My boyfriend keeps asking me why I repeatedly go to the theatre to see plays that are no good. I asked myself the same question 1 hour into Vanessa Redgrave’s interminable monologue at the National this afternoon. I haven’t read the book but you could tell from the text that Joan Didion is a marvellous writer. Humorously, humanly groping for sense after the death of both her husband and her daughter in one year. When after 100 minutes Redgrave finally stopped talking they put up a huge picture of Didion and her family. The warmth of Didion in that picture brought into fatal focus what was wrong with casting Redgrave in that role. She’s such a cold, mirthless actor that her rendition of Didion’s words – complete with skin-of-the-teeth accent – just seemed vampiric. The book is the perfect format for this mecurial exploration of grief. I’m sure it’s a wonderful read. But since when does having a grey -haired woman, dressed in grey, sitting on a grey stage for one hour forty constitute theatre? I can only see theatrical cash registers behind it. David Hare, Redgrave, tear jerking memoir – it’ll be Amy’s View all over. But Redgrave is too mannered, too mirthless to be credible and it’s just a bore.
I’m going to give up buying tickets for the National for a while. I can’t remember the last time I saw something worth the ticket price.