Monday, July 25, 2011

Judi Dench box set

Recently we watched a series of BBC plays starring Judi Dench. They date from 1973 to 1991 when she was going through her 'fat' phase. Voluptuous she might have been but since in each part she was called on to play the sexual attraction, I can hardly say that it worked.

The three plays were "Amelie", the Feydeau farce, translated and adapted by Caryl Brahams and Ned Sherrin and starring Patrick Cargill, Bill Fraser and Helen Cherry;
"Make and Break" by Michael Frayn and starring Robert Hardy, Martin Jarvis, Ronald Hines and Frank Windsor; and "Absolute Hell" by Anthony Ackland with Bill Nighy, Charles Gray, Betty Marsden, Francesca Annis, Anthony Calf, Nathaniel Parker, Ronald Pickup and Ray Winstone.

I am afraid I was not happy with any of them. I thought that they were an illustration of the book of Ecclesiastes - Life without God and the title of the third play gave it away - Absolute Hell.

The farce was just silly. Even in 1973, Judi Dench was 39 and no oil painting and too old for the lady's maid who is supposedly attracting a plethora of lovers. The Michael Frayn is a clever play about a workaholic boss who is only interested in making money and prepared to indulge in shady practices to succeed. He is provided by Frayne with opportunities to change. There is an evangelical Christian who witnesses to him. He might have been talking Swahili. The boss just doesn't recognize the language. He is also provided with a Catholic conscience in the Ronald Hines character, but he continually hedges around it and eventually has what he fears is a heart attack. When it proves to be a false alarm he is back to his wicked ways but his conscience has died of fright.

"Absolute Hell" is set in a 1945 night club in London. The characters indulge in drunkenness, bitchiness and mechanical and illicit sex. The title describes the action.

This is a box set. The first four plays are the same play from the point of view of each different character, "Talking to a stranger". They were so bad I couldn't finish them. There is Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" and Ibsen's "Ghosts" and two modern plays, "Can you hear me thinking" and "Going gently" still to watch.

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