Wednesday, 23 March 2011

'The Children's Hour' at The Comedy Theatre

On Monday night Chris took me to see 'The Children's Hour' with some big names in the cast, most notable Keira Knightly. We were up in the balcony – the front row – because of the silly prices theatres seem to think they can change because a big name is in the show. I never read reviews so rarely have any idea what is going to happen in a play I've never seen or read before, but after about half an hour I realised I'd seen a remarkably similar film years ago ('The Loudest Whisper').

It's the tale of a couple of school teachers who run a small girls school. The first half is largely introducing the characters and relationships and is dominated by the girls gossiping and bullying each other, particularly Mary who is the ringleader. She wants to get away from school and tells her rich grandmother that she'd seen the teachers kissing and that one of the teachers' aunts had called her 'unnatural'. Word soon gets round as the grandmother feels morally obliged to warn the parents of other girls that the teachers are lesbians.

The teachers go to court to clear their name, lose the case, and the second half shows us their lives after the court case, hiding away from the town in the school, waiting for something to happen but nothing does happen. One of the teachers is due to marry (Keira's role) but that is painfully called off. In the end, the other teacher admits to loving Keira “in that way” and shoots herself. The shock of her death is immediately followed by the grandmother appearing begging forgiveness, having learned the truth and realised that her grand-daughter has been lying. Too late.

The first half is dominated by the girls but the second half belongs to the adults. I didn't know what to expect from Keira Knightly, having only seen her in the 'Pirates' films and in 'Atonement' but I was impressed by her controlled performance as she slowly broke down in a spiral of paranoia. Her fiancée gone and her marriage called off, scared to leave the house, her friend admitting she does have feelings for her and then committing suicide, and all because of a stupid lie told by an unthinking and vindictive little girl. Elizabeth Moss was also good as the friend, both of them reacting to each other nicely. Ellen Burstyn played the grandmother and Carol Kane played the aunt. It felt uncomfortably long and slow in places but well worth seeing.

Just to show off, I'm writing this on a Continental Airlines B757 on my way to New York for art, shopping and more theatre. Well, it helps to fill in the time on the flight. I'll post it when I get internet access again.

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