Many thousands of people will have seen the original 1997-99 production of David Hare’s Amy’s View in London and/or New York, directed by Richard Eyre with Judi Dench and Samantha Bond. Many further thousands will have heard its BBC Radio 3 broadcast with Dench and Bond. Is there any reason to see it again, only nine years on, now that Peter Hall has brought it back in a new production with actors who in no important way equal the original?
Yes. The reason is the play. A high school student could tell you the many flaws that make it thoroughly imperfect. Yet this is among the most deeply affecting plays to have been written by anyone in the past 10 years. “I’m very good at layers,” says Esme, its protagonist, Amy’s mother: she means her work as an actress. It’s true of Hare too, above all in this play. Through its mother-daughter relationship, over 16 years, Hare develops an argument about relationships and values that covers core human material.
What is Amy’s view? That people should get on with each other; that love conquers all. Amy’s tragedy is that love doesn’t; that some people just cannot get on, or will not try. (Interesting that, the year after Amy’s View premiered, Hare went on to give us Via Dolorosa, his play about Israel and Palestine.) But this is a tragedy for her mother too. Esme – emotionally both perceptive and myopic – embodies a certain kind of complacent/ caustic, strong/weak double- valued Englishness, at once principled and hypocritical. A survivor, she loses most of what she loves best.
Felicity Kendal doesn’t take the role of Esme through the vast arc that Dench did, but she drives the play with a sure grasp of both its comedy and its grief. As Amy and her husband Dominic, Jenna Russell and Ryan Kiggell shout too much; Amy has much more anguish than Russell yet reveals. Yet the play is clearer than ever: for which all credit must go to the director, Peter Hall.
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