Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Review: Orson’s Shadow at the Southwark Playhouse

Orson’s Shadow 
Southwark Playhouse
Reviewed on Monday 6th July 2015

Opening with famous critic Kenneth Tynan (played by Edward Bennett) directly addressing the audience, there were plenty of amusing critical references to please the press night audience of Orson’s Shadow by Austin Pendleton.

The comedy offers an insight into life behind the scenes of the Royal Court's 1960 production of Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco.

The production starred the one and only Laurence Olivier (played by Adrian Lukis) opposite Joan Plowright (his future wife, played by Louise Ford). It was directed by Orson Welles (played by John Hodgkinson) who worked alongside Tynan as he made the move from criticism to taking on an advisory position (he later worked closely with Olivier at the National).

It is absolutely fascinating to see these tremendously huge characters fighting for the limelight in the intimate setting of the Southwark Playhouse. You don't have to know them inside out to enjoy Alice Hamilton's superbly directed production.

There are some brilliant lines and, once it gets going, the backstage politics become intriguing. Welles isn't happy with Olivier who finds his personal life taking over; his then wife Vivien Leigh (played by Gina Bellman) begins to unravel as she realises her marriage is about to hit the rocks . 

A battle of egos with a sprinkling of humanity, the cast have a field day in their roles. Staged in-the-round, certain scenes do begin to drag, but Hamilton's production redeems itself with some glorious moments.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Orson’s Shadow runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 25th July 2015.
Please visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Simon Annand

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