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David Hare's "Plenty"
The Albery Theatre, London

[Wednesday - 05/12/99] Tonight we all went to the theatre to see Cate Blanchett perform in David Hare's "Plenty." This is Cate's West End debut and has been receiving critical buzz locally. Of course, we'd hope to meet up with Cate this trip, but we had no such luck.

The play dramatizes the intriguing statistic that 75% of women flown behind the lines for the Special Operations Executive in the World War II were subsequently divorced. Ms. Blanchett plays - or rather lives - the part of Susan Traherne, a posh English resistance agent who loses her marbles in drab post-war Britain. Blanchett tears up the carpet - in a series of ravishing dresses - wrecking polite dinner parties, boozing, and smoking manically to recapture the sense of purpose she found in the War.

The performance is wired, erotic and superbly flaky. She wobbles here and there vocally, but the intensity is astonishing. She meets her match in downbeat Julian Wadham as her decent foreign office husband, Brock. There are laughs from Burt Kwouk as the oriental diplomat and from Richard Johnson, wonderful as the starchy British ambassador who honourably falls on his sword over the Suez crisis.

By turns depressing, funny and puzzling, the play is a snapshot of a life in crisis in a country that has also lost its way. The Almeida Theatre production, with ingenious sets by Maria Bjornson, was directed with a haunting sense of tragedy by Jonathan Kent. Certainly, we all had mixed reviews on the play.

Stephanie hated it and actually walked out after the first fifteen minutes. The rest of us made it through and, while I enjoyed the performance (I rarely dislike live theatre), I've never been a fan of the play itself. If it weren't for Cate Blanchett's portrayal of the leading role, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Still, to see her flesh out a role like Susan Traherne before your eyes is too exciting a prospect to pass up.

And, no, the photograph at the top of this page isn't from 'Plenty' but the May issue of London's Film Review magazine. An article about March's London Film Critic's Circle Awards dinner, which I attended with Mistress Aryanna, had several photos from the dinner. This is me with Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter. A friend of mine in London picked up a copy and gave it to me while we were out at dinner on Thursday, May 13th.

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