Scorched-Earth Strategy Nicole Kidman Sizzles in David Hare's New Play

By Kroll, Jack | Newsweek, October 5, 1998 | Go to article overview

Scorched-Earth Strategy Nicole Kidman Sizzles in David Hare's New Play


Kroll, Jack, Newsweek


The most passionately anticipated movie in years is Stanley Kub-rick's "Eyes Wide Shut," starring Tom Cruise and his wife, Nicole Kidman. Now that desire is being partially slaked by the appearance of Kidman onstage in London in David Hare's erotically charged new play The Blue Room. While Kubrick edits the closely guarded film in his London lair, Kidman is hitting the boards like a fireball, scorching the normally nonflammable critics. The Daily Telegraph swore that Kidman was "pure sexual Viagra." The Guardian said, "She is not just a star, she delivers the goods." As for Kidman, she's acting in the 250-seat Donmar Warehouse because "you cannot look just to movies to be fulfilled."

"The Blue Room" is Hare's modernized version of Arthur Schnitzler's "La Ronde," in which five men and five women form an inadvertent sexual daisy chain that crosses lines of social class and money. In Hare's version, two actors, Kidman and Iain Glen, play all 10 contemporary copulators. Both give virtuoso performances, switching identities, costumes, accents and positions with speed, elegance, pathos and hilarity. These attributes apply equally to Sam Mendes's staging and to Hare's play, which looks with cool empathy at the illusions and deceptions of the modern mating dance.

As a stage image, Kidman is the essence of -escense: luminescent, opalescent, incandescent. As an actress, she evokes with wit and style a teenage hooker, a French au pair, an upscale wife, a coked-up model, an imperious stage diva. Matching her is Glen as a lecherous cabdriver, a callow student, a self-adoring playwright, a philandering poli- tician, a jaded aristocrat. Flinging their clothes off and on with finger-straining abandon, they couple in stage blackouts, to the frazzling accompaniment of an electric buzzer, followed by a sign signaling the length of their liaisons. (Winner: the politician at 2 hours 28 minutes. Flunkout: the student at 0.)

It took guts for movie-star Kidman, 31, to step into the naked reality of the stage in such a risky project. Living in London with Cruise for 18 months while working on Kubrick's project, Kidman felt the call of the theater, where she hadn't worked since she was 19 in her native Australia. The sky-diving, mountain-climbing Kidman was undaunted by the relentless sexuality of "The Blue Room." The most erotic scene in the play is one in which the playwright tenderly dresses the model after they've made love. "That was my idea," says Kidman. "I thought it was sexier for him than ripping her clothes off.

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Scorched-Earth Strategy Nicole Kidman Sizzles in David Hare's New Play
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