ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London Review
I enjoyed the many literary references in Theresa Rebeck's play although I found the insensitive and destructive nature of Leonard's comments hard to take. It was especially cruel when he repeatedly made reference to Kate's (Charity Wakefield) story whilst pretending not to remember that the writer he was deriding was in the room with him.
My first reaction as a former lecturer is the number of complaints that would have come from the students in any higher education institution if their lecturer had spoken to them in the way that Leonard does. No matter how respected and prestigious he is, they wouldn't take the annihilation of their work lightly. However we also form opinions of the literary merit or lack of it about the three we hear from, out of the four students.
Kate (Charity Wakefield) hosts the crits class in her rent controlled Manhattan apartment and she is Leonard's first victim with her overly labored take on Jane Austen which she has been working on for years, because each teacher gently mentioned that it needed more work. Of course what Leonard has to say has validity but he delivers it in a particularly crushing way.
Then there is the sex bomb of the group, Izzy (Rebecca Grant) who has flashed her delectable boobs at us several times in the first few minutes of the play and whose bonking novel Leonard finds amusing. Third is Douglas, well connected academically and socially with a famous uncle, but unspeakably pretentious. His descriptions of exteriority and interiority have us wincing in agony, and laughing! A short story in The New Yorker is his target market.
Lez Brotherston's set for the Manhattan apartment is relentlessly symmetrical and formal, not really a comfortable home but a linear place. This turns for the final scene into Leonard's study overflowing with books.
Roger Allam can take on this kind of part with ease and he certainly delivers with the surprising final scene which tells us as much about him as the last student Martin (Bryan Dick), the writer with the most potential. There are good performances all round. Roger Allam is a delight to watch and Charity Wakefield is wonderful in her range of anger and spirit. Bryan Dick conveys Marin's ambivalence well.
It can be argued that Leonard's contribution works for all of his students and the ending is all about him but I was left wondering about whether the results justified these unkindest cuts.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.