by Penelope Skinner.
Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 9 January 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat & 23 Dec 2.30pm.
no performance 24-28, 31 Dec 1 Jan.
Audio-described 9 Jan 2.30pm.
Captioned 5 Jan
Relaxed 19 Dec 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 December.
Elegant set and committed performances enhance a confident, yet uncertain play.
Not since the Royal Shakespeare Company’s London transfer of Hamlet lost David Tennant as its prince, replaced for several weeks by Edward Bennett, has a major production had to replace so high-profile a lead with a less celebrated, equally fine but sharply contrasting actor.
While Tennant/Bennett differed temperamentally in performance, the difference between Kim Cattrall, the intended Linda, and Noma Dumezweni is also physical.
Would the elegant emerald dress for which wife, mother and fashion brand-manager Linda eventually changes her home-and-office working clothes have been the one Cattrall would have worn? How would it have looked on her as opposed to setting-off Dumezweni’s black colouring?
Why does it matter? Images of Cattrall show her light-coloured hair. Dumezweni wears a black wig over Linda’s short black hair. In a play where a character who believes another’s online comments have lead to men looking at her lubriciously, is told by the glamorously ambitious persecutor, “Every girl gets that. You should try being a blonde!” such things are hard to discount.
Especially when both these characters work alongside Linda at Swan Beauty Corporation, whose premises encase and loom over Linda’s home in Es Devlin’s elegantly glacial, multi-level revolving set.
No-one should feel cheated by Dumezweni’s presence – even while (as last night) she’s still using the script at times. Hers is a fiery performance, intelligent and assertive, articulate in arguing her case, refusing to let-go of reason, turning the agony of events conspiring against her in upon herself.
It must take courage as well as skill to deliver such a clear performance after limited rehearsal. There’s good work all around, though Skinner’s need to develop a thriller-like plot leads to several underdeveloped characters.
It’s hard to understand too, how the apparent theme of older women’s invisibility in Western cultures plays-out. For 55 year-old Linda is central to the story and to the other characters.
Perhaps Michael Longhurst’s production was designed to absorb Cattrall’s performance while Dumezweni remains visible. More likely, as the writing became more concerned with situation and characters, all the talk about this highly visible Linda wiped much of this theme way.
Bridget: Imogen Bryan.
Alice: Karla Crome.
Luke: Jaz Deol.
Linda: Noma Dumezweni.
Amy: Amy Beth Hayes.
Neil: Dominic Mafham.
Stevie: Meriel Plummer.
Dave: Ian Redford.
Director: Michael Longhurst.
Designer: Es Devlin.
Lighting: Lee Curran.
Sound/Composer: Richard Hammarton.
Video: Luke Halls.
Movement: Imogen Knight.
Voice/Dialect: Penny Dyer.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Associate director: Katy Rudd.