Review: Prism. Nottingham Theatre Royal

In The Art Of Light a cinematographer’s work is summarised as ‘The cinematographer works with the director to achieve an atmosphere.’ In Terry Johnson’s thought provoking, witty and sentimental Prism play, Johnson as both writer and director, has shown that working with actor Robert Lindsay in the lead role does much more than create an atmosphere.

Prism gives us a deep insight into the great and experimental cinematography skills of Jack Cardiff and offers up plenty for us to care about as we see Cardiff not only in his declining years suffering from progressive Alzheimer’s but also in his heyday on the film sets with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Overall Prism is an emotionally moving and excellently profound piece of theatre that provides the audience with plenty of laughs in the first half without being insensitive to those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. The second half is more dramatically contemplative but not without some humour.

As Robert Lindsay is warmly welcomed back to the Nottingham Theatre Royal stage we have a first hand opportunity to realise what a bloody fine actor he is. Lindsay is charismatic in his large role as Jack Cardiff. However, Lindsay’s charm isn’t in showing us a larger than life character with overblown attitudes but rather his playing of Cardiff has wit and compassion for others. This audience appear to love every second he is on stage right up to the standing ovation for the whole cast and Johnson’s terrific play.

[ Jack Cardiff was responsible for some of the most visually stunning films in cinematic history. Tile Red Shoes, A Matter of Life of Death, Black Narcissus, Rope, The African Queen, Sons and Lovers, Girl on a Motorcycle and many others.]

Three other characters help bring the story to life and offer differing viewpoints to Jack Cardiff’s condition and life present and past. Those are Cardiff’s younger wife Nicola (Tara Fitzgerald), his son Mason (Oliver Hembrough) and carer Lucy (Victoria Blunt). All are excellently portrayed and Blunt’s Lucy is particularly well achieved in a very believable performance. As the second half unfolds we get to see each actor cleverly flesh out Monroe, Hepburn and Bogart.

Tim Shortall’s set design is a marvel. It takes us from Cardiff’s renovated garage space replete with almost living portraits of famous actresses from yesteryear and a vintage cinema camera to a steamy jungle setting and a Hollywood backlot. Ian William Galloway’s video design is nothing short of miraculous. Ben Ormerod gives us a subtle yet complex palate of lighting throughout and John Leonard’ sound is terrifically atmospheric especially in the jungle scene. You’d believe there are yelping apes in the wings! Colin Towns music and Terry Johnson’s direction complete the piece.

As plays about the world of cinema go Prism shines a luminous rainbow of fascinating colours into our hearts and minds.

Prism runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 26th October.

Photo credits: Manuel Harlan.

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