Tag Archives: David Hare

The Bay at Nice

The Bay at Nice

Menier Chocolate Factory

The Bay at Nice

The Bay at Nice

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 19th March 2019



“packed with enticing themes, but consistently presents them in ways that aren’t engaging”


Revivals always generate intrigue as to what the creative team has found within a usually decades-old script that will resonate in new ways for modern audiences. When the play is penned by prolific writer David Hare, and helmed by prolific director Sir Richard Eyre, then the intrigue is amped up considerably. You can imagine my disappointment, then, to have the left the theatre none the wiser as to why The Bay at Nice has received a revival at all.

Set in a disused room of an art museum in Leningrad in 1956, hardened and straight-talking Valentina Nrovka (Penelope Wilton) is ostensibly there to authenticate a Matisse painting, but when her docile daughter Sophia (Ophelia Lovibond) informs her that she’s planning to leave her stoic husband for a less successful man (Peter, played by David Rintoul), the ideologies of the pair collide in a clash of the personal and political, freedom and duty, and will and instinct. The play sets these arguments against the subjectivity of the meaning of art, in contrast with the objectivity of the social and political structures in place at the time; for Sophia to get a divorce, for example, she is required to surmount numerous obstacles including advertising it in a newspaper and receiving marriage counselling at huge expense to her, as though not conforming to the state’s idea of love and happiness is something to be deeply ashamed of.

The Bay at Nice is packed with enticing themes, but consistently presents them in ways that aren’t engaging. Although Valentina initially chastises Sophia for wanting to leave her husband for Peter, she warms to him so quickly when he’s introduced that any sense of conflict dissipates fairly quickly. The script is also laden with labouring monologues, as opportunities to give the arguments a sense of prescience and agency are ignored in favour of long-winded stories about the characters’ pasts. These shortcomings prevent the design and direction from feeling scarcely more than perfunctory, simply creating a functional space for the actors to do their best with the dirge of anecdotes they have to deliver.

But do their best they certainly do. Martin Hutson as the fidgety and eager-to-please assistant curator rounds out a quartet of stellar performances, where each actor brings a unique energy and history to the stage. Wilton, as the epicentre of the play’s action, coaxes nuance out of every word, with such gravitas that there are a number of moments where she simply stands and eyes another character and it is totally enrapturing.

The engrossing dynamics of the cast, however, only make you yearn for a script with interactions that fully served them. With such an iconic team involved, it was surprising just how little flair this production contained; The Bay at Nice trudges along with a datedness that fails to justify its return after over thirty years.


Reviewed by Tom Francis

Photography by Catherine Ashmore


The Bay at Nice

Menier Chocolate Factory until 4th May


Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Gronholm Method | ★★★★ | May 2018
Fiddler on the Roof | ★★★★★ | December 2018


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Review of Pravda – 3 Stars



Bridewell Theatre

Reviewed – 7th November 2017


“Sections of dialogue that should be snappy, drag instead, making many witty lines fall flat”


Howard Brenton and David Hare’s satire of 1980s newspapers is performed too rarely. After winning several awards at its premiere in 1985, it was not revived until 2006. The writing is sharp and funny, and the passing of time has rendered its jokes about the press even more relevant. The script is the real star in this performance, which is otherwise rather a mixed bag.

The play is centred around Lambert La Roux, a South African businessman and thinly veiled caricature of Rupert Murdoch. Alongside him is Andrew May, a young journalist he promotes at first to editor of a local paper, and then a national broadsheet. La Roux’s amoral profiteering and manipulation prove a struggle for Andrew’s ethics, and the bleak emotional heart of the second half of the play focuses on the loss of both his self-respect and his relationships with those closest to him.

La Roux is played with great success by Max Fisher. His South African accent is occasionally implausible but he inhabits the role fully, from the shambling gait he adopts to La Roux’s air of certainty that he is always the most important person in the room. He is constantly on the verge of over-acting, but with a character like this that doesn’t feel like such a drawback. Oliver Ferriman makes an endearingly earnest Andrew May, giving a performance that seems a little shallow, but that makes Andrew easy to empathise with. The other roles are for the most part inoffensive but unremarkable. David Hankinson stands out as the corrupt MP Michael Quince, but some minor parts are played very poorly.

The performance’s biggest stumbling point is the pacing. Sections of dialogue that should be snappy, drag instead, making many witty lines fall flat. Otherwise, director Louise Bakker has done an admirable job creating this production on a less than ideal stage – it is simply a space surrounded by black curtains, the effect spoiled by the gallery running round the top. The minimal sets (desks, chairs, and so on for the most part) work well, though a little more evocation of atmosphere would be welcome. On balance, this is a moderately successful production of a wonderful play. It’s worth seeing for the rarity at the very least.


Reviewed by Juliet Evans

Photography by Ruth Anthony


St Bride Foundation [logo]



is at the Bridewell Theatre until 11th November



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