Mad As Hell @ Jermyn Street Theatre*

Running until: 24th February 2018
Tickets and more information:
Production Photos by: Eddie Otchere

As the National Theatre plays home to a stage adaptation of the Oscar winning Network, in Piccadilly is the small Jermyn Street Theatre which is currently home to a play about the Oscar winning actor who starred in the original film, Peter Finch. More specifically, the relationship he had with his third wife Eletha Barrett.

Vanessa Donovan and Stephen Hogan in Mad as Hell, credit of Eddie Otchere.

The play kicks off in 1960s Jamaica, at the beginning of their relationship. What Cassie McFarlane and Adrian Hope’s brilliantly written play does is really put emphasis on the topic of privilege that hangs in the air, throughout the play. Peter first meets Eletha as a girl trying to earn her keep as a dancer while he is a big hot shot movie star with a past of turning to adultery and alcohol. Over the course of the 90 minute play, the balance shifts as Eletha becomes more involved in Peter’s film work, including a job as an assistant director. I found the play to be a really gripping and intriguing insight into how a mixed race relationship was received at the time, particularly with having to deal with the pressures of Hollywood on top of it.

Stephen Hogan in Mad as Hell, credit of Eddie Otchere.

Stephen Hogan brings a powerful intensity to Peter Finch and is matched by Vanessa Donovan who rises equally to his level in power as Eletha. She commands the stage and her final monologue was particularly riveting. There is support from Alexandra Mardell who brings a comedic touch to the play as Debbie, an actress whose relationship with Peter is a little unclear at first; but is heavily implied that the relationship was sexual. She also doubles as Peter and Eletha’s maid Daisy but, to be honest, it is a very quick character change and Daisy’s probably on stage for about three minutes total and could’ve been cut out. But I felt the addition of the character added more emphasis on the class privilege Eletha was developing.

Alexandra Mardell in Mad as Hell, credit of Eddie Otchere. (2)

Cassie McFarlane has directed a beautiful love story in such a small space that is able to transport the tiny theatre from 1960s Jamaica to the 1976 Academy Awards with the combination of Tim Mascall’s lighting design and David Beckham’s sound design. The programme does state that some of the play is imagined but this didn’t take away from the piece at all.

Until next time,


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