The Seven Year Itch

Wednesday, 11 October, 2000

"The Seven Year Itch" was originally produced on Broadway in 1952, where it ran for three years and went on to win a Tony Award. The show opened in London in 1953 and was then made into a film by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe in that famous scene of her standing on top of a subway vent and trying to stop her dress from billowing up to her waist. This is the first West End production since its London premiere 47 years ago, and now I know why. It just isn't funny. It may be pleasant, it may even be charming, but it is not funny!

The story concerns Richard, a middle-aged man, whose wife goes on holiday and leaves him alone in their New York flat so he can continue with his work. However, when he meets a 22-year-old blonde girl who has just moved in upstairs, he begins to have fantasises about her. However, these fantasises are in danger of becoming realised when he invites her round for a drink after nearly being killed by a falling tomato plant from her balcony. Will they succumb to the obvious? And if they do, what will be the consequences of the adultery?

Daryl Hannah, famous for such films as "Splash" and "Roxanne", performs competently and with impeccable comic timing playing 'The Girl'. What a pity she did not have better material to play with. She is also a very sexy lady, but one cannot help comparing her with Marilyn Monroe, which means she is in a no win situation. Rolf Saxon, as 'Richard', has the most demanding role, as he is on stage the entire time. Much of the comedy depends upon him, and frankly it is a hit and miss affair. The 'visual' comedy is just as important as the words, but although it is an able performance from Saxon, I feel he isn't the man to make the character work effectively. The comedy actually comes from Anthony O'Donnell, playing 'Dr Brubaker', the visiting psychiatrist. The tempo of the show raises as soon as he is on stage.

The set design by Tim Goodchild, an open-plan flat with a terrace balcony and skyscrapers in the background, is superb. It felt as if I was in New York myself. It is a very impressive design that certainly creates the right mood.

The popular press was not impressed by this revival, although Darryl Hannah did receive good notices for her performance…. NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Valiant Daryl fails to kiss life into this decrepit sex comedy. ROBERT GORE-LANGTON for THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "Hannah is much better than cynics might have expected - her timing is excellent and she does that breathy ditzy routine a treat." PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "The whole show is so dated in its values that it feels as if you've been imprisoned for two and a half hours in a 1950s copy of Life magazine." "SHERIDAN MORLEY didn't like the play at all saying, "If you want to stargaze at Ms Hannah, you'd be better off doing it in the pouring rain on a Shaftesbury Avenue pavement than having to sit through this low-key revival." BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES describes Hannah's performance as "Capable and interesting." LYN GARDNER for THE GAURDIAN says, "Daryl Hannah occasionally exhibits the odd spark which suggests, given a good play, she might be good at comedy." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH liked the show saying, "Although the play is occasionally creaky and its star's inexperience sometimes shows, the evening turns out to be a real pleasure, and Hannah is an irresistible delight." PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE also liked the play, and particularly Rolf Saxon's performance saying, "It is Rolf Saxon who carries the play as Richard."

This isn't a bad play. It is a mild and easygoing show, but don't expect many laughs!

(Darren Dalglish)

Looking for the best seats...