When it was announced that there would be a revival in the West End of David Hare's play, Amy's View, two questions arose. The most intriguing one was how Felicity Kendal would fare in the role created by Judi Dench when the play was first performed in the late 90s. Dench's portrayal of the main character, Esme, was considered definitive. How could anyone equal her authoritative, masterly performance in the role? Kendal, known for her charm, wit and pre-eminent femininity hardly seemed the person to take up the challenge of playing such an intimidating character. I am happy to report, however, that Kendal has not only taken on the role, she has made it very much her own. She is by turns attractive, amusing, and vulnerable, but also, in her own way, indomitable.
The second question concerning the revival was how well Hare's play itself would hold up. The story concerns an actress, no longer young, who is fighting the incursions, not only of age, but of film and television. She is a champion of theater - live theater - and one theme of the play pits the virtues of that art form against the appeal, especially to the young, of the new age art forms of an image on a screen. The debate on this subject is between Esme and the young man her daughter loves, Dominic (Ryan Kiggell).
On another level, Amy's View is a mother-daughter play. Esme is a strong-willed, dominant character who sees her world slipping away from her: her husband has died and later her finances fall apart when it turns out she has invested all her earnings in Lloyd's insurance company whose collapse took many innocent people down with it. Esme herself, however, remains a formidable figure from whom her daughter Amy (Jenna Russell) attempts to break free. The ups and downs, the tug of war between these two makes for mesmerizing theater.
This, then, is the answer to the second question - the play, though not one of Hare's more challenging works, stands up surprisingly well as a personal drama. In bringing the play to life, Kendal is aided by an impressive supporting cast, and the whole has been astutely directed by Peter Hall, an old hand at this sort of thing.