into doubled- up unintelligible apoplexy.
This, I'm afraid, is fatal to the seriousness with which one can take the proceedings. It's excessive to the point where you feel that three weeks trapped in a lift with Hedda Gabler would be a picnic compared to a brief drink with this head-case drag-act.
Plenty patronisingly spells out all its potential subtleties. It's as though the author thinks he's the only person in the country equipped with a moderate intelligence. In 1978, the play looked back at Suez and the moral betrayals of the post-war period. Now, from the perspective of another ethically dubious bout of foreign policy, we look back at that looking back. Hare wonders what the young will make of it. So do I.
Booking: 0171-369 1740. A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
Arts & Ents blogs
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Coriolanus, theatre review: 'Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
Call the Midwife Christmas special: Behind the scenes with Miranda Hart
Justin Bieber's mishaps and controversies
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >