(Seen at the afternoon performance on 21st June 2014)
It's always exciting to see a film actor make a stage debut. Carey Mulligan is
considerably more interesting than most. The lady has "stage presence" in
buckets. Compelling to watch her every movement as she storms or drifts around
the stage, concocts a spaghetti dish that smells wonderful even as far back as
stalls row Q where the monkey sat, and forgets to put her slippers on to dash
onto a freezing winter balcony. Yes, she made it seem that real. What was odd
was her delivery. In scenes where she was confident, the lines were natural,
adding layers to an already credible "wealthy girl following her beliefs by
'slumming it'" philosophy. Yet she appeared in other scenes to be almost
robotic, and the monkey watched with interest how she appeared to learn and grow
as a performer with every word spoken. By the end of the run, this lady will no
doubt match co-stars Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard.
For both men produce
something special. Beard, appearing only in the opening and closing scenes,
really knows how to make the most of a small role. His opening defence of rap
music and closing serving of breakfast are model studies of character. Even
better, his mannerisms perfectly relate him to his father, who occupies the
stage the rest of the time.
Bill Nighy is unmissable. Gracious towards Ms
Mulligan professionally, and managing to be the duplicitous weasel his character
is, without pushing into caricature territory, this is very much his evening.
The play itself is a mixture of great humour (gardeners beware!), ideas which
have not dated in the nearly 20 years since it was written... and some really
clunky dialogue at odd moments. As a study of how the wealthy relate to the rest
of society - with Mulligan's Kera very much the interlocutor, the ideas are
strong, yet not particularly developed or explored. On the other hand, since the
relationship is as twisted as Mulligan and Nighy's anyway (as the author may
have intended us to note), and neither are repairable - just ongoingly
exploitative, Hare does well to provide an evening of such involving emotional
The cast is probably one of the finest in the West End at the
moment, the play satisfies if it doesn't exactly dazzle, and this is a ticket
worth fighting for.