Previewed 2 October 2018, Opened 9 October 2018, Closed 1 December 2018 at the Wyndham's Theatre
Florian Zeller's new play The Height of the Storm in London starring Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins
André and Madeleine have been in love for over fifty years. This weekend, as their daughters visit, something feels unusual. A bunch of flowers arrives, but who sent them? A woman from the past turns up, but who is she? And why does André feel like he isn't there at all?
The cast features Jonathan Pryce as 'Andre' and Eileen Atkins as 'Madeleine' with Amanda Drew as 'Anne', Anna Madeley as 'Elise', James Hillier as 'the man' and Lucy Cohu as 'the woman'. Directed by Jonathan Kent with designs by Anthony Ward, lighting by Hugh Vanstone, music by Gary Yershon and sound by Paul Groothuis. Adapted and translated by Christopher Hampton.
Florian Zeller's other West End plays include The Truth seen at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2016, and The Father which was seen at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015 and at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2016 - both of these plays where also translated and adapted by Christopher Hampton.
When this production opened here at the Wyndham's Theatre in October 2018, Dominic Maxwell in the Times thought it was an "artfully confusing, always absorbing, darkly amusing and finally deeply moving new play by Florian Zeller... Christopher Hampton's translation is expertly spare, and the first-rate cast ensure that these characters always feel real rather than pieces on a theatrical chessboard... an 80-minute show that packs in more human life than many shows manage in three hours." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that "Florian Zeller silkily interweaves layers of time and memory in this elegiac meditation on ageing, frailty and loneliness, fluidly rendered in Christopher Hampton's translation... Jonathan Pryce captures precisely the vulnerability of a previously imperious man suddenly forced to confront a void. Eileen Atkins uses her wonderfully wry delivery to express benign frustration with her husband and daughters." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted how, in "Jonathan Kent's monumental yet minutiae-alert production... the lead performances have the force of thunder-claps - nuanced, lived-in, finally full of poignant dignity and child-like grace... Yet in testing his audience's wits and patience, Florian Zeller's machinations are intrusively apparent. You glean the truth of the human condition, but the artistry around it is so elaborate it verges on feeling false." Neil Norman in the Daily Express described it as being "a poignant and intense drama about the disorienting effects of loss... Director Jonathan Kent maintains iron control over the play and the performances are quietly sensational... A haunting, compelling play that ripples with uncertainty to the end." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said: "It's a play that's almost impossible to decipher, but not at all difficult to understand." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail praised it as being a "deftly shattering show," but explained that "this is not a faultless evening. At times you wish the script would crack on with things. A couple of the minor characters feel contrived. Dame Eileen is no more French than a rasping Hampstead bluestocking and I could have done with 10 per cent more tenderness between the old duo... Although it makes for a melancholy evening, it has, at its core, a depiction of a strong marriage, and two wonderfully watchable performances by top-class stage artists."
Jonathan Pryce's London stage credits include the title role in Michael Attenborough's revival of Shakespeare's King Lear at the Almeida Theatre in 2012; the role of 'Davies' in Christopher Morahan's revival of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker at the Trafalgar Studios in 2010; the role of 'Shelly Levene' in James Macdonald's revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross at the Apollo Theatre in 2007; the role of 'Martin' in Anthony Page's production of Edward Albee's The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? Apollo Theatre in 2004; the role of 'Professor Henry Higgins' in Trevor Nunn's revival of the Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady at the National Theatre in 2001; the title role in Adrian Noble's revival of Shakespeare's Macbeth for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the Barbican Theatre in 1987; and the role of 'Mick' in Kenneth Ives revival of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker, for the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1980.
Eileen Atkins' West End theatre credits include the role of 'Margot' in Roger Michell's production of Joanna Murray-Smith's The Female Of The Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2008; the role of 'Louise Rafi' in Jonathan Kent's revival of Edward Bond's The Sea at the Haymarket Theatre in 2008; the role of 'Meg' in Lindsay Posner's revival of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party at the Duchess Theatre in 2005; the role of 'Virginia Woolf' in her own play Vita and Virginia, directed by Patrick Garland, at the Ambassadors Theatre in 1993; and the title role in John Dove's revival of George Bernard Shaw's Saint Joan at the Old Vic Theatre in 1977.
"Three years ago Zeller scored a hit with The Father, a heartrending portrait of an Alzheimer's sufferer in which the disruption of the spectacle marked the disorientation of the protagonist's mind. This new play covers much of the same territory but, fatally, there's no objective reality by which we can judge it. Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins play a long-married couple, one of whom is dead. But it's never clear which it is. Largely through the splendour of the two performances, the final moments achieve a kind of transcendence - but the writing remains frustratingly opaque. At only 80 minutes long, the play is slight and the supporting characters sketchy. Theatregoers hungry for a post-show meal may be grateful; the rest of us will feel short-changed." The Sunday Express
"Not only do scenes jump back and forth between time frames and characters' perspectives, but in the same scene you might not be quite sure who is really alive and who is a ghost, or if everything is being played out in just one character's memory or imagination. This may sound confusing, even annoying, but it isn't. It's immensely artful and moving. In its very haziness, it evokes a sense of the uncertainty of memory and the onset of the dementia that is also afflicting Andre... Jonathan Pryce gives a beautifully aged, weary performance as André, his sadness and confusion communicated in every faltering footstep and lost stare. The redemptive note, though played pianissimo, is his profound love for his wife, Madeleine, represented by Eileen Atkins as a rather tough, dry old stick, but, in a closing scene, glowing with tenderness... The two daughters, Anne and Elise, played by Amanda Drew and Anna Madeley respectively, are less convincingly drawn, one with her multiple lovers, the other bustling and mumsy, given to using phrases such as 'concrete progress' and other horrors... At its best, though, The Height of the Storm is a powerful and poignant depiction of love and loss in old age." The Sunday Times
The Height of the Storm in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 2 October 2018, opened on 9 October 2018 and closed on 1 December 2018