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A CurtainUp London Review
by Joseph Green
First presented in London by the Royal National Theatre and directed by the National's former artistic director, Richard Eyre, Amy's View is almost David Hare's latest play (he has another opening the Almeida Theatre in North London in the next few weeks). It has moved from the National's South Bank venue to the West End's Aldwych Theatre (the former London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company before the Barbican Centre was built in the mid 80s.) where it continues to play to sold out houses.
The play moves in four acts (shades of Ibsen and O'Neill) across several decades. It begins in 1957 with Amy's introduction of her trophy lover to her mother, seeking her approval and asserting her independence. It ends with Esme in her theatre dressing room being visited by Amy's former husband attempting expiation and forgiveness.
Amy's View stars two remarkable actresses. The wonderful and venerable Judi Dench plays Esme Allen, a tired rep actress and mother of the play's title character. Amy is no less effectively played by Samantha Bond -- really a younger version of the estimable Dench -- a wonderfully touching mother/daughter faceoff that carries almost the entire play.
It is a play written by a man for the women's voice -- and it works. Indeed, both major male characters lack the rounded dimensionality of Esme and Amy -- as well as Esme's aging mother-in-law, (played eloquently by Evelyn Thomas), a character who offers gently biting comic relief in the first act and then devolves poignantly into senility as the play progresses. Perhaps it is Eoin McCarthy's inexperience that helps explain the rather thin portrait of Dominic Tyghe, Amy's lover and husband.
Richard Eyre's direction is focused and spare -- a delight to experience. As is the stage design by Bob Crowley whose set skillfully suggests the painterly atmosphere of Esme's late husband (and Amy's father) -- an atmosphere that Hare and Eyre have used to infuse the play with the smell of art -- art as soul and art as decaying humanity.
According to the playwright letters he received about Amy's View represent a wide range of responses to the play -- "a family play, the study of a relationship between a mother and daughter ... A tragedy centered round the deeply mysterious question of why we can never make amends with the people we need to make amends with. An attack on a generation which regards art itself as old-fashioned and elitist ... [And] as a political play, showing how the spoilt British characteristically dream their way through their lives..."
This viewer's response: Well crafted in every dimension, solidly staged and for the most part beautifully performed, it is but more evidence of David Hare's dramatic talent and insight into the human condition.
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