David Hare's play traces the various episodes in the life of a young woman, from her role as a courier in war torn France in the 1940s to that of a diplomat's wife in London in the 1960s. The play opens with what is actually the final scene and the rest of her story is told via flashbacks. This could have been confusing if it hadn't been for the clever design of the play, with the use of projections onto the blank curtain between each of the scenes stating the time and place. The shortness of the scenes and the cutting from scene to scene is very cinematic in it's style and really works well in this case.
Cate Blanchett's role as the wartime heroine to the troubled diplomat's wife, has to be one of the most demanding for any actress, and gives her the chance to prove beyond any doubt that she is more than just a big screen star trying to tread the boards!
This is also the one of the best plays I have seen in respect to the technical side of the production too. The atmospheric lighting by Mark Henderson creates exactly the right mood for each of the scenes, whether a field in France or a Knightsbridge apartment. Combine that with the amazing design work of Maria Bjornson and you can see just see how director, Jonathon Kent was able to pull out all the stops to achieve this great success. The stage crew all deserve huge credit too, with the fastest and quietest set changes I have ever seen, apparently timed to the last second! Cate Blanchett too, must have the quickest costume and makeup changes of any other actress on stage right now (and she is able to switch emotions for the following scene just as quickly, quite amazing!!)
Unfortunately I do have to admit to one hiccup for me from the whole play though. The ambiguity of the very final scene just lost me, so I will be having a look at the script to check this out to see if it is actually written this way or if it's something the director has tried out but which certainly didn't work for me!
David Hare is a very prolific writer having had four plays on Broadway in the last 12 months. However in London instead of a new play, this season is seeing the first revival of Plenty now at the Albery Theatre. One could describe the play as being about a woman whose mental illness unfortunately contributes to her husband's eventual downfall as a diplomat. However, the play is much more. During the war, the woman played by Cate Blanchett worked in France as a special envoy in the Resistance. The exhilaration and danger of her wartime experiences make the adjustment to the more mundane business of day to day living very difficult to the extent that it affects her relationship with her husband, a career diplomat. The play, spread out over 20 years, examines this relationship at various places in their lives. Cate is extraordinary as Susan. The strong supporting cast includes Jeremy Child and Julian Wadham and is superbly directed by Jonathan Kent. It is definitely a mu st see and unfortunately ends in July.
(Rodney R Anderson)