Monday, 23 March 2015

Non-review: Stevie

I can't really review Stevie at the Hampstead Theatre because I only saw the first act. My vague resolution not to book for shows that don't look like my kind of thing hasn't gone so well, but I can at least give a supplementary resolution a go: Not to be afraid to cut my losses, and leave at the interval when a show really isn't doing anything for me. So it was with Hugh Whitemore's play about the poet Stevie Smith (Zoë Wanamaker,) whom we find living in suburban London with her elderly Aunt (Lynda Baron.) As they go through an evening's little domestic rituals - preparing the dinner, having a glass of sherry as a treat - Stevie recounts her life story, starting with the move from Hull to London at the turn of the 20th century, when she was still a toddler.

Her recollections are interspersed with Smith's poetry, sometimes recited by a Man (Chris Larkin) who at times is an ex-fiancé, at others may represent the figure of Death she saw as a kind of lifelong companion. Christopher Morahan's production is gentle, and nicely performed, but "nice" is about all I can say about it. Smith's poems, sweet laced with darkness, were the moments that grabbed my attention, but little else did. Not being paid to review does have advantages, and one of them is being able to admit that something just isn't your cup of tea and - at the risk of the show changing direction drastically after the interval - calling it a night.

Stevie by Hugh Whitemore is booking until the 18th of April at Hampstead Theatre.

Running time: Advertised as 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.

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