Review: Prism, at Hampstead Theatre
Robert Lindsay plays Jack Cardiff in poignant portrayal of cinematographer’s latter years
21 September, 2017 — By Catherine Usher
Robert Lindsay as Jack Cardiff in Terry Johnson’s Prism. PHOTOS: MANUEL HARLAN
BASED on the latter years of cinematographer Jack Cardiff’s life, as he and his family tackle his dementia, the audience encounters Jack in his revamped garage, which is now a museum of memorabilia.
Charismatic, jovial Jack (Robert Lindsay) seems happy enough, but his relatives are clearly feeling let down by his lack of memory. He can’t find the way to his local pub and he doesn’t recognise his own wife, but he can wax lyrical about working with the shining lights of Hollywood such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart.
Outnumbered actress Claire Skinner is suitably sad as Jack’s younger wife Nicola. As one of the later characters to join his life, she’s the first to be forgotten and she takes this unflattering fact with regretful resignation.
In contrast, son Mason (Barnaby Kay) is fighting the disease. He’s converted his dad’s garage into a memory lane museum in the hope that Jack can conjure up enough recollections to get down on paper and transform into memoirs.
Rebecca Night and Robert Lindsay in Prism
Written and directed by Terry Johnson, the play reveals the unnerving disparity between Jack’s charismatic character and the reality of his dementia. Lindsay is predictably brilliant in the challenging role, embracing both the hurt and the humour.
Rebecca Night’s comic Northerner Lucy, who is Jack’s carer, is annoyingly stereotypical at times. But she’s the only person not putting pressure on Jack to fight his dementia and consequently their relationship is touchingly affable.
In the second act, the audience is treated to the stifling, mosquito-filled location where Jack worked on 1951’s The African Queen starring Hepburn and Bogart. Skinner and Kay play the legendary leads convincingly and it’s uplifting to see Jack at work and play during his glory days.
It makes the return to the present day garage full of jumbled thoughts and debilitating angst all the more poignant.
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