Muriel Spark's 1961 novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie smarts and shines in David Harrower’s new stage adaptation at the Donmar Warehouse.
You don’t have to be a pigtailed, pinafored eleven-year-old to fall for Lea Williams as Scottish school mistress Miss Brodie. With her chic tailored dresses, flawless make-up, and appetite for elegance over algebra, she’s a dazzling figure. Williams gives a masterful insight into a woman at once unwavering in her own delusions and dependant upon devotion. We're sharply aware of the limitations of the 1930s, as women's forced choice between marriage or career makes teaching the only outlet for passion, ambition and love.
Against the school’s doctrine of obedience, virtue and over-achievement, Miss Brodie’s mantra of ‘leading out’ the students’ true selves is seductive. As adults we scoff heartily when she declares herself as ‘cashmere’ to the stern headmistress’s ‘granite’, but we still feel the power of these words.
Over seven years, flashing back and forward in time, we discover the profound effects of this intense relationship between Miss Brodie and her favourites.
Polly Findlay’s production draws out the lively comedy in this teacher’s elaborate performance without ever undermining the stutifying hold it has over the girls. There’s a clarity and pace to the staging, with the grey classroom and soundtrack of bells ringing.
The cast of girls make the giggly, eager to please uncertainty of early adolescence feel palpable. While Sandy may be particularly precocious and perceptive, Rona Morison's performance reminds us of her immaturity with gawky, ungainly movements. And Nicola Coughlan brings Joyce Emily to life with a heart-wrenching mixture of enthusiasm and gullibility.
Though the show starts to sag slightly towards the end of the second half, the final encounter between 25-year-old graduate Sandy and her shrunken, pale-faced former teacher is haunting. It’s an expression of vulnerability, devotion and indelible influence that cuts to the core of Muriel Spark’s novel.
|What||The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse review|
|Where||Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, London, WC2H 9LX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
04 Jun 18 – 28 Jun 18, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM. Matinees (Thurs & Sat) 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £50|
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|