Sunday, 21 June 1998

Amy's View, MTC, June 21, 1998

Amy's View by David Hare
MTC at Playhouse until July 18, 1998
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Reviewed around 20 June 1998

Since the late 60's, British playwright David Hare has written full and layered roles for women. Hare’s roles on stage and screen have been played by Vanessa Redgrave, Judi Dench and Meryl Streep.

The central role in Amy's View, directed by Simon Phillips, is, ironically, not Amy but her bohemian actress mother, Esme Allen, She is played with dignity and empathy by the virtuoso Robin Nevin who demonstrates what Hare describes as the great gift of actors to not only do the line but play the interior thought with layered detail.

There are fine cameos from seasoned performers, Patricia Kennedy and Donald Macdonald.

This naturalistic, quite conservative play is staged on a realistic set by Dale Ferguson. In four acts, it maps the life of Esme from 1979 to 1995, beginning in her comfortable middle-class Berkshire living room and ending in the dressing room of a scruffy West End alternative theatre.

The play, astonishingly for an originally political writer such as Hare, makes no overt reference to Thatcher's economic rationalism although it shows Esme as a victim of the financial collapse of the late 80's and the unlimited liability of the wealthy "names" who underwrote Lloyd's of London.

The third and fourth acts are more dramatic and dynamic with the focus on Esme. The first half concentrates on Amy (Vivienne Walshe), Esme's dull, decisive, albeit successful daughter and her deceptively positive relationship with her widowed mother. Esme secretly does not approve of Amy's new partner, Dominic, (Simon Bossell) an angry and rising TV arts critic. In these two acts, the younger actors look uncomfortable and Walshe's acting is often mannered.

At this stage the play is about the backlash of youth against conservative art and the irrelevance of the theatre in a culture obsessed with rapid screen imagery Dominic and Esme stand at opposite ends of the battle field, Esme fighting with her refined and tasteful aloofness and Dominic with his vitriolic and resentful tongue.

After interval the dramatic tension increases and the stakes are raised. It is now about the declining fortunes of a well-heeled and successful actress, the irresponsible actions of major financial organisations and the refusal of the English upper-class to accept that its fortunes have altered irrevocably.

Finally, there is some sense of resolution for Esme and her family after all the betrayal and loss and misunderstanding and love. It is the personal lives of the characters that are important. In the end, the rest is just theatre, not life and death.


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