What: All About Eve
Where: Noël Coward Theatre, London
When: Thursday February 7, 2019
Every year, for the past three years, my friend, Lisa, has visited the UK from Australia. We’ve always made an effort to meet up, whether for coffee, some late night ice hockey viewing or, on this occasion, to go to the theatre. So, I was already predisposed to have a good evening because there’s seldom anything as good as going to the theatre with a friend. My expectations were also pretty high because ‘All About Eve’ stars Gillian Anderson and Lily James
This play is based on “The Wisdom of Eve”, by Mary Orr (a short story, a play and a 1950 movie, starring Bette Davis). It is about an ageing stage actress, Margo Channing (Anderson) and the machinations of a younger woman, Eve Harrington (James), who ingratiates herself with Margo, before making every effort to imitate her, with clear designs, ultimately, to replace her.
The production really is excellent. Great use is made of camera work during it which gives a kind of split-screen effect. The close-ups of Margo’s face, and Eve’s (and then Phoebe’s) is really effective. The acting is superb, to the point at which I regularly forgot that I was watching GILLIAN ANDERSON and LILY JAMES on stage; I was far too invested in their characters.
Even though I am closer in age to Eve than to Margo, Margo is certainly the character I related to the most. She knows she’s ageing and she cannot play a young woman for ever. While I think her delight in marriage and the love of a good man is one of the moments that really dates this play (though it is set in a clearly defined, post-WW2 era, so it’s understandable), her reaction to Eve is rather extreme, but not entirely unreasonable.
The supporting cast is excellent. I think that both Monica Dolan, as Karen Richards, and Rhashan Stone, as her husband Lloyd, give the play another emotional layer. Karen’s own actions are entirely understandable, though they backfire a little, and Lloyd, superb throughout, even with his moments of extreme weakness regarding Eve, has the best line of the play: It’s about time the piano realised it has not written the concerto. Stanley Townsend plays Addison DeWitt extremely well. As the viewer, we know that he is very influential, but to see him out-manipulate Eve is masterful, and unsettling.
I absolutely recommend going to see this play, if you’re in London and get a chance. Not just because GILLIAN ANDERSON!!! is in it, but also because it’s a real delight seeing LILY JAMES!!! playing such a substantial, complicated role.