Amy's View

by David Hare

Directed by Colin Smith

February 9th - 16th, 2002

The Tower Theatre performing at the Tower Theatre, Canonbury


Cast List

Dominic : Martin Jackson
Amy : Nikki Smith
Evelyn : Denyse Macpherson
Esme : Sue Lacey
Frank : John Field
Toby : James Easey


Production Team

Director : Colin Smith
Set Designer : Steven Hyndman
Lighting Designer : Hilary Allen
Costume Designer : Kate Fearnley

Stage Manager : Martin Brady
ASMs : Tom Brown, Annie Connell
Lighting Operator : Heather Dalton
Sound Operator : Lisa Kelvey
Set Construction : Keith Hill, John Morton, Dimitrios Moudatsos, Robert Myer, Keith Syrett, Lesley Wigham

In-house review by Richard Pedersen

Richard Pedersen saw his first play at the Tower thirteen years ago and has lost count of the number he's seen since then. He will shortly be popping up all over the place in Macbeth.

"Amy's View" was a magazine which Amy used to produce as a schoolgirl and then sell to her parents' friends in Pangbourne. It was also, of course, her opinion on any number of things, which the characters in David Hare's play would quote during the action. The irony of it all was that Amy's view didn't really count for that much when compared with that of her opinionated mother and equally opinionated partner.
In this production, director Colin Smith presented us with a multi-layered piece of drama. It was not an easy play - David Hare is not an easy playwright - but it gave its audiences much food for thought. Yet I was left a little frustrated at not being able to get fully to grips with what the author really wanted to say. But then I'm not here to criticise the oeuvre of one of the country's leading playwrights, others far more worthy than me can do that.
Amy's View is a very recent piece, only premiered in 1997, and it provided a wonderful star vehicle at the time for Dame Judi Dench. In the Tower's production Sue Lacey had the task of making the role of Esme her own, and she succeeded brilliantly. The part is that of a West End actress, a light comedienne whose decline over 16 years we witness painfully. At the start she is returning home after an evening's performance, by taxi all the way from London to Pangbourne. Sue Lacey erupted on to the stage, the total actress still rapturous for an audience's applause. Then the parts dry up. Plays for the likes of Esme Allen cease to be West End fodder, and she is reduced to playing a nurse in something that sounded remarkably like Casualty. At the very end, totally broke, her cosy world having vanished, she is starring in an avant garde production in a small theatre.
As much as anything, Amy's View is about theatre and David Hare's own view of it. He appears to have little time for the Cowardesque world which Esme originally inhabits, and yet her passionate defence of theatre is very much the author talking. The counterpoint to the argument is provided by Dominic, the partner of Esme's daughter Amy, a tricky role which was expertly handled by Martin Jackson. Dominic's rise counterbalances Esme's fall. At the start he is the somewhat diffident boyfriend, paying a first visit to Amy's flamboyant mother. By the end he is a highly successful film director in the Guy Ritchie mould. Martin Jackson expertly handled the changes in his character over 16 years, both in terms of look and mannerisms, and in the way that he was affected by events.
In the middle was Amy, delightfully played by Nikki Smith. Once again we followed the character on a believable journey over 16 years from her early twenties, newly pregnant, towards an increasingly miserable 30s and 40s. Her death was a total surprise to the audience. Was it suicide, or merely a tragic accident ?
Amy's Grandmother Evelyn showed an even starker decline into Alzheimer's and a semi-comatose state. Denyse Macpherson didn't put a foot wrong in portraying this character, with her charming fussing over photographs and the reheated cottage pie at the beginning, and then eventually spending an entire act practically motionless in a wheelchair.
John Field returned to the Tower fold to play the part of Frank, Esme's financial "adviser". He blustered beautifully and made almost a comic turn out of his drinking. He was also believably fond of Esme which showed up the paradox of the fact that he was solely responsible for her financial downfall.
At the very end of the play, with two characters already dead and one sent packing we met Toby, a young actor starring with Esme in a fringe production. James Easey was good casting as a final partner for the declining Esme. Quite what the very end of the play signified totally eluded me. The two actors Esme and Toby, in white shift and tiny loincloth respectively were drenched with water and faced the audience centre stage. Is this the future of theatre in David Hare's eyes? I can't criticise any of the performances; without exception they were top notch. However, none of the characters was that sympathetic, so despite everything I felt that the audience didn't really care about the outcome of the play, which was a great shame. But then that's David Hare's fault.
The set by Stephen Hyndman worked well, particularly in the change of location towards the end from the living room in Pangbourne to Esme's dressing room and thence to the stage of the theatre. This was rather oddly described in the programme as a small Victorian theatre in London which sounded a little strange. The designer made very clever use of the white painted proscenium arch flats which did not jar with the Pangbourne set but then came into their own in the dressing room. My only quibble with the set was the steps leading up to the French windows. I know, I've acted on sets like this before; raised doorways enhance entrances and exits, but they looked totally misplaced. Somehow one half of the set had a "who's for tennis" look about it, which was maybe significant given Esme's past history.
Costumes can prove a problem in a play set in the recent past. How to conjure up the period when we've probably still got clothes of that vintage? In most cases I thought the costuming by Kate Fearnley was fine, and looked right for the characters at the time.
All in all it was an enjoyable evening, if not the easiest. I sometimes feel that David Hare is just a little too serious for his own good, and this was far from being his best play. Now when is the Tower going to tackle Teeth 'n Smiles?