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Julian Ovenden and Gillian Anderson in All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

Julian Ovenden and Gillian Anderson in All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

Why it’s All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre

Robin Johnson

By Robin Johnson Published 14 February 2019

Writer and director Ivo van Hove doesn’t half relish a challenge. From reimagining the likes of Network and Hedda Gabler at the National, to delivering an iconic A View From The Bridge in the West End, his penchant for a spectacle and no-holds-barred directorial style is instantly recognisable – and so proves the case in the brilliantly unsettling All About Eve.

Van Hove’s latest production, which reimagines the classic 1950 film of the same name on the Noël Coward Theatre stage, is a dark and gripping slow-burner which explores how, despite our pretences to the contrary, the race to the height of fame requires clambering over one or two of your ‘friends’ along the way.

Gillian Anderson delivers a monumental performance as Margo Channing, a stage icon at her peak – and constantly looking over her shoulder. Easy to loathe but easier to pity, Gillian’s Margo is an absorbing diva who wears her insecurities all over her sleeve.

Gillian Anderson and the cast of All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)Gillian Anderson and the cast of All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

But the foundations of those fears are lent credence when Margo takes in a graceful, seemingly over-enthusiastic, assistant in Eve – played with plenty of grace by Lily James, whose character also isn’t afraid to twist the knife when somebody stands in her way.

It may be All About Eve (well, and Margo), but beyond the headlining duo lies a range of outstanding supporting performances. Monica Dolan, playing Margo’s close friend and the play’s narrator; Sheila Reid, as shrewd assistant Birdie; and a commanding Stanley Townsend, as the acerbic critic Addison DeWitt, all caught the eye in particular, but accomplished portrayals abound throughout the rest of an exceptional ensemble.

Van Hov-ian innovation (and that of longtime design collaborators Jan Versweyveld and An D’Huys) sees close-up cameras project onto the walls for large periods throughout. Complimented by composer PJ Harvey’s ethereal tones, the picture as a whole has a noir-laden cinematic feel in itself – both the perfect nod to its source material, and a poignantly devastating platform for pitting Margo’s status against Eve’s ambitions. It’s the undercover fight of the century, where a knockout final punch lies in store.

Julian Ovenden and Lily James in All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)Julian Ovenden and Lily James in All About Eve at the Noël Coward Theatre (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

But don’t just take our word for it – here’s what audiences have been saying on social media:

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All About Eve plays at the Noël Coward Theatre until 11 May. The show will also be broadcast live to 700 UK cinemas – and many more worldwide – on Thursday 11 April.

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