It is 1979 and Esme Allen has it all. A successful actress, she is at the pinnacle of her career and passionate about the West End stage where she earns a comfortable living. But then a visit from her daughter, Amy, with her new boyfriend, a brash young gossip-columnist and film critic, sets in motion a series of events which reach their shattering conclusion sixteen years later. This blistering journey through family relationships, the changing face of Britain and popular culture sees one of our most compelling writers at the height of his powers. Amy's View is an enthralling, stimulating and witty drama about the power of love and loss.
The playwright David Hare said about his play: "Amy's View starts in a widow's sitting-room which is casually littered with the work of a dead artist, Bernard Thomas. It is Thomas's spirit which then presides over the whole play. The story that follows, about the relationship between a leading West End actress, Esme Allen, and her loving daughter, Amy, is played out over a sixteen-year period, starting in 1979. It describes an era in which it becomes more and more difficult for an actress to make a living in the theatre alone. But, throughout, it is the memory of her dead husband which provides Esme with the lasting principles of her life. In writing a play which is, at the last, a testimony to art's dignifying importance in the life, at least, of one individual, I am pleased that so many people have spotted the fact that the play aims to use all the armoury of theatre to defend theatre itself. Since the play opened at the National Theatre in 1997, I have also been amused and sometimes taken aback by the sheer variety of people's responses to it... To some people who write to me, Amy's View is, primarily, a family play, the study of a relationship between a mother and daughter. To others, it is a tragedy, centred round the deeply mysterious question of why we can never make amends with people we need to, but instead always choose disastrously to put reconciliation off to another day. To others again, it is seen primarily as an attack on a generation which regards art itself as old-fashioned and elitist. To a last, substantial group, Amy's View has appeared principally as a political play, showing how the spoilt British characteristically dream their way through their lives, hopelessly trusting to their own superiority, and never really bothering to come to terms with a reality which has changed beyond recognition. I hope it will ruin nobody's fun to say I recognize all these interpretations, and intend at least three-quarters of them. But beyond all of them, my purpose in writing Amy's View was to do something blindingly simple, and yet still distressingly rare: to put modern women's lives on the stage in a way which I hope women might recognize."
Original London West End Production (National Theatre and Aldwych Theatre) - 1997 / 1998
Previewed 13 June 1997, Opened 20 June 1997, Closed 8 November 1997 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre in London
Previewed 8 January 1998, Opened 14 January 1998, Closed 18 April 1998 at the Aldwych Theatre in London
The cast at both the National Theatre and at the West End's Aldwych Theatre featured Judi Dench as 'Esme Allen' with Samantha Bond as 'Amy Thomas', Ronald Pickup as 'Frank Oddie', Eoin McCarthy as 'Dominic Tyghe',Joyce Redman as 'Evelyn Thomas' and Christopher Staines as 'Toby Cole'. Directed by Richard Eyre with designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Richard Hartley and sound by Scott Myers.
"When David Hares Amy's View was new at the National Theatre in 1997, Judi Dench's performance as Esme was the greatest performance by an actress to be seen in London all year. Now that Richard Eyre's production has transferred to the Aldwych Theatre, her performance is yet greater. The performances by the rest of the cast have grown too - above all Samantha Bond's as Amy, Esme's daughter. And the best news of all is that the play seems also to have grown. It is still true that Amy's View has faults, some of which become more nagging in recollection than at the time one experiences the play; but to be nagged by them is also to be excited by the play Amy's View wants to be, and to feel just to how great a degree it succeeds... For Dench and Bond, their performances are the best examples today before the British public of how great acting can make a world onstage real and, further, can take the audience along a large and rich journey. It is easy to find fault with Amy's View; but the best way of praising it is to see just how much these actors make of it." The Financial Times
"There's a weird satisfaction in seeing a play one really enjoyed first time around proving itself in a barn of a theatre like the Aldwych Theatre. David Hare's latest has now arrived in the West End proper after a sell-out run at the National Theatre; It remains a brilliant evening with Judi Dench and Samantha Bond providing a starry duet in this laughter-filled tragedy set in darkest Berkshire. If anything, the show has improved even though its faults are now more obvious... The play has a great deal to say about life and love. It's Amy's view that love conquers all. It's Esme's view that in the end it doesn't... The rest of the cast is rock solid. Ronald Pickup is fun as the drunk next door, while Joyce Redman, as Esme's mother, goes quietly senile. Such classy performances in a major contemporary play make this unmissable." The Daily Express
"No British playwright is better than David Hare at making arguments about social issues lively yet fair. Antithesis follows thesis, retort follows opinion, as deftly as ping follows pong. But this time the bats, the tennis table, or something, have been fixed. In the play's central conflict, which is between the cultural claims of the slick modern media and that antiquated form, the theatre, there is absolutely no doubt where Hare's sympathies lie. Although he makes token efforts to balance their views, Esme the doughty traditionalist wins by furlongs from Dominic, a sort of serial philistine labouring to be real... Why, then, do I still find the play so enjoyable? Well, there are three main reasons: one is that Hare writes with great wit and craftsmanly confidence, turning many a sharp sentence and giving us the best first-act curtain-line in town. Another is the pace and clarity of Richard Eyre's direction. And the third is Dench's wonderful blend of bloodymindedness and warmth. The final scene, which finds Esme grimly enduring her losses yet getting serious solace from the exercise of her art, is as moving as anything Dench, Eyre or Hare have achieved. More than the arguments that have preceded it, it makes Hare's case. The theatre lives. The theatre matters. The theatre is unique." The Times
