The Blue Room at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Very few people indeed in Britain saw the original production of The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse; more saw it, in fact, when it subsequently transferred to a large Broadway house than ever did here. It could and should legitimately be questioned why West End audiences were deprived of the opportunities of seeing a homegrown production like this for a longer season. Not only did this do a disservice to London theatregoers, but also to the playwright, David Hare in preventing the play from reaching the wider public, though presumably he colluded with the policy of sending it abroad instead.
Anyway, at least part of that wrong has now been righted with the return of the play, just two years on, but in a new production that has arrived in the West End via Chichester's Minerva Theatre. And, minus the alleged theatrical viagra that constituted Nicole Kidman's appearance in the play first time around, this production doubly does service for the play in focusing the attention back on the writing, and not on the hype that attended Kidman's brief nude scene and buried the rest of it. (Those of a voyeuristic persuasion may be interested to know that there's actually more female, and less male, nudity this time round).
Hare's play is basically an updated version of Arthur Schnitzler's Austrian classic La Ronde cast in modern, modish colours but with the same theme of showing a series of overlapping sexual trysts. In a series of ten scenes, we watch as a girl and a cab driver have sex, then the cab driver and an au pair, and so on until the final scene completes the circle and an aristocrat sleeps with the girl of the first scene. With our timeless fascination with what our fellow men and women get up to in bed - hence the popularity of the News of the World - it has an enduring prurient appeal.
Loveday Ingram s understated, conscientious production, first seen in a studio theatre, certainly rises to the occasion of the much larger Haymarket (which is signally more than the student manages to do in his liaison with the married woman. Each scene is punctuated by a projection that informs of the time the sexual union took: these varied from the latter case's zero seconds to another scene's 2 hours 28 minutes).
Ingram is much aided by her versatile, chameleon-like (and previously essentially unknown) cast, Camilla Power and Michael Higgs, who convincingly inhabit each of five characters very differently. (During the busy scene-changes of Colin Falconer's occasionally clumsy but attractive design, I counted double the number of stage-hands to actors).
Don't, however, count on Power or Higgs remaining unknown for long: another reason to see this production is that in years to come you ll be able to say that you saw them here first.