Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: The Kid Stays in the Picture; Love in Idleness

Magazine article The Spectator

Theatre: The Kid Stays in the Picture; Love in Idleness

Article excerpt

BREAKING NEWS: 'Enjoyable play found at Royal Court.' Generally, the Court likes to send its customers home feeling depressed, guilty, frightened or suicidal. And, generally, it succeeds. The Kid Stays in the Picture is based on the memoirs of Hollywood super-mogul Robert Evans. Director Simon McBurney uses artful lighting and complex staging effects to disguise the fact that this is just a glorified book-reading of the kind broadcast by Radio 4 every day of the week. The performers are concealed by deep shadows or behind screens and this threatens to break a basic rule of live theatre: an actor who can't be seen can't be heard. But the performers are audible enough and one of them, Danny Huston, has a wonderfully gnarled and leathery voice. Happily, the cast are in no danger of fluffing their lines. An autocue fixed to the gallery beams the script direct to the stage.

What makes the show stand out is the gossipy, crowd-pleasing material. Evans (real name Shapera) was a handsome New Yorker who fell into acting by chance after bumping into Norma Shearer at a swimming-pool. Cast as a bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises, he asked the producer why a real matador hadn't been hired. 'A real matador doesn't look real.' His career soon faltered and by the early 1960s he was back in New York flogging women's clothing. He bought an option on an obscure novel, The Detective, which soared to the top of the bestseller lists. Hollywood came to negotiate and Evans played his limited hand expertly. He demanded, and won, permanent tenure at Paramount studios. He spent the next decade making a slate of films that have become enduring fixtures in our collective memory: Rosemary's Baby, The Godfather, Love Story, The Italian Job, True Grit and Marathon Man.

Evans, who was Jewish, conceived The Godfather as an all-Italian production. He wanted audiences to 'smell the pasta'. A dearth of Italian directors led him to hire the inexperienced Francis Ford Coppola, who hailed his first two-hour cut as 'a masterpiece'. Evans disagreed and forced Coppola to restore scenes that enriched its emotional texture and increased its length by 50 per cent.

Casting Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby brought Evans into conflict with her husband, Frank Sinatra. The singer insisted that she quit the film, mid-shoot. Evans persuaded Farrow that her performance would bag her an Oscar. …

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