The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - THEATRE The Kid Stays in the Pic­ture

Royal Court

THIS IS not the Royal Court’s first foray into cinema. Last year, An­thony Niel­son’s play Un­reach­able, with Matt Smith as a mon­u­men­tally ego­tis­ti­cal movie direc­tor, satirised the nar­cis­sism of the film in­dus­try, though not with­out be­ing fa­tally nar­cis­sis­tic it­self. Take two: Si­mon McBur­ney and James Yeat­man’s adap­ta­tion of film pro­ducer Robert Evans’s 1994 mem­oir is a stun­ningly staged story on the man be­hind some of the great­est movies ever made — and one or two flops — .

Even at two hours twenty min­utes, it’s a heav­ily sieved ver­sion of Evans’s life. He started out as Robert Shapera be­fore Evans’s fa­ther, a den­tist, de­cided to put his sons on the path of least (an­ti­semitic) re­sis­tance by chang­ing their sur­names — ironic, con­sid­er­ing that the people who pro­pelled Evans’s ca­reer were some of the most pow­er­ful Jews in Hol­ly­wood.

Though his act­ing tal­ent was limited, Evans played Irv­ing Thal­berg in a biopic about the pro­ducer. And, against the wishes of Ava Gard­ner and Ernest Hem­ing­way, who were dead against Evans be­ing cast in Hem­ing­way’s The Sun Also Rises, Darryl F. Zanuck bel­lowed through a loud­speaker on set that “the kid stays in the pic­ture”, which is the mo­ment Evans re­alised where the power lay.

With an in­stinct for the un­ex­pected and an un­der­stand­ing that the star of ev­ery great film is not the ac­tor but the story, his rise as a pro­ducer was me­te­oric. So was his fall from Para- mount when, with four of his seven mar­riages be­hind him (in­clud­ing one to Ali McGraw), he was con­victed of co­caine traf­fick­ing.

But, as if re­al­is­ing the deadly dull po­ten­tial of biopics, McBur­ney’s pro­duc­tion re­sorts to a bl­iz­zard of bril­liantly re­alised stage­craft tech­niques, de­vel­oped, it has to be said, in ear­lier pro­duc­tions by direc­tor Katie Mitchell’s “live cinema” meth­ods. Pro­jected live video feeds trans­port the ac­tion from Hol­ly­wood to film lo­ca­tions, and the en­sem­ble cast speak their lines into mi­cro­phones like ra­dio ac­tors, and then slip into and out of iconic Hol­ly­wood roles — Cop­pola, Brando, Cag­ney…

Be­ing co-pro­duced by the 86-yearold Evans him­self, this show could also be ac­cused of hav­ing an abun­dance of self-ado­ra­tion. But the se­crets Evans in­stinc­tively learned are worth know­ing: that the best and


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