I saw this play in LA a couple of years back with a cast that was to the manner born for a piece about Hollywood and actors and writers and Southern California politics and all that. They had no accents to deal with and no obscure references to put over. Everyone was on familiar ground. Maybe it was too easy for them. Because, as it turns out, I hadn't really seen the play at all - until I saw it last night at the Old Vic.
This cast and Lindsay Posner's production far exceeds the California crew in talent, intelligence, depth of understanding and, most of all, emotional impact. The revelations that come pouring out in the second act have a visceral kick here that underlines the play's theme of truth and perception and the essential shakiness of the narratives we all live by, and gives the piece a power I never suspected it had first time around.
The cast is wonderful, every one of them, but pride of place goes to Sinead Cusack as Polly Wyeth, the tough no-holds-barred Nancy Reagan-ish Republican wife and mother struggling to control the chaos that surrounds her. It's a controlled performance that grows and grows, letting us in very gradually on the heroic act of suppression that is her life. Peter Egan as Lyman, her ex-actor husband, a decent man weak at the core and propped up by his wife, is a fine partner for her and rises magnificently to the occasion in his big second act scene.
Daniel Lapaine is terrific in the difficult role of the son, essentially out of the loop and trying desperately to be a peacemaker, and Clare Higgins, as one would expect, steals every scene she's in as Polly's acerbic sister with closeted skeletons of her own. Martha Plimpton, as the writer-daughter, the play's catalyst and driving force, is fiercely compelling, perfect. In the LA production it was her character, Brooke, who dominated. But here - for me, at least - it's Cusack's Polly. It speaks well for the play that this can be the case.
A word on the in-the-round staging. We were sitting in the auditorium side and I think we probably did get the best view, especially for the final scene which, of necessity, must face one way. But, in general, an attempt has been made to play to the entire house. And I think part of the felt intensity of the piece is due to this more intimate configuration. Plus, the Old Vic really looks gorgeous like this.
I saw this tonight,and am now intrigued after all the posts on here - individuals saying it's a stinker,whilst also saying that everyone else in the audience was laughing.So I'm assuming the vast majority of people are actually enjoying the show? They certainly seemed to be tonight.A very full looking audience,with a lot of laughing,giggling and applause.
Wodehouse is a very particular style of comedy - it either amuses you or it doesn't. If it doesn't, does that mean it's a bad show, or just a show that's not to your taste? I certainly think it's a bit harsh to say it doesn't deserve a place in the West End. A show in the West End with a brilliant cast working their socks off and making the vast majority of the full house laugh - surely that 's no bad thing?!