Review: ★★★★ Mad As Hell, Jermyn Street Theatre

Mad As Hell tells the story of the romance between Peter Finch and Eletha Barret, it spans their whole relationship, starting with their first meeting. This is a very small production, with a cast of only three actors, and only four characters make an appearance onstage. Despite this, the audience gets the full experience of their lives together.  It starts off slowly, and jumps over some of the early moments of their relationship, but as the play progresses, the audience became more and more invested in the development of both the characters and their relationship.

All of the cast members performed extremely well, all bringing different strengths to the play. Stephen Hogan, who plays Peter Finch, switches effortlessly between the drunk and depressed side of Finch, the womanizer and the powerful actor, letting the audience see all the sides of Finch’s personality. Vanessa Donovan, who plays Eletha, portrays the development from island girl to Hollywood wife with ease. Some of her most impressive scenes were often when she was alone onstage, talking to other characters who weren’t present. She dances with and then chastises drunken men in the rum bar, and gives Finch’s director a piece of her mind, all without anyone to act opposite her. Her timing is incredible and you can almost hear the people she is talking to just by watching her facial expressions and reactions. Alexandra Martell gives a great performance as both the Finch’s ex-girlfriend and Finch and Eletha’s maid, she was so convincing in both that it was hard to tell that they were played by the same person. Her performance as Finch’s ex was confident and ostentatious, and brought an element of comedy to the production.

Although the play confronts the issue of race and racial prejudice throughout, it was not always at the centre of the conflicts presented. This play is more focused on the tensions in the relationship between Eletha and Peter, and race is shown as more of a secondary, recurring issue rather than a main theme. It calls into question how people’s lives are affected by the opinions of those around them, and it was interesting to see the more private side of two very public figures.

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Emma Grimsley
Emma Grimsley

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