Theatre Review



Amy's View by David Hare

Oxford Playhouse

A political play, a social comedy, a modern tragedy, a study of the changing problems of women in society, a saga of twenty years of one family's trials and tribulations: Amy's View, David Hare's 1997 play showing at the Playhouse this week, is all these things. The play revolves around the dynamic between Amy (Rebecca Lacey) and her widowed mother Esme (Susannah York), its four acts tracking the family from 1979 to 1997, with stops in 1984 and 1993.

The plot is driven by the ups and downs both of Amy's relationship with cynical media-man Dominic (Marcus D'Amico) and of Esme's career as an actress. Esme and Dominic do not see eye to eye and this provides the play's crucial point of conflict. Dominic's cultural iconoclasm meets Esme's conservatism head on in a heated debate on the value of theatre as opposed to television and film, of high and low art, of art and art-criticism. This exaggerated self-consciousness does not cloy, however, because the debates on theatre and art in general reflect perfectly the characters' attitudes to life, which they betray throughout the play.

Hare's portrayal of the relationship between Esme and Amy shows great sensitivity, for a male author, to the changing roles of women in 20th century Britain. Robin Lefevre's direction, aided by a good set design and a number of clever lighting effects, gets the tone just right. All six actors put in good performances but it is Susannah York who really steals the show, and her portrayal of all sides of Esme's character is worth the price of the ticket alone.

In the second act Hare asks 'Is theatre dying?', an accusation that the number of grey and balding heads in the Playhouse stalls on Tuesday did little to counter. But the effectiveness with which this production raised issues of alienation and reconciliation, of growing old and the punishment of the years, does much to restore one's faith in the medium. If you can stomach the jokes (about wine bars and mobile phones) which now seem embarrassingly four years old to one not yet in his dotage, then you should find this play very rewarding.

James MacInnes 02/05/01