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Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Burstyn’

Another day, another 30’s American drama……and even though it also suffered from a slow first half (is it me? am I getting impatient?) it was a lot better than yesterday’s.

Lillian Hellman’s play concerns two female teachers whose lives are ruined after accusations, based on hearsay and lies, that they are lesbian lovers…but it’s really much more than that. Like Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, it is many-layered in its exploration of the wider moral issues. It struck me how nothing has changed in  75 years – we’re still awash with false accusations which by the time they are proved wrong, it’s just too late and we’re still very quick to judge. It also struck me that this was 20 years before Miller’s play, so it must surely have been an influence.

Apart from the slowness of the first half (the play rather than the production, I think) Ian Rickson’s direction is masterly and it gripped me more than Howard Davies’ NT’s staging c.17 years ago. The pivotal scene soon after the interval when the teachers visit their accuser is simply terrific. Mark Thompson has designed an elegant space which easily transforms from working school to home to mothballed school and has an intimacy and intensity despite the height he seems so fond of (c/f La Bete at the same theatre last year).

I was impressed by the whole ensemble. The six leads – Keira Knightly, Elizabeth Moss, Ellen Burstyn, Carol Kane, Tobias Menzies and Bryony Hannah – were well cast and well matched and it was great to see the West End debut of no less than seven young actresses, of whom Amy Dawson and Lisa Backwell impressed greatly. It was particularly wonderful to see Ellen Burstyn on stage – such presence and such authority; a terrific performance

This is no star casting money grab. Though it has and will clearly do well financially, it’s a quality play and production that holds its own up against the other current must-sees – Flare Path, Clybourne Park and Cause Celebre.

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