Terry Johnson's stage adaptation of the highly successful 1967 film "THE GRADUATE" has been enjoying a successful run at the Gielgud theatre since opening in April last year. The regular change of actor performing ‘Mrs Robinson’ gives the play extra mileage as I’m sure as many people go to see the actor, as go to see the play, especially in this case as it is a famous soap star.And so it is my 'love' of Linda Gray, who played Sue Ellen in the American soap ‘Dallas’, that made me want to see this comic play once again.
The Graduate is based on the original novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry and concerns Ben, a young man who has just graduated brilliantly from college. He is struggling to come to terms with his future, worrying that his family expect too much from him, and feels thoroughly disillusioned. However, when the mature Mrs Robinson, a long time friend of the family, seduces him his boredom takes a new direction. And when he has a date with Mrs Robinson's daughter Elaine, he finally finds some meaning to his life, a meaning that Mrs Robinson opposes!
Having seen Kathleen Turner produce a sensational and wonderful performance as Mrs Robinson last year I was intrigued to see how Linda Gray would play the role. She is equally as good, and brings her own unique interpretation. I found Turner’s portrayal of Mrs Robinson to be seductive, with a firm, but warm nature. However Gray’s interpretation is, while seductive, very cold. There is no warmth for anyone, not for her husband, her daughter and not even her lover Ben. But both approaches work for me. In fact, I found I enjoyed the play even more than I did last time, but then that’s probably due to being a fan of Linda Gray. It was so great seeing her playing a drunk again!!
Ben played by David Nicolle, perfectly captures the young, naive and innocent Graduate. One must also make special note of Sarah Solemani, who is making her professional debut as ‘Elaine’. She puts in a fine performance.
I still have some problems with the play such as why Ben was feeling insecure after graduating and why Mrs Robinson was so bored with her life? But it is still an entertaining play.
The following report is from the new press night of 8th Aug 00, with the new cast of Jerry Hall and Josh Cohen
The show with the new cast has received mixed reviews from the popular press. NICHOLAS DE JOHGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "The Graduate remains a sharp satire.....But with Turner's departure and Rhys's, the production has lost its sting. Miss Hall stamps the night with her beauty and it's not enough." THE DAILY MAIL says, "Jerry Hall's acting performance, while not bad, goes nowhere." THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Sorry, but don't give up the day job, Jerry. Whenever Hall comes on stage, this otherwise enjoyable show's energy levels dip disastrously." THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "Frankly it's a storm in a teacup - or in Jerry's case a A cup. Jerry, I'm afraid is no actress." THE INDEPENDENT says, " In many ways, Hall is fine. She is cool, suave, languid, elegant, charismatic and bored without being boring." SHERIDAN MORLEY says, "She(Jerry Hall) has sex appeal,....But she has no stage energy and without it the movie adaptation lacks zest." PETER PAPHIDES for TIME OUT says, "She's(Jerry Hall) an almighty let-down." LISA MARTLAND for THE STAGE says, "Hall may occasionally create the right visual image, but her performance rarely goes beyond the superficial." Martland may not have been impressed by Hall but she certainly was with Josh Cohen, describing his performance as "Pretty impressive."
Next review is from original cast
Review by Darren Dalglish 10th April 2000
This is the world premiere of Terry Johnson's stage adaptation of the highly successful 1967 film "THE GRADUATE". This play is based on the original novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.
The story concerns Ben, a young man who has just graduated brilliantly from college. He is struggling to come to terms with his future, worrying that his family expect too much from him, and feels thoroughly disillusioned. However, when the mature Mrs Robinson, a long time friend of the family, seduces him his boredom takes a new direction. And when he has a date with Mrs Robinson's daughter Elaine, he finally finds some meaning to his life, a meaning which Mrs Robinson opposes!
This play is surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because normally I find stage adaptations of successful films don't normally transfer very well. However, this production does and thoroughly entertains for over two hours. This black comedy of sexual relations and dysfunctional families is exquisitely funny.
American film star Kathleen Turner, making her West End debut starring as 'Mrs Robinson', is a sensation. She seduces the young man with a cool demeanour, a deep voice and a voluptuous body. Her comic timing and sarcastic delivery is perfect and this is why the play works so well. She oozes sex appeal and dominates the stage. Her performance (even without the nude scene) is worth the ticket price alone!
Mathew Rhys, as Ben performs adequately. He certainly looks and acts the part, young, naive and innocent, but I think he overplays it when he is being seduced at the start of the play. I found his performance somewhat tedious, but he does improve as the play progresses, and he is particularly funny in the scene when he has to book a hotel room for them both. Kelly Reilly as Elaine, is probably the only character that you can warm too, having to put up with her alcoholic mother and smothering father. She plays the childish goofy Elaine, who cannot make up her mind whether she wants Ben or not, very amusingly. The rest of the cast also perform well, particularly Colin Stinton as Mr Robinson.
The show has received good reviews from most of the popular press… NICOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD thought the show was great saying, "Terry Johnson's slick production - fuses the satiric and dramatic elements in wild laughter'. And goes on to say "An evening of impure theatrical delight." MICHAEL COVENEY for THE DAILY MAIL says, "She [Kathleen Turner] has a great turn of phrase and a great sense of timing. She breathes seduction." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, " It is Kathleen Turner, at once statesque and mesmerisingly feline, who steals the show." He goes on to say, "The Graduate is great fun!" ROBERT GORE-LANGTON for THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "Kathleen Turner's poise and delivery is as immaculate as it is funny. She plays Mrs Robinson brilliantly." However, JOHN PETER for THE SUNDAY TIMES says, "This is one of the dullest evenings I have spent in the theatre for many a year." JANE EDWARDES for TIME OUT says, "A very tepid evening."
Although the play could have given us a deeper insight into why Ben was feeling insecure after graduating and why Mrs Robinson was so bored with her life, this is still an entertaining play well worth seeing.