Review: A teacher in her seductive prime, the superb The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a production, like its central character, that bewitches
An austere head in a sensible grey skirt suit is talking to a group of schoolgirls in shapeless grey uniforms and then in swoops a coiffured, red-lipstick, tailored red-dress wearing woman.
She is magnetic like a movie star stepped off a set into a classroom and you are smitten even before she speaks in her husky, seductive voice.
This is Miss Brodie the girls' new teacher who, as her personal style hints, doesn't follow the rules and sees education more in the light of its Latin root: 'to lead'.
But along what path will she lead, is the red a distant warning sign?
Miss Brodie is complex character, a bag of contradictions in Lia Williams portrayal.
She is open and yet mysterious, full stories of her own life and experiences, full of opinion but what she doesn't tell is just as intriguing.
Are her tales of travel real or part of a persona she presents, part of the person she yearns to be?
What is such an outwardly sophisticated woman doing teaching in a dreary girls school - a big fish in a small pond? Is that what she wants to be.
Is she truly heart-broken or is that an excuse to remain free from marriage?
Only when her glamorous veneer is stripped away do we get a sense of the fragile person underneath.
Lia Williams succeeds in making you love Miss Brodie, despise her and feel sorry for her.
And while it is a performance that deserves to win awards, it is a great performance in a superb supporting company.
Not least are Miss Brodie's 'girls': Nicola Coughlan (Joyce Emily), Emma Hindle (Mary), Grace Saif (Monica), Rona Morison (Sandy) and Helen Wilson (Jenny).
There is a tendency to overplay the youthful exuberance, energy and emotion of children and teenagers and deliver something that feels pastiche but not here - the performances are 'easy' and natural so much so you'd never believe they weren't 11-years-old.
What you get is a group of very different girls - as Miss Brodie notes - who are fully drawn with there own narrative and arcs.
Often period plays are wrongfully described as timeless or having modern resonances but here it feels an appropriate label.
The novel from which the play is adapted is set between the wars but there are few references that peg societal attitudes towards women in that period.
Neither do the costumes feel out of place in either the period of the novel or 2018 which leaves the story to work its magic
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a production, like its central character, that bewitches.
It is a play that is rich in character and intrigue and I'm giving it five stars.
See it at the Donmar Warehouse until July 28 and it is two and a half hours long including an interval.
The run is sold out except for returns but extra tickets are released on Mondays at 12 pm.
For a bit of fun you might like:
And some more plays I've enjoyed recently:
Julie, National Theatre - Vanessa Kirby plays an unravelling, modern rich-bitch.
Translations, National Theatre - language, storytelling and leaving wanting more.
Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios - The good and bad about Killer Joe