Amy's View - National Theatre 1997
Trying to explain what the play is about is somewhat difficult. It is a complex drama about the relationship between a mother and her daughter, with both seeing life very differently. The mother lives in a kind of fantasy world getting lost in her stage work so as not to face up to her responsibilities. The daughter, takes life more seriously, but she too lives a kind of fantasy believing that love conquers all, no matter how bad things are. The play covers 16 years in which several events take place that are to change both their lives and attitudes.
The play starts with the setting at 1979. Esme, the mother, is a widowed middle aged stage actress who lives with her mother-in-law. Her daughter Amy, on a visit, introduces her new boyfriend, Dominic , whom she loves and adores, however he thinks more of his career than he does of Amy. Esme takes an instant dislike to Dominic because of his attitude and treatment towards her daughter and his opinion that theatre is overrated and old fashioned. Act two moves to the year 1985. Dominic’s career in TV is successful, but Esme’s stage career is slumping. Dominic and Amy now have children, but his work still comes first. Act three takes us to 1993 and the Lloyd's affair, where many people went bankrupt after many disastrous investments effected the Insurance company. Unfortunately Esme, is one of the Lloyd's investors who lost out. Act four set in 1995 reflects on arguments made in the play about the outdated values of theatre compared with modern media, such as film and TV. It also reflects on the character’s past mistakes and their attempts to come to terms with present realities.
The play is filled with symbolism. Hare tries to get across that no one is in control of their own lives or destiny and that everyone is insecure and not willing to face reality, like actors performing a play with no director.
Judi Dench is simply brilliant as the mother who fails to understand her daughter and who fails to face up to her responsibilities. She can turn from being a nice delightful mother, to a sharp tongued individual and then to a broken woman, all in one scene!. She has this aroma and presence on stage that is a joy to watch. Samantha Bond, is adequate as the naive, weak and vulnerable daughter, but her performance is only average when compared to Judi Dench.
The drama has received good reviews from the popular press. MICHAEL COVENEY of THE DAILY MAIL wrote, “ Funny and moving, a Judi show with plenty of punch”. ROBERT BUTLER of THE INDEPENDENT says “ Dench is on superb form as a brisk, bustling figure”, although like me he too struggled to totally understand what the play was trying to say , he writes “Amy’s View, which articulates more than it dramatises, left me unsure what was being said.”. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE of THE TIMES is very enthusiastic about the play, saying “Again and again Richard Eyre's finely honed production wins your respect for Hare's wit and craft.” and goes on to say “A major dramatist has written a strong, rich play, and a major actress has done him proud.”
In all, an intriguing, interesting play that is complex, funny, tragic and moving with the added bonus of another great Judi Dench performance. A show well worth seeing.