It’s the contrast between face and voice that does it. The face is round, pure, with two dimples holding her smile in place—it is the face of childhood yearning, Juliette Gréco EPs and moon-gazing through suburban windows. But the voice is something else: about half an octave lower than you expect, luxuriantly so, with unexpected notes of sanguinity and self-amusement—it is unambiguously the voice of a woman, if not fully grown, then bearing a secret apprehension of the oncoming battle between dreams and their disappointment. Yes, the world will let me down, it seems to say, but must we talk about this now? Such was the paradox powering Carey Mulligan’s performance in “An Education” in 2009: that a young actress whose gamine charms sent critics into gauzy reveries of Audrey Hepburn nonetheless packed the pipes of Rita Hayworth, or—better yet—Jenny Agutter. Since that first spring of Hollywood’s infatuation with her, Mulligan has carefully plucked the petals from any career playing English roses, avoiding costume dramas like the plague, instead playing a broken torch-singer in Steve McQueen’s “Shame”, and making pit-stops in Nicolas Winding Refn’s ultra-violent “Drive” and “Inside Llewyn Davis”, where she rained down cold fury on the Coens’ luckless hero. If a great leading film role has eluded her—she seemed more like Daisy Buchanan’s better-read elder sister in Baz Luhrmann’s gaudy, tricked-out Gatsby—onstage Mulligan has broken into long, galloping runs. She was a terrific Nina in a 2007 production of “The Seagull”, and as Karin in Bergman’s “Through a Glass Darkly” in 2011, caught perfectly the pain of someone suicidal denied suicide. This month, she plays Bill Nighy’s ex-lover in a Stephen Daldry production of David Hare’s “Skylight”. That sweet, dimpled smile pins her close-ups to the screen. Onstage, she runs free.
~ TOM SHONE
Skylight Wyndham’s, London, June 6th to Aug 23rd
THEATRE AT A GLANCE
Wolf Hall/Bring Up the Bodies (Aldwych, London, to Sept 6th). Hilary Mantel’s retelling of Tudor history took place entirely inside the thoughts of one, intensely secretive man; that the RSC externalised this into successful theatre was a double coup. Now both adaptations transfer, complete with Stratford’s original and much-lauded cast.
Mr Burns (Almeida, London, June 5th to July 19th). To the survivors in Anne Washburn’s post-apocalyptic black comedy, a hit off-Broadway last autumn, Homer Simpson’s mean boss is no cartoon, but an ever-bigger figure from a past they cannot return to. Myth-making, desire and hope all feature in the second show of Rupert Goold’s debut season as the Almeida’s artistic director.
Antony and Cleopatra (Globe, London, in rep to Aug 24th). Her Antony remains TBA, but Eve Best—wry, human, surprising—should be a Cleo with more than just eyeliner to offer. Phil Daniels, a master at playing outsiders, watches the barge sail past as Enobarbus.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Theatre Royal, Bath, June 18th to July 5th). The film is so fascinated with Burton’s and Taylor’s sexual dynamics that it’s easy to forget what a smart portrait of a marriage, and age, Albee’s play was. Adrian Noble lets us reassess, with the never-less-than-splendid Clare Higgins as Martha. ~ ISABEL LLOYD