Sunday, 3 October 2010

Review Onassis

Onassis by Martin Sherman
Novello Theatre WC2

As a young chit before driving tests and other real life thingybobbies intervened, TLT used to enjoy those kitsch 1960s' movies based on Greek mythology.  Where whimsical, bickering ringletted and be-toga-ed  Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus leaned over a bath tub with their favourite mortals’ miniature ships floating like so many rubber ducks.  Memories returned when the TLT and her own Greek chariot settled down to watch the soap opera that was the later life of Greek shipping magnate and serial womaniser Aristotle Onassis (Our Family’s Robert Lindsay).  This early preview performance was framed by a Homeric narrator cum confidante Costa (Gawn Grainger), with Jackie Kennedy (Lydia Leonard) and Maria Callas (Anna Francolini) also ticking the boxes for a celebrity history play with a few conspiracy theories thrown in for good measure. So it is, in TLT’s opinion, shlock but, TLT also has to admit, enjoyable well-acted shlock .  It may be apt to wonder whether the stunning design, lighting and multimedia from Katrina Lindsay, Ben Ormerod and Lorna Heavey respectively compensates for a bijou play expanded for a larger space,  drowning some narrative irony and humour.  Yet, give Robert Lindsay a pair of wrap around glasses and a penchant for the Zorba shuffle, he becomes a irascible and compelling Aristotle. And the time speeds by. Even if scenes sometimes feel shuffled like a pack of cards. And even if apart from  Ari and his opera diva lover Maria Callas, the characters are cartoonishly as flat as pancakes. So it’s as much an audience emotional rollercoaster ride as a Greek frieze but, directed by Nancy Meckler, none the less entertaining for that and certainly shed new light on a (in)famous name for TLT and her side-car.  A heroic amber light.

Apparently representatives of the Onassis Foundation have now weighed in slightly misleadingly because it's never claimed Onassis arranged any assassination, only that he claimed he did.  What a great movie this would make - present day shenanigans with the Foundation, the book writer, the play and playwright framing flashbacks to possible conspiracy scenarios in the past ... ;)