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A CurtainUp London Review
What is it that ties Hare’s plays together? Is it a sense of Britishness, a kind of British interpretative slant on existentialism, a sense of "carrying on carrying on" in the face of adversity and towards an inevitable decline? Is it a powerlessness of all the players to change anything fundamental? Are we nice people, well intentioned but unable to dance anything other than the dance steps we learnt as a child?
Amy’s View may be of special interest to directors because it is about an actress and theatre. Dominic (Ryan Kiggell) tells Esme that theatre is dead and television is the way forward. Later we see Esme’s hilarious description of her part in a medical soap opera where it is as if, not just the audience believe these are real people, but the actress too has forgotten that she is acting!
Felicity Kendal brings lots of interesting contradiction to the role. In the first and second acts we have no doubt that she is selfish and self centred but she is powerful and financially independent. Her telling her daughter’s boyfriend that Amy is pregnant is interfering and a terrible betrayal of her daughter’s confidence. In the last act Esme is a more sympathetic character, brought down financially and forever liable so that she can never be free of debt. We also hear that she has lost Amy but the playwright is silent on what trauma the family suffered. The outlook too is poor for Esme as we see her mother Evelyn (Antonia Pemberton) descend into senility and dependency. Jenna Russell as Amy is an innocent, all wide eyed naivete and as doomed as her view. She does seem on occasions more mature than her more volatile mother. Ryan Kiggell as Dominic shows how he is destroyed by the very thing that brought him career success as he attempts to repair relations with Esme in the final act. Gawn Grainger is the slimy investor who survives the Lloyds debacle
The sets are evocative – the cottagey house in Berkshire is overstuffed with the belongings and art work of several generations and the West End theatre dressing room where Esme ends up is pokey and shabby.
With musicals outnumbering plays in the current West End some of the messages about the state of theatre drive home a point David Hare could not have known he might make in 1997. Amy’s View may not just be representative of a passing generation but of straight modern plays which could soon be rarities.
Editor's Note: I am posting the review of this revival just a day before I'm scheduled to see Mr. Hare's newest play, The Vertical Hour, which unlike his other work is having it's world premiere on Broadway. I am therefore including a link to that review even though it won't be activated until the official opening — The Vertical Hour.. For a review of Judy Dench in the Broadway production of Amy's View, go here.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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