(Seen at the final preview performance on 11th February 2019). Director
Ivo van Hove is in danger of his Toneelgroep becoming distinctly monochromatic.
The uncompromisingly thrilling "A View From The Bridge" had pulsating music in a
stripped-back goldfish-bowl. "Obsession" had a sense of isolation in a grand
sweep, while "Network" expanded that work's video and brought the wings of the
theatre into use. Sadly, "All About Eve" is pretty much more of the same. Worse,
it doesn't need it often.
There's one or two neat video tricks, but mostly the actors are like gerbils at
exercise, roaming over and outside Jan Versweyveld's set, dragging furniture
with them, as and when the walls of the cage are raised and lowered. It's all a
bit tiring, and detracts from what should be a thrilling tale that is certainly
As diva Margo Channing, Gillian Anderson keeps the performance small, and it
works. The dragon is there, but the scorching is wonderfully subtle. Nemesis Eve
(Lily James) too bides her time. Less relaxed in her early scenes perhaps, than
she could be, her later transformation is credible and there is some strong work
during a confrontation. A final scene with Phoebe (Tsion Habte - dealing well
with an awkward door / stool moment) has a satisfying completion to it.
There's other excellent work from writer Lloyd Richards (Rhashan Stone), a man
taking what power he can but showing how it should be done. Partner Karen
Richards (Monica Dolan) is another point of sanity, what she has to do making
perfect sense. A nod to for Bill Sampson (Julian Ovenden) left with less to do
than expected as Margo's partner and also Sheila Reid (Birdie), bringing
experience to the fore.
It's just the over-busy production. Strange huddles in a kitchen in the wings
but visible to most of the audience - and relayed by screen. The alienation of
video when emotion is required, even if the odd effect is, well, rather
effective. This is a cautionary tale, a story of brinksmanship, and it's all too
noticeable that the only truly effective scenes are those on a near-empty stage
with attention focussed on just one or two characters.
The acting is what makes it worth seeing, and possibly the chance to enjoy a
large ensemble. The monkey raised its feeling to 4 stars thanks to the final
endgame, but it's a three star ride until that point.
Almost, but not quite, a missed opportunity in places, the final redemption is
for more reasons than one.