Theatre: The lust, the leading on, the lure
THE BLUE ROOM DONMAR WAREHOUSE LONDON
Thursday 24 September 1998
If there is any unusual frisson to Sam Mendes's breathlessly chic new production, it isn't because of the frank depiction of dangerous liaisons, but because of the casting. In common with Mike Alfred's feted 1982 production for Shared Experience, the play's 10 couples are played by two actors - Iain Glen and Nicole Kidman.
In the opening scene, on Mark Thompson's spare, elegant blue set, Kidman is waif-like and scrawny, looking startling like a Nineties' rethink of Twiggy with vowels to match.
There's a touching air of vulnerability about her tough, brittle manner as she's chatted up by Glen's cocksure cab driver who refuses to pay for her services as he's "just spent the lot on sushi". Nonetheless, they have sex there and then.
The play is a daisy-chain of encounters, a buffet of gender roles, in which the men rise in status. The second scene sees the cab driver luring an au pair into having sex at a party. Cut to the au pair playing not- so-hard-to-get with the nervous son of smart employers.
Then the son steals time with a politician's wife... and so it goes on. In every instance we see the lust, the leading on, the luring, but not the act.
Everything cuts to blackout with a stab of sound, the fierce crackle of electrocution swiftly and wittily followed by the timing of the act being flashed up on the back wall. It is also no surprise that this updated and very free adaptation comes from David Hare, who has developed a sideline in excellent adaptations of other people's plays from Brecht's Galileo to his superb version of Chekhov's Ivanov. Hare's earliest play, Slag, had an all-female cast, and idealised women are at the heart of nearly all his work, but here he slightly overstates his case. Under Mendes's direction, Glen plays Hare's men as removed and feckless, or supremely self-absorbed.
By contrast, Kidman's marvellously differentiated gallery of women all turn out to be victims. In the penultimate scene an aristocrat calls her a "Bitch", then instantly revises his opinion: "Not a bitch. A goddess." For all the production's cool wit and bravura performances, you get the sensation that we've been here before.
A version of this review appeared in later editions of yesterday's paper.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientists who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 3 Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 4 Meet Thea, Norway's 12-year-old child bride
- 5 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
Breaking Bad season 6 is still not happening
Doctor Who review 'Flatline': Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Alfred Hitchcock's unseen Holocaust documentary to be screened
X Factor 2014 results: Chloe Jasmine and Stephanie Nala sent home
Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'