It wasn't a great surprise when I saw a Tweet yesterday announcing that Death and the Maiden at the newly named Harold Pinter Theatre is to close three weeks early. As much as I enjoyed the play when I saw it, the performance from the leading lady Thandie Newton was lacking and left me yearning to see someone else in the role.
The critics too weren't overly impressed.
But I do feel a little bit for Newton. She's had a successful film and TV career, choosing interesting projects rather than going just for big pay packets and making that leap onto the boards must be a terrifying one. Not only is there the terror of the live performance, no cut and go again, but you get to face your critics and a diminishing paying audience night after night. (I reckon the number of special offers on tickets for plays must correlated to how long the run will go before it gives up.)
It's an ambitious first role to take on. If you are already a big name there is no easing yourself in gently with some smaller role or bit part (unless you are Orlando Bloom and couldn't even do that convincingly). Perhaps it might have been wiser to have gone for something in a smaller theatre to start with, a more intimate space where the audience is closer and the subtleties of performance picked up by a camera are more affective.
If I was Newton I'd be getting through the run a day at a time and then running as far away from the stage as possible, never to return. Will we see her back? My admiration for anyone who is brave enough to tread the boards hopes the experience hasn't bruised her so much that she does.