There are regular sightings on West End and Broadway stages of film stars passing through in an attempt to gain some serious acting kudos and credibility. But few have committed to the theatre as regularly and successfully in recent times as Kristin Scott Thomas which saw her rewarded with an Olivier Award for Best Actress for The Seagull at the Royal Court. Last year she stunned again when she starred in Pinter's Old Times in the West End, alternating in the roles of the two women in the play with Lia Williams.
On both of those occasions, as well as for a West End revival of another Pinter play Betrayal, she was directed by Ian Rickson, and now they reunite for a stirring but slightly monotonous production of the ancient Greek revenge tragedy Electra.
The problem is that there's not much tonal variety to Scott's ravaged performance in the title role, but at least she isn't trying to be her usual ravishing self. Instead, it feels like a performance written in notes of permanent anguish, amplified physically by her dirt-streaked face and body and matted hair.
She brings a bare, exposed vulnerability to it and lots of physical motion, but not quite enough varying emotions. Like a female Hamlet, she is playing a woman who is trying to come to terms with the death of a beloved father at her mother's hands, and seeking revenge.
There's more variety in the supporting cast that includes terrific turns from Peter Wight as Electra's servant ally, Jack Lowden as Electra's returning brother (though he seems young enough to be her son), and Diana Quick as her mother Clytemnestra.
The Old Vic, continuing its in-the-round configuration, brings the action closer to the audience than plays usually are here, but there are some sightline problems. I couldn't always see everything, and I was in the third row!
"Her tour de force performance in the gruelling role of Sophocles’ grief-ridden Electra rewrites our understanding of her capabilities...this is a kill-for-a-ticket triumph."
Paul Gent for The Telegraph
"Kristin Scott Thomas is excruciatingly good...there is not an iota of sentimentality in her interpretation. The actress shows you, that vacuum-packed in the stalled adolescent, there is an eager impatient child. But this figure is not a pretty sight."
Paul Taylor for The Independent
"Scott Thomas is always intensely watchable: she is especially good at suggesting the thwarted mother in Electra by nursing the urn apparently containing her brother’s ashes as if it were a baby. But, while Scott Thomas does nothing wrong, she occasionally does a bit too much."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"With eloquent precision Scott Thomas shows us that Electra, while claiming she’s exhausted by grief, continues to draw vital energy from her obsession — to bring her father's killers to justice."
Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard