Edmond

David Mamet
RNT Olivier
(2003)

Edward Hall is very fortunate to have Kenneth Branagh, making a rare London stage appearance, in the title role of this revival. This pacy production is played out on a stage that Hall's father knows so well.

The younger Hall makes appropriate use of the theatre's revolve as the twenty or so other characters act as satellites circling around the star and one of his strengths is that his cast perfectly catch the playwright's staccato speech rhythms.

This is a tale of a dizzy dive from urban respectability. Edmond Burke may sound like a philosopher in both name and ideas but his nightmare is an example of how easy it is to slide from easy success to the worst depths of degradation.

In only 75 minutes but with almost two dozen short scenes, Branagh's Edmond follows his predicted destiny. He leaves his irate wife, a nice, if brief performance from Tracy-Ann Oberman; is too mean to get laid properly; gets beaten three times; and suddenly shucks off the nice guy clothes like some anti-superhero.

One of the best scenes in the play is when Jude Akuwudike's pimp/mugger takes on our mild-mannered man and has the tables hilariously turned on him. Once the evil genie leaves his bottle, life can never be the same.

Branagh gives an excellent performance and the supporting cast, in this case everyone else, led by Nicola Walker and Carol Macready, keep things going within a minimalist set created by Hall's regular designer with his Propeller company, Michael Pavelka.

This is perhaps Mamet's most extreme dystopian play about the depths to which society has allowed itself to plunge. The implication is that morality has no place today and that all that one can do is live life to the full and pray that the consequences may not be that bad. The hoped-for bonus is that you will get a good deal in the afterlife, if there is one.

This is another play in the Travelex £10 season and the returns queues were looking impressive as the name of Branagh weaved its magic. The show is pretty good as well and complements David Mamet's earlier Sexual Perversity in Chicago which plays at the Comedy Theatre until early August.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher