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Good girl gone great

Gillian Anderson makes a brave choice and takes on Blanche DuBois

Isabel Lloyd | July/August 2014

Gillian Anderson spent years being good. For almost a decade, she played a paragon of dutiful, baffled integrity: Special Agent Dana Scully on “The X-Files”, one part frown, one part pout. So the surprise was all the greater when, in 2000, she took on Lily Bart in Terence Davies’s film of “The House of Mirth” and showed that, while she was good at being good, she was great at being bad. Her range didn’t so much grow as have a Big Bang. She took on hints of Marilyn Monroe—the breathiness, the downward tug of her top lip—and ratcheted up her sex appeal. She moved with corseted grace, but her eyes flashed impulsiveness and acute intelligence in the shadows of those oppressive Edwardian hats. You could see how any man might want her for his mistress, and none for his wife.

She now has a sharp line in Dickens for the BBC: her Lady Dedlock in “Bleak House” dammed the emotion heaving up her throat with each grandly indrawn breath; her birdlike, childlike Miss Havisham leant, fascinated and horrified, towards others’ pain. Last year her Stella in “The Fall” displayed a relentless, sexually destructive cool that would have had Mulder hiding behind his filing cabinets. Her next stop is Blanche DuBois, on the London stage. It’s a brave choice, so soon after Cate Blanchett’s Blanche reboot in “Blue Jasmine”—which didn’t so much nail the character as pin it to a cross, flay it and label the results. But I’d put money on Anderson making it her own.
~ Isabel Lloyd

A Streetcar Named Desire Young Vic, London, July 23rd to Sept 6th

THEATRE AT A GLANCE

Richard III (Trafalgar Studios, London, to Sept 27th). Casting a Hobbit as a devilish king may seem perverse, but the best Richards let some comedy burble beneath the horror. And Martin Freeman always has an undertow of temper to his humour, the sense that if he’s being nice, it’s only to get the world off his back. 

The James Plays (Edinburgh Festival, Aug 9th-22nd; then Olivier, London). Royalty continues to preoccupy our best playwrights: after Moira Buffini’s “Handbagged”, and Mike Bartlett’s canny “Charles III”, Rona Munro takes on Scots history with this trilogy. Sofie Grabol flies in from her police HQ to be Queen Margaret. 

The Nether (Royal Court, London, to Aug 9th). Headlong is on a roll. First “1984” extended its West End run, now Es Devlin designs the set for this new play, already an award-winner, about the risks of virtual reality and the unfettered imagination. 

Shakespeare in Love (Noël Coward, London, opens tonight). For once, a film could be right at home behind the fourth wall. In Stoppard’s playful tale, Will's and Viola’s hanky-panky is a side issue; the real secret lovers are the English and the theatre. 

Amadeus (Festival, Chichester, to Aug 2nd). Thank God for Rupert Everett’s middle age. His over-ripe weariness gets you past the cheekbones and straight to the character—here Salieri, Peter Shaffer’s witty, bitter might-have-been. ~ IL

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