Lia Williams and the company in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse, directed by Polly Findlay, designed by Lizzie Clachan. Photo Manuel Harlan

Reasons to see: The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie

By Carly-Ann Clements, Published June 13, 2018

Muriel Spark’s infamous novel, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, is probably best known for the 1969 film starring Maggie Smith who earned her first Oscar for playing the titular character. But the current stage adaptation from David Harrower at the Donmar Warehouse offers a fresh point of view on the timeless tale. There are still a small number of tickets available and here are five reasons you should invest in them.

Nicola Coughlan and Lia Williams in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse, directer Polly Findlay, designer Lizzie Clachan. Photo Manuel Harlan

The adaptation

David’s skilled adaptation takes the beloved story of a rebellious teacher comfortably confined by the parameters of her school and gives it the gift of hindsight and the fuzziness of memory. Told from the perspective of Sandy Stranger (played by Rona Morison), this retrospective retelling allows the viewer to see the long-lasting effects that one special teacher can have on her pupils – both good and bad.

Lia Williams in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Polly Findlay, designed by Lizzie Clachan. Photo Manuel HarlanLia Williams

Fresh from Mary Stuart, Lia Williams gives another stand-out and enthralling performance as Miss Jean Brodie. Making the character her own, Lia clasps onto the charm and eccentricity of Miss Brodie and runs with it at full speed. When we meet her, she’s captivating, charismatic and inspirational. But as the play continues, we see the subtle cracks form thanks to Lia’s incredible turn. The progression from inspirational free-thinker to misguided, dangerous fraud, and ultimately a broken woman is seamless yet distinct, making that reflection of a past hero-gone-bad an even more bitter pill to swallow.

Rona Morison in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Polly Findlay, designed by Lizzie Clachan. Photo Manuel Harlan

The rest of the cast

As mentioned, this fresh adaptation of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is told retrospectively from the perspective of Sandy Stranger. The sudden jumps from past to present are achieved through Rona’s performance – a dropped voice, a strong posture, and guarded body language all show a distinctive change in time and character. Other notable performances came from Angus Wright who plays the sweet-cum-expectant Mr Lowther and Nicola Coughlan as the naive Joyce Emily.

L-R Grace Saif (Monica), Rona Morison, Emma Hindle and Helena Wilson in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse. Photo Manuel Harlan

The set

For a simple, concrete set, a lot is achieved. Transforming from school to nunnery, the grey walls and floor – decorated only with two stain glass windows – serve to show the bleakness of the world Miss Brodie lives in making her vivid colour – both in clothes and character – shine more brightly. It also serves as the self-imposed prison both Miss Brodie and Sandy place themselves in – out of choice and necessity. Coupled with the bells littered above the set and audience, your imagination can effortlessly transform the space into the setting required.

Angus Wright in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse, directed by Polly Findlay, designed by Lizzie Clachan. Photo Manuel Harlan

The laughs

Though ultimately a tragic play, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is full of witty one-liners, laugh-out-loud observations and clever turns of phrase. The childish impressions of authoritative characters will whisk you back to your own childhood while the awkward flirtation dolled out will bring back flashbacks of watercooler moments you wish you could erase. It’s a thoroughly entertaining 2hr 30mins.

The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is playing at the Donmar Theatre until 28 July. To find tickets, click here.

Donmar Warehouse lia williams