You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Shallow End

There's little action --- a scene of sustained fornication notwithstanding --- and lots of talk in Doug Lucie's "The Shallow End," but given the high-level fury of the talk, who can complain? A state-of-the-nation play that finds Britain in a worse than parlous state, the play ranks with the very best (that's to say the earlier) work of its noted Oxford-educated leftist author, who on this occasion manages to suggest Ben Jonson refashioned by someone like David Hare. After taking on the advertising industry in "Fashion," Lucie's terrain here is the press (specifically the Murdoch empire, though the Murdoch character remains offstage). While Lucie's invented Internews is clearly News Intl., "The Shallow End" is no documentary. Set at a country house given over for a corporate wedding reception, it uses the media as a prism through which to examine a society in which truth and decency no longer count, expediency and bucks do. There's no good or bad, we are told early on --- only "what's allowed." Or as another in this blithely amoral milieu puts it, "It's just how it is."

Cast: Tony Doyle (Kirk), Nicholas Day (Drummond), Julia Ford (Slater), Alan David (Toop), Jane Asher (Alison Toop), Alexander Hanson (Brennan), Nigel Terry (Rees), Stan Pretty (Fleming); David Cardy, Theo Fraser Steele, Angie Alderman, Trevor Cooper.

Lucie is far too clever on this occasion to stoop to sermons, even if it is never difficult to tell where the characters leave off and the playwright’s own harangue, however laudable, begins. With a structural cunning that recalls the first act of “Glengarry Glen Ross,” he gives us mostly pairs and trios of people in differing combinations, all of whom are either feeling the squeeze or doing the squeezing.

Would these exchanges actually occur? Perhaps not, though amid a Fleet Street climate in which people can be fired via e-mail, who’s to say? In the opening scene, it hardly matters that a thirtysomething columnist (Julia Ford), clad (naturally) in black, might not come on quite so strong in real life to her paunchy editor (Tony Doyle). What counts, in theatrical terms, is the bloodcurdling brio of an encounter between two generations of piranhas whose real-life prototypes will be obvious to London journalism connoisseurs. And if employees may not be quite so ready to set their bosses straight as the Australian investigative journalist (Nigel Terry) in the last scene, the encounter has a richly barbed payoff that keeps the evening from emerging as too many talking heads.

As directed by Robin Lefevre on Robin Don’s elegant set, those “heads” are almost all superbly played, especially when one considers that most of the large cast are given little more than one conversation in which to establish character. An unrecognizable Terry is particularly impressive as a seeming lout from Down Under who turns out to be unimpeachably upstanding: This is one play in which the devil, surprisingly, doesn’t always carry the best tune.

That’s certainly true of Lucie’s other moral exemplar, Alison Toop (Jane Asher), sleek yet unhappy wife to the political editor (Alan David) who is being none so kindly let go. “Just remember,” she tells the young correspondent (Alexander Hanson) with whom she once had a guilt-inducing fling, “they throw you off when the ride ends. If you don’t crash first.”

For all the play’s ideological fury, it is Alison who shows Lucie’s concurrent flair for domestic malaise. Describing a marriage as dead as her husband’s job, she reflects on her spouse’s wedding-day speech. “Not funny. Witty,” she concludes, eyes downcast. The play, on the other hand, is both. And chilling, too.

The Shallow End


Production: A Royal Court presentation of a play in two acts by Doug Lucie. Directed by Robin Lefevre. Sets and costumes, Robin Don

Creative: ; lighting, Mick Hughes; sound, Paul Arditti. Opened, reviewed Feb. 16, 1997, at the Royal Court; 586 seats; £18 ($30) top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Tony Doyle (Kirk), Nicholas Day (Drummond), Julia Ford (Slater), Alan David (Toop), Jane Asher (Alison Toop), Alexander Hanson (Brennan), Nigel Terry (Rees), Stan Pretty (Fleming); David Cardy, Theo Fraser Steele, Angie Alderman, Trevor Cooper.

More Legit

  • Broadway sales Fun Home

    Concord Music Buys Samuel French in Theatrical Megadeal

    Concord Music has acquired Samuel French, a theater publisher and licensor that has represented musical hits such as “Fun Home,” and the plays of Tennessee Williams and August Wilson. The music company will form a new unit, Concord Theatricals. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The merged business will boast not only Samuel [...]

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, Magic [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content