30 March 2012: The King’s Speech, The Duchess of Malfi, The Girl in the Yellow Dress, Vera Vera Vera, Filumena

Weekly review roundup: 30 March 2012


Bit of an odd one this week, with the best-reviewed shows only attracting a handful of reviews, and the most-reviewed shows generally hovering around a three-star average.


The King’s Speech at Wyndham’s Theatre has only collected three reviews so far – but with two four-stars and a five-star, its 4.3 average wins the week. All three reviewers said essentially “it’s much better than it could have been”, with strong praise for Charles Edwards in the title role. Two reviewers even said they preferred Edwards to Colin Firth, feeling that Edwards was a more credible flawed stammerer where Firth had been too robust to be believed. David Seidler’s script, which predated and inspired the film, also gives more space to Lionel Logue as a character independent of his relationship with the future monarch, and Jonathan Hyde uses the time well to create a richer impression.


The five-star was from Quentin Letts, who concluded by saying “I cannot say I liked this more than the film. But I liked it equally. Result.” Runs to 21 July.


The Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic had six reviews, ranging from two stars (Quentin Letts, showing his range) to Michael Coveney (What’s on Stage) giving the full five. The average was about 3.7; while everyone said Eve Best was wonderful in the title role, for some reviewers, the production felt stately rather than smouldering, a traditional remounting rather than a reinvention. The play itself, like so many this season, is a centuries-old story of a woman pursuing an inappropriate relationship and suffering the consequences of society’s approbation; in this case, a 17-century play about a widow in love with a man below her station.


Henry Hitchings (Evening Standard) said Best “combines serenity with great power and passion,” in a “warm performance” which is “lucid and moving.” However, “moments of gravity are signaled a little clumsily” both by the script and by director Jamie Lloyd, who, “in getting his cast to pay so much attention to the density of Webster’s language, loses a sense of intrigue.” (full reviewRuns to 9 June.


Finally, The Girl in the Yellow Dress, at Battersea gem Theatre503, got a 3.5-star average for its two-hander about a cross-cultural attraction blossoming during language lessons. Runs to 14 April.


Falling much closer to a 3-star average were Vera Vera Vera at the Royal Court – the debut of playwright Hayley Squires, about a fallen soldier’s family squabbling over his funeral in Kent – and Filumena at the Almeida, starring Samantha Spiro as a prostitute-turned-mistress-turned wife in a new English translation of an Italian comedy. With 13 reviews between them, and 11 of them three-stars, these should probably be approached with caution or at least low expectations.


For our part, we are off to Collaborators at the National in a few hours, to catch its last day in the Cottlesloe before it moves over to the Olivier next month; otherwise, a quiet week this week after the hugely engrossing Can We Talk About This? last weekend.

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