Theatre: Woman on the verge of a telephone call

THIS CRITIC would queue to see Amanda Harris perform the shipping forecast. Indeed, there were moments during Take the Fire when I began to think it would have been preferable. The evening consists of four monologues by Jean Cocteau, in whose works the charlatan and the genius tantalisingly weave and dart. Unfortunately, when he composed these, the genius seems to have been en vacances.

On a bare stage and in a trim black two-piece Ms Harris begins and ends the proceedings lying full length by a silent telephone - the archetypal image of womanhood kept on humiliating hold by a two-timing bastard. Well, I say womanhood, but gay male emotion appears to have projected itself so massively on to these monologuing dames as to have the effect of virtually reducing them to a victim-complex got up in the defiant glad rags of drag.

Or rather it would, if it weren't for the warmly attractive talents of Ms Harris who is all the more moving for heightening the droll intelligence behind the pained sensual flounce and desperation. Her performance is subtly and winningly camp, only because camp is one strategy for coping with the unseen or silent men in the plays; the saving charm is that you don't feel the actress is being camp as a way of coping with that other oppressive male, Jean Cocteau. No one can flash a smile of more radiant raunch than Ms Harris or convince you that she is amusing some private part of herself as well as others.

My favourite piece was "The Dame of Monte Carlo", a ballad in syncopated rhyming couplets about a woman on the game at the gaming tables, a reckless gambler who is eventually exposed and thrust out. The other items in Paul Garrington's artfully shaded production strike me as poorer versions of other works - Le Bel Indifferent is inferior to both Cocteau's own La Voix Humain and to any number of plays in its understanding of the power relations between a couple where one does all the talking. Here, the actress- mistress hurls herself against the rock of her lover's silence. Jabbering away to diminishing returns, Ms Harris comically progresses to the tragic end of her tether via a series of spot-on theatrical impersonations - from a Tennessee Williams faded belle to a Fie, Madam beauty-spotted heroine.

All very accomplished, but as I remarked to a female colleague on the way out, it will be nice to see Amanda Harris playing a woman again.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk