Review – All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre

Friday 8 March 2019

There’s a cheeky story about the making of the 195O film classic All About Eve. Phil’s tried to find it on t’internet but all he could come up with was this 14 bumpy facts about All About Eve page. Worth-reading though.

Anyhoo he’ll deliver the story from his rather shaky memory as best he can. George Sanders (Addison deWitt in the film) was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor at the time and his newish wife was constantly turning up on the San Francisco film set to check up on him (well he was filming with Marilyn Monroe) and wanting Sanders to take her out shopping, to which the film’s writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz allegedly snapped “Fuck off Zsa Zsa we’re trying to make a movie here”. We’d love to believe it’s true.

But back to this tricky new version. A stellar cast tackling the near-perfection of one of Phil’s all time favourite films and all corralled by gimmick-meister Ivo van Hove ? It could only end in tears surely?

How we laughed as we ticked off the van Hove clichés one by one. Had vH’s designer partner, Jan Versweyveld been inspired to come up with a basic plain box set? Tick. Do technicians with hand-held camera’s irritatingly stalk the performers? Tick. Are there video screens showing key scenes that happen off stage? Tick. Get a grip Mr van Hove – your once innovative ideas are beginning to look rather tired and hackneyed. There’s a brilliant film version already, people think they are coming to see a play.

Perhaps we could have done without Gillian Anderson, as Margot Channing, throwing up in a toilet bowl (on film). Perhaps watching her staring into her make up mirror and visibly turning into Vanessa Redgrave ageing (on film) is a gimmick too far? And yet, overcoming these prejudices, and somehow putting the irritation of the PJ Harvey’s intrusive background music to the back of our minds the show slowly manages to take a grip. Ignore the many irritants and enjoy the deliciously starry casting, the sparkle of the original’s screenplay – to which this is thankfully very faithful – and enormous pleasures lurk within.

You know the story of the ageing acclaimed Broadway actress usurped by a young pretender to her stage throne – Eve Harrington (Lily James, very impressive). And if you’ve never seen it then what on earth are you doing wasting time reading this? Watch it immediately and then get back to us.

This show had been on our radar for some time. Care Blanchett was originally mooted as Margot. She’s currently and literally tied up in that rubbish at the National. Poor thing. Anderson’s Margot is elegant and subtle and so far away from Bette Davis that it might even be acceptable to Joan Crawford.

Monica Dolan – challenging Olivia Colman for ubiquity – is splendid as Karen, best friend and keeper of the Margo flame. She produces a flood of Olivier Award nomination- worthy real tears. And on the stage. Actually in front of us. Not on film! Sheila Reid is gifted some cracking lines as Margot’s watchful dresser, Julian Ovenden is Margot’s love interest and director, and Rhashan Stone is quietly likeable as a playwright who presumably spends more time lifting weights than dusty volumes of academia.

Stanley Townsend looks like he’s having a ball as the acerbic critic, Addison DeWitt. After Anderson he probably has the toughest job of eradicating memories of the original (Sanders), this he does most successfully. From his opening lines you know we’re in safe hands.

And you wait ages for a show featuring silver numerical birthday balloons and you get two in the West End at once (cf Company). Could this be the latest theatrical trend?

With the only tickets left now at £150 and £175 it matters not a jot that we found it mostly rather enjoyable. What were the odds?

Next time though perhaps Ivo and Jan might care to think outside their box for once. 





One Response to “Review – All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre”

  1. Charles Says:

    Gentlemen, you’ve outdone yourselves with this one! Enormously entertaining review for anyone who knows the film.

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