Marking my first visit to the National Theatre since moving to London, His Girl Friday is a play which has been adapted by John Guare from 2 sources: the 1928 play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and the 1940 film adaptation His Girl Friday by Howard Hawks which inverted the gender of the lead protagonist. Thus a madcap romantic element to this story of energetic newshound Hildy Johnson and her editor (and ex-husband) Walter Burns who will stop at nothing to stop her impending wedding to another man. In the midst of all of this is the scoop of the century which Hildy cannot resist as she revels in the world of cutthroat journalism.
As the central couple, Zoë Wanamaker and Alex Jennings were simply fabulous, the electricity between them just crackles with suppressed sexual energy as it is clear that this couple really does belong together and their fights full of whip-sharp wisecracks and putdowns are a joy to watch as the intersection of their professional and personal relationships makes for a whole lotta farcical fun and they are both excellent at showing how dog-eat-dog their world is.
The supporting cast was full of brilliantly observed cameos, chief of which was Margaret Tyzack’s feisty mother-in-law-to-be who was scene-stealingly funny every time she appeared. Nathan Osgood’s ridiculous reporter, Harry Towb’s corrupt mayor and Nicola Stephenson’s moll were all good value for money too.
Altogether it was a great show, huge amounts of fun to watch and quite ingenious in its staging, playing like a black and white film in a nod to its origins with its reporters’ room and court sets and its monochromatic palette. And with Jennings and Wanamaker working wonders at the centre of the play, it was a great re-introduction to the National Theatre.