All About Eve - Review
Updated: Sep 28, 2019
As soon as we heard the casting of this play we were excited to see it and it didn’t disappoint.
Margo Channing is a theatre star in her prime and after her performance one evening meets the young and beautiful Eve Harrington, an obsessed fan who soon becomes her too perfect assistant and later her understudy. But there is something unsettling happening. This is at its heart a thriller and the suspense is kept throughout.
Gillian Anderson is perfect playing the role of a star who often swings between diva and petulant child when she doesn’t get her way. There is a certain amount of immaturity which is evident in how quickly she attaches to and relies on an obsessed, if endearing, fan. Gillian Anderson got the heart of the character from the confidence Margo projects to the insecurities she tries to keep hidden.
Another perfect casting is Lily James as Eve. As she moves from fan, to assistant to understudy her manipulative ways are clear. Lily James gives her enough confidence that how she gets to that position is realistic but keeps enough hidden so you never know what’s truly going on. It’s a terrific performance where certain subtleties in the character are really brought out.
The set for the play is innovative and unusual. It starts in a sparse room but the walls of the room are raised for most of the play so that the backstage area can be seen which reminds you constantly of the theatre world you’re watching. There are two rooms “backstage”, one being a kitchen and another the bathroom, neither of which you can fully see into. When there is action happening in these it is filmed on a hand held camera and projected above the stage.
The use of film was interesting and having seen is used particularly badly last year in Chess (it felt like they wanted to be a rock concert with how they projected it) it was good to see it used in a clever way which supplemented the action rather than taking away from it. It was particularly interesting during a party scene to see the crowded kitchen shown on screen while also watching the action on stage below. There is great comic sequence with a drunk Margo in the bathroom, which the audience can see, while her party guests on stage remain oblivious.
It would be a play that’s especially pertinent to see again (as Eve does when she watches Margo) for all the things you could easily miss across the simultaneous scenes competing for attention
That’s not to say everything was perfect, there was one scene where it felt like the filming was used to make up for a deficiency in the directing. The action happened at the back of the stage and was mostly masked by people on stage setting up for the following scene so you could only watch the projection. At theatre you want to be watching it live.
But it would be churlish to focus on those parts that weren’t perfect. Overall it’s a strong production with an outstanding cast and some great innovations in the set and use of film in live theatre. This is a solid 4 Laura Michelle-Kelly star production.