As You Desire Me

Previewed 21 October 2005, Opened 27 October 2005, Closed 22 January 2006 at the Playhouse Theatre in London

A major revival of Luigi Pirandello's play As You Desire Me in London starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Bob Hoskins and directed by Jonathan Kent.

A man meets an amnesiac Budapest cabaret entertainer in a Berlin night club and he believes she could be the wife he has long believed dead back in Italy. She falls in love with him to the fury of the man who is in charge of protecting and shaping her career... Luigi Pirandello uses this story to explore the mysteries of identity and memory, themes that pre-occupied him throughout his life.

The cst for As You Desire Me in London features Kristin Scott Thomas and Bob Hoskins along with Margaret Tyzack, John Carlisle, Tessa Churchard, Stephanie Jacob, Richard Lintern, Finbar Lynch, Andrew Woodall and Hannah Young. Presented in a new version by Hugh Whitemore, it is directed by Jonathan Kent with designs by Paul Brown, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Tim Sutton and sound by Paul Groothuis. Luigi Pirandello's play Absolutely! (perhaps) was seen recently in London at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2003 starring Dame Joan Plowright and Oliver Ford Davies.

"Jonathan Kent's handsome production pulls off a rare thing: it makes you see the point of Pirandello's theatrical games. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Elma, the plaything of Bob Hoskins's pimp/sugar daddy Salter, quite marvellously. In a figureskimming, bead-and-sequin spider's web, this Berlin chanteuse is seedy but infinitely desirable. The frock may be clinging and transparent; the woman is anything but. When Finbar Lynch turns up in Mafia-style shades and suggests she is somebody else, a woman named Lucia who lost her memory following a brutal rape by soldiers during the war, she throws herself into the role. She returns to the Italian estate where she is supposed to have been brought up by her aunt, Lena, and spends four months living as Lucia, transforming herself into the graceful, devoted wife of her aristocrat husband Bruno. But the day she decides she is ready to meet her sister, Salter arrives, bringing with him a traumatised woman strapped to a wheelchair. The woman's sole, but infinitely repeated, cry is the name Lena, and Salter claims she is the real Lucia. Scott Thomas's remarkable achievement is that she is never upstaged by her gorgeous dresses. Hard as nails, quickwitted, a chameleon with a disorientating downmarket vulgarity, she keeps us guessing about her true identity. In so doing, she makes us think carefully about how any of us might prove who we really are... Margaret Tyzack is particularly good as Lena, the motherfigure who longs to truly believe that her 'Cia' has returned to her but can't stifle her doubts. Then she hears the woman who has lost her wits say her name. Hugh Whitemore's compelling new version of the play guarantees a fascinating evening." The Mail on Sunday

"[The] first act is worryingly ponderous, even if Scott Thomas is silkily capricious as the drunken, jaded Elma. As the issue of her identity becomes more important, however, Jonathan Kent's production gains enough height to match the play's intellectual somersaults, spinning through a dizzying Martin Guerre-style story that asks whether identity comes from who you are, or who you say you are... [Kristin Scott Thomas] she captures all Elma's mercurial mystery, the initial boozy decadence ebbing away to reveal a woman capable of both intense vulnerability and tough defiance. Never hysterical, she subtly depicts a woman who, for whatever reason, has lost a vital piece of her personality; who looks intact, yet sounds like a cracked bell. It should also be made known that she can sing cabaret numbers about sex appeal with vampish conviction." The Sunday Times

"Here's a curiosity - two movie stars in a snippet of a play that gets Londoners home in time for cocoa and the Ten O'Clock News. Kristin Scott Thomas plays L'Ignota, a cabaret singer with a doubtless colourful past, if only she could remember it. She's living in post-war Berlin with rich sugar daddy Salter - Bob Hoskins, bald and ferocious - until her loss of memory is invaded by claims that she's really Lucia, the long-since missing wife of an Italian with a handsome villa and welcoming arms. Luigi Pirandello's 1930 play, newly translated by Hugh Whitmore, is part mystery and part psychological brainteaser. Is L'Ignota - The Unknown Woman - really Lucia, with amnesia brought on by being gang-raped by enemy soldiers? Or is it a case of mistaken identity prompted by a desire - shared by us all - to believe what we want to believe? Scott Thomas, in the role played on film by Greta Garbo, is as alluring as she is mysterious - almost transparent skirts on swinging hips help a lot. And even if Hoskins, looking like the 1932 movie's Erich Von Stroheim, huffs and puffs a little too much to be wholly convincing, director Jonathan Kent's production offers 90 intriguing minutes as riveting as any Agatha Christie plot." The Sun

As You Desire Me in London at the Playhouse Theatre previewed from 21 October 2005, opened on 27 October 2005 and closed on 22 January 2006.