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Prism starring Robert Lindsay
25th November 2019 - 30th November 2019
Greg Ripley-Duggan for Hampstead Theatre Productions presents
a Hampstead Theatre and Birmingham Repertory Theatre co-production
Written and Directed by Terry Johnson
with Victoria Blunt and Oliver Hembrough
Following a sold-out run at London’s Hampstead Theatre, don’t miss the astonishing true story of the man who made Hollywood’s greatest divas beautiful.
Robert Lindsay is ‘magnetic’ (The Guardian), ‘perfect’ (The Times) and ‘glorious’ (Mail on Sunday) in Terry Johnson’s delightfully witty and poignant play based on the extraordinary life of double Oscar-winning cinematic master Jack Cardiff; ‘the man who made women look beautiful’ (Vanity Fair).
The legendary Jack Cardiff has retired to the sleepy village of Denham, Buckinghamshire. His days of hard work – and play – on some of the most famous film sets in the world are now long behind him, as are his secret liaisons with some of the most famous women in the world… Surrounded by memorabilia from a lifetime of ‘painting with light’, the writing of an autobiography should be an easy matter – were it not that Jack would now rather live in the past than remember it.
Multi award winning Terry Johnson’s many hits include Hysteria, La Cage aux Folles, Mrs Henderson Presents and Dead Funny.
Double Olivier Award winner Robert Lindsay’s theatre credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (West End) and The Entertainer (Old Vic Theatre). Television credits include My Family and Genius.
★★★★ The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Metro, Mail on Sunday
★★★★ ‘Robert Lindsay excels in his portrayal of this passionate, boozy character, who was famous for making his female stars look stunning on screen. Johnson ingeniously weaves Cardiff’s different realities into an engaging piece of theatre… Not just for movie buffs.’ The Sunday Times
★★★★ ‘a funny and absorbing play…who needs the movies when you’ve got theatre?’ The Times
★★★★ ‘Lindsay is amazing to watch. He evokes the casual charm that made Cardiff magnetic to the women he worked with as well as the professional obsessiveness that led him to experiment with prisms and seek to reproduce the textures of a Vermeer or Renoir on screen’ The Guardian
★★★★ ‘Exquisitely achieved.’ The Independent
★★★★ ‘Robert Lindsay is in glorious, compelling form as the charmer who believed ‘life is temporary, film is forever’. His quicksilver performance lights up the stage.’ Metro
The commissioning of Prism was funded by NEXT DECADE, a joint Hampstead Theatre/AKO Foundation initiative.
The original production was generously supported by Lin and Ken Craig
Designed by Tim Shortall
Lighting by Ben Ormerod
Video Design by Ian William Galloway
Sound by John Leonard
Music by Colin Towns
Running time: approx. 2 hours, 10 minutes, including interval.
Production Photographs by Manuel Harlan
This was a Masterful performance by ROBERT LINDSAY portraying Jack Cardiff Cinematographer To the Stars
It was a Pleasure to see such a Brilliant actor work on this Amazing Production You cannot miss
An Actor right at the very Top of the Tree
Jack Cardiff was a man who experienced cinema - and his own passion, cinematography - from its relatively early days right through to the digital era, working on classics such as The African Queen and, as such, was photographer to the stars. He was referred to as “The Man Who Made Women Look Beautiful” (not that they weren't beautiful already)
When he first appears in Prism, however, he has only memories. Standing behind a shuttered garage door, the amount of light and the shape which accompanies the door's opening reflects the different wide-screen sizes in which films were made - until the dreaded one which resembles the shape of the old-fashioned TV screen. Accompanied by his son Mason and newly-acquired carer Lucy, the old garage has been fitted out with memorabilia of his past, partly to encourage him to complete his long-awaited memoire of his time - and likely dalliances - with the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.
But now, Cardiff is confused, his memory irreparably affected by Alzheimer’s. If this the garage, where is the car? Where has the pub disappeared to? Where did all the paintings come from? And forgetful of words like "world", he is reduced to describing what he means like a game of charades. The photographs on the wall - and they are not just photographs as you will see - are a permanent reminder of his successful past and the quality of the stars with whom he worked.
Indeed, some of these stars appear later as there is a complete change of scene in Act Two as we are now witnessing an off-camera conversation on the somewhat dangerous set of the afore-mentioned The Africa Queen (actually filmed on location in Uganda and the Congo) which then seamlessly transports us back to the present day and the challenges which life now brings.
Robert Lindsay plays Cardiff and does so brilliantly. Thoroughly engaging and believable, you feel for him in this new and unfamiliar world in which he finds himself, having a "carer" (Victoria Blunt) who he repeatedly mistakes for a barmaid at the pub and who has some issues of her own to deal with. You excuse his occasional outbursts when he senses pressure being put on him by his son (Oliver Hembrough) whilst his wife Nicola (Tara Fitzgerald) feels she has lost him as she tries to get him to recognise who she is and to say her name. And credit to the cast for also taking the roles of the cast of African Queen.
It does rather beg the question - for the writer and the audience - whether the actions of a person with dementia should be considered humorous and yet here it seems perfectly natural. He might have dementia but you laugh with him, just as you would have before this horrible disease set in.
And the Prism of the title? A prism has the ability to break down light into its constituent parts, a concept vital to cinematography. But equally, looking through it in the hands of Cardiff, it becomes a metaphor for how the mind can fail to present accurate memories.
A particularly nice touch was to have a stage-height photograph of the face of the man projected onto the backdrop, leaving the audience with a tangible memory of the man whose story we have just heard.
Trelawney of the Wells
I've been quick to criticise some of the more 'ho-hum' productions at this address recently, so it's a pleasure to be able to report on an evening of top-notch theatre. 'Prism' very cleverly portrays the onset of dementia with great humour, but you never laugh AT the central character. The writing and Robert Lindsay's performance are so sympathetic and rounded that the character doesn't just become a vehicle for easy jokes about confusion/forgetfulness. 'Prism' is also very nicely staged - subtle use of video & music - although there was an irritating glitch with some computerised portraits which really spoilt the mood in Act 1. This plus what I would imagine were some audibility issues towards the back of the theatre and an odd dip in the writing at one point means one star cruelly knocked off! But, overall, this is highly, highly recommended. More of this sort of quality drama at MT, please. Oh, and there's the bonus of a free programme! (Thank you, Audley Ellerslie).
A very cleverly written play which was absolutely engrossing from beginning to end, with outstanding performances from all four actors, but a tour-de-force from Robert Lindsay. Absolutely wonderful - don't miss the chance to see it.
Wonderful and witty. Just hit the right balance between the sadness of losing a person with Alzheimers and the sometimes heartwarming funny times, when you glimpse the person they once were. The whole cast were great