"Until Skylight, David Hare was best known for his big, state-of-the-nation plays which examined British institutions and found them wanting. Then, in Skylight, on a comparatively intimate scale, the political got personal to brilliant effect. So I felt wildly excited at the prospect of Amy's View, another domestic drama which promised to tackle the theatre, as well as life, death and everything. It's a wretched disappointment. The play charts the relationship between Esme, an actress, and her daughter, Amy, from the time Amy falls in love with a man Esme disapproves of, through their break-up, and reaches a reconciliation of sorts only after Amy's death. Throughout the play Hare lashes out at today's media, which reduces culture to product, at TV and film and even at phoney heritage England. But he breaks no new ground, nor allows the play to cohere into a satisfactory dramatic argument. While a superbly theatrical scene at the end makes a spirited defence on behalf of the theatre's unique power, even this is muted. Still, Amy's View has a major compensation in providing a role of glorious scope for Judi Dench. As the unpredictable Esme, once a successful West End actress, now reduced to playing a germ on the radio, she gives a mesmerising performance." The Mail on Sunday
Amy's View in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 8 January 1998, opened on 14 January 1998 and closed on 18 April 1998 - a transfer from the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre previewed from 13 June 1997, opened on 20 June 1997 and closed on 8 November 1997 (in repertory)
1st London West End Revival (Garrick Theatre) - 2006
Previewed 14 November 2006, Opened 20 November 2006, Closed 17 February 2007 at the Garrick Theatre in London
The cast features Felicity Kendal as 'Esme Allen' with Jenna Russell as 'Amy Thomas', Gawn Grainger as 'Frank Oddie', Ryan Kiggell as 'Dominic Tyghe', Antonia Pemberton as 'Evelyn Thomas' and Geoff Breton as 'Toby Cole'. Directed by Peter Hall with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Gregory Clarke.
Felicity Kendal's London theatre credits include the role of 'Julia', playing opposite Frances de la Tour as 'Jane', in Michael Rudman's revival of Noel Coward's Fallen Angels at the Apollo Theatre in 2000; the title role of 'Millie Pochet' in Peter Hall's production of Georges Feydeau's Mind Millie For Me at the Haymarket Theatre in 1996; and the role of 'Flora Crewe' in Peter Wood's production of Tom Stoppard's Indian Ink at the Aldwych Theatre in 1995. Peter Hall's credits include Lenny about Lenny Bruce starring Eddie Izzard (Queen's Theatre 1999).
"When Amy's View opened nearly a decade ago, I called it a bad Hare day salvaged by the incomparable Judi Dench, who made it a richer piece than it deserved. Time and some rewriting, alas, haven't done much to improve it but, once again, the leading lady is the best thing about it... David Hare's defence of the theatre as an endangered species is only one of the themes in this piece. He also takes an unsatisfying pop at critics and the inferior media of telly and film which, he says, mistakes violence for action. Yet another target is sham heritage England. All of which leaves us rather confused about what this play is trying to say. Certainly, the row between Esme and her daughter Amy, who believes 'love conquers all', is the play's climax, but, in the end, it's Esme's behaviour rather than Amy's which supports this conviction. Jenna Russell gives a disappointinglymuted performance as Amy, locked in a passionless relationship with a ghastly journalist. Thanks to her underwritten character, she can't persuade her mother why she loves Dominic any more than she can persuade us - and Ryan Kiggell, similarly underexplored, renders him stubbornly unlovable. Ironically, perhaps, Hare pulls off the play's proposal that it is not what one is but what one does that counts, for it's a play full of holes which nevertheless proves a roadworthy vehicle for Kendal's talent." The Mail on Sunday
"An estate agent would take one look at Felicity Kendal's chintzy drawing-room in Amy's View at the Garrick Theatre and say that it was in need of modernisation. The same might be said of Sir David Hare's play with its talk of yuppies with mobile telephones clasped to both their ears, Lloyd's losers and how video is about to sound the death knell for theatre... Peter Hall's direction doesn't help matters. It might most kindly be described as faithful, or, less kindly, as not terribly innovative. Miss Kendal doesn't help this play make the leap into the new millennium either... It is wordy, stagey, almost Rattiganesque stuff but, for all that, it is very well acted. It isn't only Felicity Kendal who acquits herself well, but all five of the principals. Jenna Russell and Ryan Kiggell, in particular, were exceptionally fine. David Hare would no doubt argue that the play's central theme - the relationship between a mother and daughter - is timeless, but to be truly timeless it needs to have something special or surprising to say and I am afraid Amy's View hasn't. Playwrights such as Hare, who go for high impact by talking directly to audiences about the times in which they live, must recognise, too, that they impose sell-by dates on their plays." The Sunday Telegraph
"Peter Hall's revival of David Hare's play is like a rebirth; it's like meeting a brilliant, angry adolescent a decade later and seeing that he's found himself. At its heart is a performance of blazing, regal vulnerability by Felicity Kendal as Esme - West End star, widow, anxious but domineering mother, a creature of pride, spite and hope, embattled defender of the faith in the theatre... We all have our unrealities to sort out. Not everyone can. Jenna Russell is a fine, tense, embattled Amy, and Gawn Grainger creates one of those unsparing, carefully crafted psychological portraits of which he is such a master." The Sunday Times
Amy's View in London at the Garrick Theatre previewed from 14 November 2006, opened on 20 November 2006 and closed on 17 February 2007.