IT’S ALL TRUE
by Jason Sherman.
White Bear Theatre 138 Kennington Park Road SE11 4DJ To 8 September 2012.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Sun 5.30pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7793 9193.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 August.
Energetically gripping account of Genius v Bureaucracy.
Until recently the highest-rated film in history, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane is about the pursuit of truth concerning a newspaper magnate, the famous ‘Rosebud’ identity only revealed at the end to viewers, and never to the characters searching for it. Three years earlier, through its opening news style plus either accident or design of timing, Orson’s radio adaptation of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds apparently had a slice of America believing aliens were invading. And a year before that, in 1937, Welles directed Marc Blitzstein’s political musical, The Cradle Will Rock.
One Underground stop from Canadian dramatist Jason Sherman’s 1999 play at the White Bear, BFI Southbank is screening Welles’ 1975 ‘documentary’ F for Fake. It’s as well to remember the mix of fact and fake in connection with Welles. Sherman makes it seem less a matter of truth or lies, more one of Orson against the world. With supreme force of personality and certainty of purpose, what Welles wants becomes reality for him. When Blitzstein angrily accuses him of removing the musical’s political punch for showbiz effect, Welles doesn’t acknowledge any sense of betrayal, for no-one else’s view has any objective existence to be betrayed.
David Cottis rightly lets his cast go all-out for energy, but graduates it to distinguish between the giant egos in the production and quieter voices. Especially Loriel Medynski’s Olive, a willing, hard-working performer forced reluctantly to desert the production because Welles’ whole project is government-funded, and when the plug is pulled continued involvement means loss of social security payments (a story element that brings matters frighteningly close to Coalition England).
Beside government, actors’ and musicians’ unions vetoed the show at the last minute – Sherman’s base setting is the day of the first, sold-out preview, just as the theatre’s taken from them.
He follows events that led historically to Cradle’s unorthodox first performance. The whole production carries conviction, with strong work especially from Elizabeth Guterbock (particularly as stage manager Jean), and Edward Elgood who captures the facial expression – shrewdness and purpose – of the young Welles with the determination and charisma that lie behind.
Marc Blitzstein: Ian Mairs.
Orson Welles: Edward Elgood.
John Houseman: Sam Child.
Jean Rosenthal/Virginia Welles: Elizabeth Guterbock.
Howard Da Silva: Robert Durbin.
Eva Blitzstein/Olive Stanton: Loriel Medynski.
Director: David Cottis.
Designer: Andy Robinson.
Lighting: Mathew Breslin.
Songs: Dan Horsburgh.
Additional music/Pianist: Jonathan Cohen.
Mime: Martin Ward.