National Theatre: Follies Live Performance

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Main Theater Thu, Nov 16, 2017 2:00 PM
Run Time:2h 15min
Category:NT Live
Live Events
Cast:Imelda Staunton
Jeremy Batt
Kate Parr
Barnaby Thompson
Director:Dominic Cooke


About: It’s set at a Broadway reunion – the “first and last” for Dimitri Weismann’s legendary vaudeville revue. With the theater marked for demolition, making space for another blank office block, the stars and chorines of the pre-war era revisit their old haunt. It’s 1971; New York’s run down and its showgirls have aged. As they reminisce and trot through old routines, their younger selves – shimmering in silvery, sequined ballgowns – hover on the edges of this ruined auditorium like ghosts in the wings. They sit in dusty red velvet seats, hang off skeletal staircases and stare into burnished mirrors backstage. It’s like a showbiz séance of sorts; glittering and ghostly, lustrous and spectral. At its center are two middle-aged couples – former showgirls and their fellas – whose marriages have stalled in middle-age. Sally Durrant (Imelda Staunton), now a small-town mother of two, is toying with ditching her dull husband Buddy (Peter Forbes) to rekindle proceedings with her old flame Ben Stone (Philip Quast). Rather than following through on their fling, he married her friend and fellow “Folly” Phyllis Rogers (Janie Dee). Reunited for the first time in years, the past comes flooding back to them all. Their dashing younger selves – carefree and loved up – dance off with one another. It all positively aches with sadness and regret – an elegy for lost youth and missed chances; “The Road Not Taken,” as one song has it. While the two young showgirls (Zizi Strallen and Alex Young) in their matching floaty, floral dresses, are like peas in a pod, their older selves have seized up. Staunton’s Sally has become a rattle of anxieties, breathless at a chance to turn back the clock, while Dee makes clear that Phyllis has constructed her classy exterior, teaching herself “the art of life.” Their husbands, meanwhile, have filled out for the good: Buddy, an oil executive with a 29-year-old mistress; Ben, a respected philanthropist and politician. Superficially, it seems mighty unfair, but the men are no better off or happier with their lot. They’re no longer the handsome suitors waiting at stage door, nor the young soldiers bravely heading off to war. Cooke catches the mood of a night of nostalgia: from the bubbles of champagne on arrival to the headache that follows the hard stuff later on.