Prism, Chichester Festival Theatre, REVIEW: 'Beautiful'

Prism is at Chichester Festival Theatre from November 5-9, 2019.
Prism is at Chichester Festival Theatre from November 5-9, 2019.
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When the genius that is Terry Johnson turns his creative hand to the retelling of a life, you can expect nothing but good.

What he did for Sid James, Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams in Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick he also does for Jack Cardiff in Prism, holed-up at the Chichester Festival this week.

You are probably asking ‘Jack who?’

Cardiff was the lighting-cameraman behind such classics as The African Queen but was also known for his still-shots of the stars of the period.

Prism takes us towards the end of his life, when dementia was carving its way through his memories and his sight – the most precious thing in the world to him – was taking its last bow.

The sublime Robert Lindsay plays Cardiff sympathetically, with humour and with an understanding of dementia that astonishes. He is warm and cold, connected and distant, hugely comic and horribly tragic. I despise superlatives – but this performance dips its toe in that particular ocean.

As his wife (and also giving a very fine Katherine Hepburn), Tara Fitzgerald matches Lindsay’s performance-energy, step for step. Again, her playing of the contrasts pleases immensely – bitter at the loss of her husband through the dementia, but fiercely, angrily in love with him still.

Victoria Blunt is touching, funny and gawky as Cardiff’s carer but falls mere millimetres short in her Marilyn Monroe. Oliver Hembrough as Cardiff’s son, Mason, mixes self-centred villainy with love and respect for his father very nicely and, again, it’s the contrasts that excite. He also does a good Humphrey Bogart.

Beautiful.