Inadmissible Evidence, the Donmar's latest production, is one of those plays that just flies from the outset. Blink and you miss it, so fast is the pace and the delivery that you've barely got time to enjoy all the delicious lines John Osbourne serves up through his protagonist, solicitor Bill Maitland (Douglas Hodge).
It starts with a mock court scene in which Maitland is on trial for what turns out to be crimes against his life. He condemns his own life as one of utter mediocrity. The play then follows him through the course of a day or two at his legal practice, the evidence I suppose for his condemnation during which he alienates himself from colleagues, family and lovers.
Maitland is full of self-loathing about what he sees as his failure in life, a trait that doesn't so much make him irascible as put him in a permanent state of anxious anger which manifests itself in almost constant movement and a witty stream of bile and self-deprecation. He is bored dealing with seedy divorces, dislikes his colleagues and his family and even questions the point of his philandering.
In fact Hodge is on fire, his monologues delivered like rapid bursts of gun fire so that you barely have time to enjoy a line before the next two are delivered. It almost leaves you breathless just watching.
And with such a whirlwind on stage the rest of the cast barely get a look in but then this is Maitland's play and the rest merely pawns to be sacrificed in the case for the prosecution. Not that there are any bum notes from the supports, well, aside from the slightly odd casting choice of that Dr Who actress, Karen Gillan, as the secretary who's fallen victim to Maitland's womanising. It's an odd choice because she seems too poised, elegant and together to convince as young woman who has fallen for Maitland's lecherous advances.
Inadmissible Evidence is definitely a play you need to see twice just to catch all the things you missed the first time. It's on at the Donmar until November 26 and I'm going to give it four and a half stars.
There's a nice direct link in the form of the lovely Al Weaver who plays Jones in Inadmissible Evidence and who shared the role of Hamlet with Mr W at the Old Vic (he did the matinees and Mr W did the evening performances).