'All About Eve': From 1950s Screen to Modern Stage

All About Eve, a movie that gives an insight into American theatre, takes to the stage in London at The Noel Coward Theatre. The 1950s film is directed and adapted by Ivo van Hove.

There are no major changes to the plot, this play sticks to the ‘script’. Aside from the title, the movie revolves around Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson) a successful theatre actress whose world is turned upside down by an obsessive fan, Eve Harrington (Lily James), who uses her naïve and innocent personality to charm her way into Margo’s life. She tries to take over every aspect of it. Leaving no stone unturned Eve pursues Margo’s roles, boyfriend and friends. Though Margo is only blinded by Eve in the beginning. She is portrayed as paranoid throughout, there is relief in the end when the people close to her realise the happenings. In the end, it is clear that the most important thing in life is not a job but family and friends.

Yet the plays attempt to stand out leads too many distractions leaving the audiences confused. The distractions come from every aspect of the production. First, van Hove uses multimedia to present the play, thus the stage is surrounded by screens that show in real time a live stream of the actors in other rooms on the stage. This would not have been bad if there was not any action happening on the main stage. The audience is left to wonder whether to pay attention to the action on stage or the dialogue on screen. What further distracts this attempt were the visible cameramen that roamed across stage to capture the actors in the closed rooms for the screen.

The play is mainly set in one room with blocked out additional rooms for the screen. But the four walls of this room are lifted in the second act to show backstage and remains up throughout. This again leads to unnecessary movement in the background that further distracts. The set design by An D’Huys also disappoints with its burgundy velvet furnishings that covered every surface off the stage. The costume design by Jan Versweyveld had beautiful and elegant pieces individually however the clothes were mostly in different shades of the same colour as the room was, leading the characters to blend in with the walls.

The performances of some of the actors were a joy to witness: Gillian Anderson mesmerised, completely embodying the character of Margo from her raspy voice to very subtle gestures. It was definitely all about Gillian. Lily James seemed to get overshadowed, but this may be of her own doing, as from the get-go she seemed to annoy the audience. For someone who is supposedly clever, Eve came across as extremely jittery.

Another treat to watch was Margo’s boyfriend Bill Samson (Julian Ovenden), he was charming and clearly had everyone falling for him. Also, Birdie (Sheila Reid), who voiced what everyone was thinking and played the role of the only person who knew what was going on from the start, was a joy to watch. In the end, the only attraction is actually the plot and not the publicised the star cast. Personally, I felt the tickets were slightly overpriced for this production and it may be more pleasant to just watch the film instead.

All About Eve is on at the Noël Coward Theatre until the 11th May. Tickets can be purchased here.

Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor

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