Review: Ellen Terry with Eileen Atkins, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“If”once I part from any man I meet, I am never found again”

Having decided not to go back to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse after the perverse pleasure it seems to take in charging large amounts of money for considerable discomfort nearly ruined a good Duchess of Malfi, the offer of a ticket to Eileen Atkins’ one woman show proved irresistible. That it was free helped, but I was also interested to see what the standing experience there was like, at just £10 it doesn’t seem too unreasonable and with it being a short show, it was a risk I was willing to take.

The show itself was predictably excellent. Ellen Terry was a Victorian actress known for her Shakespearean work and her analysis of it, so Atkins’ show weaves together material from Terry’s books and lectures with insights from her life and healthy chunks of the Bard, illustrating the characters of which she speaks. It’s a compelling mixture, full of absolutely fascinating observations on these characters we know so well and the experiences of a woman working her way through the canon as best she can, given the way society is.

And getting to hear as marvellous an actress as Eileen Atkins, looking regal in deep blue, giving us hints of her Emilia, her Juliet, her Cordelia, even her Lear, is nothing short of a genuine privilege. So good that I almost forgot to complain about the sightlines from the cheap seats! For a show such as this, it didn’t really matter, but if one is having to look across a stage at many things, it is hard to see how the candelabras won’t prove a serious hindrance. 

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 24th February

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