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Indy Lifestyle Online
The Homecoming

National Theatre, London

(0171-928 2252) from Friday

When the flawless face of Grace Kelly floods the screen in Rear Window as she leans down to kiss James Stewart, we feel she is about to kiss us. It's the most thrilling moment in the film. Hitchcock subscribed to Anita Loos's famous dictum, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". His brunettes were losers, or bad, or both.

Not everyone thinks that way. Harold Pinter wrote any number of roles for the dark-haired Vivien Merchant, who starred in the initial production of his play , first performed by the RSC in 1965. It also starred Ian Holm, whose real-life, dark-haired wife, Penelope Wilton, subsequently played the woman at the centre of Pinter's 1978 play, Betrayal. The pair of them starred in the author's mesmerising production of his play Landscape at the Dublin Festival, and subsequently the National.

Last year, Pinter pitched camp at the Royal Court, directing his play Ashes to Ashes with Stephen Rea and Lindsay Duncan. Shock, horror! She's blonde. Spotted dining with Rea and Pinter at The Ivy during rehearsals, the three of them seemed to be having a whale of a time. The play itself received mixed reviews, but Duncan's magnetic, still performance attracted superlatives. Duncan is most famous for her Olivier award-winning role as Madame de Merteuil in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, another role which utilised her cool, exacting veneer masking deep passions boiling beneath the surface. Those passions were more to the fore when she played Maggie in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof at the National in 1988, nabbing the Evening Standard Best Actress Award into the bargain. Thus, despite her hair colouring, all the other omens are good for her return there when she plays the Vivien Merchant role of Ruth in .

The other good news is that the revival is in the hands of the meticulous Roger Michell, director of the wonderful BBC Persuasion and Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg. Strangely, his CV neglects to mention his 1985 production of Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. A terse, tough, tart play, it shone in Michell's hands with a cast including Michael Feast and Patricia Northcott, an early demonstration of Michell's ability to weld actors together for the unified playing of a text. Sounds obvious, but it's alarmingly rare.

As for Sexual Perversity, it became a distinctly flaccid film, About Last Night, but then I don't think Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were born to play Mamet, do you?

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