This play has enjoyed a sell-out run in London but now brings double Olivier award winner Robert Lindsey to Birmingham.
Prism is the true story of Jack Cardiff, celebrated Hollywood cinematographer. He made the ladies of the era look beautiful. Jack has dementia, spending large parts of his life remembering past glory days and mistaking family for Hollywood stars. As the family cope with his condition in different ways, we join them as they try to live their lives in the shadow of this condition.
Lucy (Victoria Blunt) has been hired as a carer with a side task of helping Jack write his life story. The anxiousness of a newly trained person in their first job is portrayed excellently by Blunt. This contrasts well with the confidence that she exudes as 2 other characters in the second act. Jack’s son Mason (Oliver Hembrough) has spent a life in his fathers’ shadow, he is determined to break free. Hembrough also has more than one character to play and shows a clear distinction between the two. Tara Fitzgerald pours emotion and heart into the role of Nicola, Jacks wife. Her heartbreak and frustration emanating from the stage. For her second character, Kate, Fitzgerald was the epitome of confidence and poise. As Jack Cardiff, Robert Lindsay commands the stage. From the start, even unseen, he has the audience tittering and in the palm of his hand. Lindsay takes Jack from confused but self-assured to a shadow of his former self, the use of a cardigan seems to make this transition complete.
At first glance the set by Tim Shortall seems to be a standard room set, the only unusual feature being the back lit pictures and the posters on the walls. An intriguing twist comes when the pictures change or move to emphasise or enhance the action on stage. This expands further at the end of the first act and into the second with a full projection. Using a projection can raise a few issues and at times the image through the door was unstable (possibly due to curtain movement.) This was distracting and unsettling especially when the action was taking place directly in front of the opening.
There were a few refreshing and unusual elements to the production under the direction of Terry Johnson. A scene repeated in both acts allowed the audience a glimpse into Jack’s world which blurs reality with his past. Opening the second act with a flashback gave more context to Jack’s life and fed directly into his greatest fear. Doing this also allowed the cast to play a different character.
Although the story is based on the life of a well-known person in a cinematic world, it could be about anyone suffering with dementia. It focuses sharply on the reactions and emotions of the family. While the subject is sensitive the play isn’t all serious, there are many humorous moments laced throughout which keeps the feeling light-hearted. There are many lines which are pearls of wisdom that strike a chord and things that will keep you thinking long after the final bow. Prism will take you through a range of emotions, you will laugh and probably cry. All the elements combine to make a glorious evening’s entertainment, as golden as the Hollywood era Jack Cardiff helped to create.
Until 12th October. https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/whats-on/prism.html
Reviewer: Annette Nuttall
Reviewed: 8th October 2019
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★