by Martin Sherman based on the book by Peter Evans.
Novello Theatre Aldwych WC2B 4LD.
Mon-Sat 7.30 Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5170.
Review: Carole Woddis 13 October.
Thoroughly enjoyable if undemanding.
The attraction of power and money gets a good airing in this latest from Martin Sherman, author of Bent, When She Danced and the screenplay for Mrs Henderson Presents. Given a glossy Mediterranean sheen by Shared Experience’s Nancy Meckler, it stars Robert Lindsay as the Greek shipping tycoon who during the 1960s took both Jacqueline Kennedy, the widow of JFK, and Maria Callas, the world’s greatest operatic diva, separately to bed.
Based on Peter Evans’ Onassis biography, Nemesis and co-produced by Derby LIVE, Chichester Festival Theatre and a cohort of independent producers, it heralds an autumn that will also see Judy Garland held up once again for inspection in End of the Rainbow.
From a box office point of view, bio-drama always makes sense. The public’s appetite and desire for insider information on the rich and glamorous seems insatiable.
Where Garland’s life, however, has been raked over time without number, Aristotle Onassis is fresh ground. It was a shrewd move to cast the slim, athletic Robert Lindsay for the far from attractive shipping magnate – a character we’re left in no doubt employed power and ambition with unconscionable unscrupulousness, whether he was dealing in sex or politics.
Lindsay carries the show with a light touch in Meckler’s taverna-touched production. He imbues the Greek dancing, Greek gods invoking Ari with a charm that almost makes him likeable for all the heavy implication of a rancid involvement with the assassination of Bobbie Kennedy, partly out of personal hubris – there were three in the triangle that was Bobbie, Jackie and Aristotle – and partly political and cultural. No love lost between the Democratic Senator and the swashbuckling Turkey born Greek, another play might revealingly have explored their hidden similarities.
But Sherman’s heavily expositional account plays it straight and conventional, giving us the rise and fall of Jackie (sharply played by Lydia Leonard), the sidelining of Anna Francoilini’s Callas (underwritten), the loss of a son and Ari’s ultimate disintegration.
Nice performances from Gawn Grainger and John Hodgkinson as Ari’s loyal assistant contribute to a thoroughly enjoyable if undemanding experience.
Costa: Gawn Grainger.
Dimitra: Sue Kelvin.
Eleni: Liz Crowther.
Theo: Robert Hastie.
Onassis: Robert Lindsay.
Jacqueline: Lydia Leonard.
Yanni: John Hodgkinson.
Maria: Anna Francolini.
Alexandro: Tom Austen.
Musician: Ben Grove.
Musician: Graeme Taylor.
Ensemble: Rachael Barrington, Suanne Braun, Nigel Carrington, Matthew Romain.
Director: Nancy Meckler.
Designer/Costume: Katrina Lindsay.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound: Andrea J Cox.
Sound Consultant: John Leonard
Music: Ilona Sekacz.
Video/Projection: Lorna Heavey.
Choreographer: Lizzi Gee.
Voice Coach: Penny Dyer
Assistant director: Eleanor While.
Onassis opened at Derby Theatre on 9 September 2010.