Posts Tagged ‘Tsion Habte’

This is one of the most anticipated West End openings this year. A stage adaptation of the iconic 1950 film of the same name, with Gillian Anderson taking Bette Davies’ role and Lily James playing Eve, and the much sought after director Ivo van Hove at the helm. Could it possibly live up to the hype?

Margot is a successful stage actress, surrounded by an entourage that includes the writer, director and producer of her current play, her best friend Karen and companion / maid Birdie. Eve enters her life, a fan who says she attends every performance, brought from outside the stage door by Karen. In no time at all, she’s working for Margot, becomes indispensable, putting Birdie’s nose out of joint but virtually everyone else under her spell. Soon she’s understudying Margot, getting to perform after some tricks and deception, inviting a critic also under her spell to ensure her career takes off.

Such a theatrical story makes an excellent transfer from screen to stage, and at the same time suits Ivo van Hove’s cinematic house style. All of his usual ingredients are here, with live video footage the most significant. The three walls of the multi-purpose room set rise to reveal the real theatre walls painted silver, enclosed bathroom and kitchen, from which we have scenes projected onto the set’s back wall, props, costumes and photos of the star. It feels like both backstage and film set and works brilliantly. There are some real theatrical coup’s, notably Margot ageing before our eyes as she looks in her dressing room mirror, and the photos turned around as Eve’s career progresses.

Gillian Anderson plays Margot with great subtlety, and looks simply stunning. Lily James navigates her manipulative road well, with restraint but steely determination too. It’s a fantastic supporting cast, including a brilliant performance from Monica Dolan as Karen and Stanley Townsend outstanding as the acerbic critic Addison DeWitt, a manipulative match for Eve. Rashan Stone is excellent as playwright Lloyd Richards, Karen’s husband, as is Julian Ovenden as director Bill Sampson, Margot’s boyfriend. There’s a lovely cameo at the end from Tsion Habte as Phoebe, who completes the circle of a deliciously rounded story.

It’s a while before it takes hold of you, but then it doesn’t let go. It resonates in our celebrity obsessed age as much, if not more, than it must have done 69 years ago. The story, the staging & design and the performances come together to ensure it does live up to the hype. In a life-imitates-art moment, the lovely Canadian lady sitting next to me, an avid Gillian Anderson fan, told me before the start she was seeing in three more times during her eight day stay!

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Though I knew what this play was about I wasn’t expecting to be so moved or so horrified by it. 

Both Muna and Iqra are fifteen and come from Somalia, but that’s just about where their similarities end. Muna came here when she was three and she’s now like any other fifteen year old in the UK – western clothes, obsessed with her phone and Rhianna. Iqra came here when she was ten, dresses traditionally, not really mixing with other fifteen year olds. They take the same bus to school, but Muna is upstairs and Iqra downstairs. One day Muna befriends Iqra and confides in her. This is at first reciprocated, but things take a turn when Muna pays an unexpected and unwelcome visit to Iqra’s home.

Iqra accepts her traditions but Muba is horrified by them. She was cut herself and now fears for her younger sister, who is approaching the same age when it happened to her. The two worlds collide as their lives become entwined and the extent of Iqra’s acceptance of tradition is revealed. As they get to know each other it’s a gentle and funny play, but when it confronts FGM it grabs you by the throat and punches you in the stomach, with an extraordinarily moving design coup (Joanna Scotcher) towards the end. The performances of both Adelayo Adedayo and Tsion Habte (an auspicious professional debut) are stunning and deeply moving.

In just 70 minutes, Charlene James’ excellent play confronts this barbaric and entirely unnecessary practice and must be seen, both for understanding the issue and the quality of its writing, staging by Gbolahan Obisesan and performances.

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