Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Edmond

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Edmond

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

In David Mamet's brief immorality play Edmond, a respectable middle-aged man remorselessly slithers into New York's lower depths. The Olivier stage is too vast for a play based upon two-character close encounters. But Kenneth Branagh (left, with Nicola Stephenson), at last returning to the London stage, beautifully fits the title role as if it had been cut and tailored for him.

Mamet takes just 75 shocking minutes and 23 televisual scenes to chart this all-downhill, black comedy of a trip to the gutters of humiliation. Cast aside middleclass conventions and inhibitions, abandon marriage and home to go in search of your wildest sexual desires and you end up living a nightmare. The lowlife America that Mamet exposes is one where con-artists and crooks, card-sharpers, whores, pimps and peepshow merchants ply their bartering trade. Once in their midst, Edmond soon reveals himself to be a racist, murderous sexseeker who takes a survival knife for protection in the jungle of the city and cannot resist fatally plunging it into innocent flesh.

Branagh's Edmond begins as the picture of middleclass conventionality in a dark, two-piece suit. Then, in a helter-skelter of scenes, deftly flowing in Edward Hall's not very atmospheric production, Edmond steps out into anarchy's playground. Branagh deftly catches all the right changes in the man's temper and tone.

Stripped naked and right down to his middle-aged spread for Rebecca Johnson's manipulative whore, Branagh's Edmond is comically torn between driving a hard bargain and getting laid. Bloodied and dollarless, he seethes with a fine outrage and erupts into spasms of violence.

Edmond is not a major Mamet. The antihero's decline and fall is too briskly allegorical, the characters cartoonish. Besides the prison cell finale, in which a serene Edmond protests his belief in determinism and plants a goodnight kiss upon a prisoner who earlier forcibly buggered him, it smacks of gratuitous sentimentality. …

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