Blue play is chic, not shocking
First Night: The Blue Room Donmar Warehouse London
Wednesday 23 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. The play's ten roles of coupling couples are played by two actors - Iain Glenn and Nicole Kidman.
In the opening scene Kidman is waiflike and scrawny, looking startling like a Nineties rethink of Twiggy with vowels to match. She's chatted up by Glenn'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 carefully contrived daisy-chain of brief encounters. 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.
We see the lust, the leading-on, the luring, but not the act. Everything cuts to blackout and is wittily followed by the timing of the act being flashed up on the back wall. Given the often wildly mismatched pairings, it's not surprising that these range between hours and, funniest of all, the zero seconds of premature ejaculation.
It is no surprise that this updated and very free adaptation comes from David Hare. Glenn plays Hare's men as increasingly removed and feckless or, as with the deliciously played romantic playwright, supremely self- absorbed.
By contrast Kidman's superbly differentiated gallery of women - from skittish, deer-like prostitute to an hilariously grand, throaty actress - all turn out to be victims.
For all the production's sheer wit and beautifully played brio you cannot escape the sensation that we've been here before.
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