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A CurtainUp London Review
His Girl Friday
by Lizzie Loveridge
Although the same elements of the story are there as in The Front Page, the romantic element takes some of the edge off Hecht and MacAlexander's study of newspaper journalism with a glance at the corruption of politicians. Guare has set the play in 1939 as Europe is poised on the verge of war but this is less important to the Chicago reporters than the escape of Earl Holub, the man accused of murdering a black policeman on the night before he is due to be hanged. The evening becomes more quick fire comedy, brilliant repartee between its stars, Zoë Wanamaker as Hildy Johnson and Alex Jennings as her editor and ex, Walter Burns than serious comment on the methods of ruthless reporters and the nature of story gathering press.
American director Jack O'Brien guests at the National for this production. With the only colour on the set the pale faces of the cast, the play is set as a play within a black and white film, or at least a film set. Everything is shown in monochrome. The film set is a beautifully detailed reporters' room attached to a Chicago courthouse and jail with its pedestal telephones and roll top desk. The men in hats and suits with loud ties play cards to pass the time in moments of calm before the frantic reaction to a breaking news story.
Zoe Wanamaker as Hildy is the kind of girl who can beat the men at poker and at ferreting out a story. With her deep husky voice, she has printers' ink running through her veins, is as tough as it gets and patently unsuited to be marrying mother's boy Bruce Baldwin (Richard Lintern) with whom she plans to move to Albany, New York State. Costume have perched a small hat on top of her piled up hair as much cheekiness as fashion statement. Wannamaker is excellent with great comic timing and cute too. Alex Jennings is perhaps not as forceful as my idea of Walter Burns but his tall lanky presence left me in no doubt from the start what the romantic conclusion would be. Hildy compares their relationship to that of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. "She gave him sex and he gave her class". Margaret Tyzack threatens to steal the show as Mrs Baldwin, the mother in law to be from hell, as does Sam Beazley as the befuddled, aged priest who is looking for Death Row.
There is plenty to laugh at, mostly one liners, but I was left feeling dissatisfied at the farcical elements and wanting more serious comment about journalism. Maybe I need to see The Front Page?
Mendes at the Donmar
Peter Ackroyd's History of London: The Biography
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
At This Theater
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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