Invisible Stranger

Invisible Stranger

Collecting Crises on Old Compton Street and Beyond

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Little Tinker

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Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Culture On The Cheap
At the National Theatre last night to catch up on His Girl Friday. It’s a take on the classic newspaper comedy starring Cary Grant and Ros Russell, which was, in its turn, a take on the Broadway hit, The Front Page. The press reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, proving there's nothing journalists like more than giving themselves and their profession good copy.

In fact, the first act is a clunker, ponderous and only mildly amusing as its sets a back-story of city-hall corruption in 1930s Chicago. Things get pacier in the second half, when we headline the efforts of cynical editor, Walter Burns (Alex Jennings), to smooth-talk his ex-wife, wise-cracking star reporter, Hildy Johnson (a scene-stealingly sexy Zoë Wanamaker) back into both his life and the newspaper business.

It's the on-stage snap-crackle-pop of their will-they-won't-they relationship which catapults the production above the so-so, as well as providing some great farcical moments as our two hardened hacks realise they're about to nab the scoop of the year. ("I don't care about Germany invading Poland! This is bigger!")

But best of all is the fact that over two-thirds of the seats in the National's Olivier Theatre will knock you back just ten quid, with the remainder going for 25GBP. This is part of a welcome initiative to get bums different to your average well-off, middle-class, Prada-wearing ones onto theatre seats. And about bloody time too. You can already see an acclaimed modern-day version of Henry V here for a tenner, and next month there's the chance to see Kenneth Branagh in his National Theatre debut.

(If you do drop by, just remember to switch off the Nokia before the show starts. You really don't want to be on the receiving end of what I had to tell the man two seats down from me who hadn't silenced his. Trust me on this one, my dears. You really do not.)