Review - The Bay at Nice at Menier Chocolate Factory
Next to such lengthy two-parter theatrical banquets as Harry Potter and the Cursed Child or The Inheritance, David Hare's The Bay at Nice is like a post-dinner liqueur: a smooth, fruity, slightly tart distillation of theatrical spirits. But given the luxury Menier treatment - which for some theatregoers includes a meal in the theatre restaurant next door first - it goes down a treat, and is enough of a meal in itself to make for a fully satisfying theatrical event.
That's in substantial part down to the presence in the cast of Penelope Wilton, one of our very finest actors whose poise, control and reserve are an enduring thing of wonder. She acts with such stillness yet overwhelming feeling: there is hardly a more subtle or sympathetic actor working today.
She plays an art expert who has come to the recesses of a Leningrad museum to authenticate whether a painting attributed to Matisse is actually by him. (As a student, she studied with the master so can instinctively recognise his style). But a bigger domestic drama is set to play out, as her private and professional worlds collide around her with the estranged, resentful adult daughter who accompanies her, and is seeking a different kind of long-denied recognition and her own liberation from a bad marriage.
Being a David Hare play, there's more talk than action; but Richard Eyre's elegant, superbly acted production, on an expansive set by Fotini Dimou, rivets the attention, with Ophelia Lovibond in sympathetic support as the 30-something daughter to Wilton's character, David Rintoul as the daughter's new 63-year-old partner, and Marin Hutson as the gallery's assistant curator.
The Bay at Nice tickets are available now.
Photo credit: Catherine Ashmore