(Seen at the afternoon performance on 21st October 2017). This is a
strange dish indeed. The "play within a play" proves the more compelling of the
work; the few times the production caught fire were when the characters were
playing characters in a strange dance of passionless submission and domination.
Vanda (Natalie Dormer - moulting like a Labrador in spring, either requiring
a new wig or urgent alopecia treatment) switches from standard-issue "dizzy New
York actress with attitude" into "sophisticate" role with an ease that
eventually convinced the monkey that there was more talent than on first
Thomas (David Oakes) is another cardboard cut-out, "struggling writer with
wealthy, clever fiancée" into "oh, I can act and be manipulated without
Patrick Marber manages to stage the whole thing despite the static Ives
script, though Rob Howell's somewhat extravagant set and the not-really-required
(and also not very alluring anyway) skimpy costume for Ms Dormer make for an
even heavier weight for the writing to pull.
For the monkey, it didn't really go anywhere much. The conclusion seemed
forced, almost added because the author couldn't think of another way to make
his point. The power struggles lacked eroticism along the way, and nothing of
the topic is truly explored - the opportunities limited by the decision to
concentrate on character story development (such as it is) instead. The final
idea is trite - and somewhat contradicted by the production itself - so marks
lost for that too.
Probably the kind of evening for those who consider "Fifty Shades" edgy, and
don't mind paying a lot for a starry 90 minute play because they see few anyway.
It's around the 2.5 star mark for the monkey, is it's final conclusion.