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|A CurtainUp London Review
The Country Girl
Life with him is three quarters the avoidance of painful scenes. He's taught me to be a fish, to swim in any direction, including up, down, and sideways. — Georgie Elgin
Clifford Odets' play The Country Girl centres on the relationship between an actor who is a drunk and his co-dependent wife who props him up in his last chance acting role. Martin Shaw is returning to the same theatre to this play in which he acted 27 years ago as Bernie the director, but now he plays the once great actor Frank Elgin, broken down by alcoholism. Jenny Seagrove plays Georgie his repressed or depressed wife.
Martin Shaw as Frank and Jenny Seagrove as Georgie (Photo: Keith Pattison)
Some returns are never a good idea and try as I might I found Jenny Seagrove's performance on stage so turgidly controlled as to be merely depressing. I am a huge fan of director Rufus Norris' work but Clifford Odets' 1950 play just doesn't row my boat in this production.
Mark Letheren does his best with the young enthusiastic director Bernie Dodd who has seen Frank deliver great performances and who, against the odds, wants him to step up to the mark in his new play touring in Boston before it hits New York. I liked Nicholas Day's cameo as Phil Cook, the producer who needs to be convinced that Dodd's decision is not a dud one.
I couldn't believe in any of the relationships and certainly not in the implied romantic frisson there is meant to be between Bernie Dodds and Georgie Eliot. The height difference doesn't help the sexual chemistry with Letheren being considerably shorter than Seagrove. If you don't care about the characters, if you can't identify with them, then the point to Odets' play is lost. Shaw plays the irascible and unreasonable drunk passably well, at least giving us a reason for believing why Georgia may be a victim of domestic violence and abuse.
Initially the set seems finely detailed with the paraphernalia of backstage adornment but once the scenes change and other partial pieces of wall and doors start to be clunkily dropped into place, the actors are not helped by any suspension of disbelief. I cannot see this running until February next year.
For Elyse Sommer's review of this play in New York with Morgan Freeman go here
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|The Country Girl
Written by Clifford Odets
Directed by Rufus Norris
Starring: Jenny Seagrove, Martin Shaw. Mark Letrheren
With: Nicholas Day, Peter Harding, Luke Shaw, Thomasin Rand, Tom Cornish
Set Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Jonathan Lipman
Lighting: Mark Howett
Sound: Ben Harrison
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4658
Booking to 26 February 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 13th October 2010 performance at The Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1V 7HD (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
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