All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre
There was a worry that when Ivo van Hove presented his adaptation of Joseph L Mankiewicz’s film All About Eve, itself based on a short story by Mary Orr, it would become something of a revision, losing itself among the Belgian’s idiosyncrasies. Instead, van Hove tinkered delicately with the script and held off on some of the more radical details he has a tendency to introduce to his productions.
Seemingly working under the old maxim that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, van Hove’s All About Eve retains the acerbic wit of its 1950 predecessor. Through the use of numerous cameras and a widescreen looming over the stage, the director skilfully offers the audience the opportunity to view two scenes at once. The production even makes a stellar effort of honouring Bette Davis’s turn as Margo Channing in the original. Gillian Anderson, fresh from starring in the Netflix series Sex Education, shines as the troubled star. Anderson does justice to the role, performing with the appropriate panache and pathos demanded of a character who fears their blistering star is waning.
Margo Channing is approaching an age where she can’t hold down lead roles in plays, the zenith of her career surely coming to its end, or so she believes. Worse still, a plotting understudy, Eve (Lily James) is hell-bent on ousting her from her lofty throne at the peak of theatre. However, it hardly seems likely that Eve could upstage and eventually replace Margo’s star on this evidence. Anderson dazzles, leaving James in her trails as she swings from boisterous to vulnerable, defiant to broken.
Elsewhere, there are assured performances from Monica Dolan, playing narrator/Margo’s confidant Karen, and Stanley Townsend as the cunning journalist Addison DeWitt. The latter’s performance is particularly absorbing. Meanwhile, set and lighting designer Jan Versweyveld makes brilliant use of the hovering screen. Some may have wondered why such a classic required updating. Those fears would be happily remedied upon viewing.
Photo: Jan Versweyveld
All About Eve is at the Noel Coward Theatre from 2nd February until 10th May 2019. Book your tickets here.