Helmer Richard Eyre is riding high on “Notes on a Scandal,” his most successful movie yet. His next film project, directing his own screenplay based on Bernhard Schlink‘s short story “The Other Man” for Rainmark Films, is being financed, withprincipal photography commencing in the U.K., Germany and Italy in early 2008. Eyre, however, hasn’t turned his back on theater.
Following his supremely elegant staging of Nicholas Wright‘s latest play “The Reporter” at the National earlier this year, he is returning to the classics with at least two West End projects in development with producer Sonia Friedman. One of them, still under wraps, is believed to be a comedy. First up, however, will be a revival of Ibsen’s sins-of-the-father drama, “Ghosts.” Casting and venue have yet to be confirmed.
“Notes on a Scandal” was also a success for screenwriter Patrick Marber, who landed Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA noms for his taut script, which turned Zoe Heller‘s original novel into something that could have been written by the mistress of claustrophobic thrillers, Patricia Highsmith.
Marber has another screenplay in the works — the Ewan McGregor thriller “The Tourist” — but he’s also back in theater. “Dealer’s Choice,” his play about poker, originally produced at the National under Eyre’s aegis, has been given a sharp revival by Samuel West at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
On opening night, one audience member congratulated Marber on the new production: “So much better than the original.” Marber thanked her, but pointed out he had been the director of that first staging.
West is particularly well suited to the material, not least because he used to play poker with Marber. And although he’s wise to the fact that the first half is a tightly structured build-up to the second half’s thrillingly extended poker game, his production makes auds understand that poker is the MacGuffin. “Dealer’s Choice” is really a startlingly powerful study of fathers and sons.
As a director (and, elsewhere, as an actor) West is stronger at suppressed rather than openly expressed emotion. The extraordinary gambling showdown between Malcolm Sinclair‘s father and Roger Lloyd Pack‘s professional gambler lacks the white-knuckle emotional tension of Marber’s production. But West’s trump card is his handling of the central paternal relationship.
Beneath their constant bickering, the bond between Sinclair and an ideally callow Sam Barnett as his son is powerfully affecting. Sinclair, all easy aloofness, gives a career-best perf, his glimpses of fatherly torment made all the more distressing by their restraint.
There’s already talk of transfers for the show, possibly even to Gotham.
“Dealer’s Choice” finishes its run on Nov. 17 to make way for Terry Johnson‘s revival of Jerry Herman‘s “La Cage aux Folles,” which previews at the Chocolate Factory from Nov. 23, with Philip Quast and Douglas Hodge in the lead roles. Hodge is on the other side of the footlights directing the U.K. preem of Bryony Lavery‘s dark comedy “Last Easter,” in previews at Birmingham Rep for an Oct. 22 opening.
Lavery (“Frozen”), under commission at addresses on both sides of the Atlantic, has another play on tour. “Stockholm,” an 80-minute, two-handed thrill-ride for razor-sharp physical theater company Frantic Assembly, is an engrossingly dangerous piece about a couple “who love each other to bits.” Regional reviews have been so strong that Harvey Weinstein has already asked to see the script.