Take Any Available Ticket For This 5* Production Of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse ★★★★★

By Johnny Fox Last edited 6 months ago

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Take Any Available Ticket For This 5* Production Of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse 5
Photo: Manuel Harlan

If you think The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is some whimsical reincarnation of the 1969 film with Maggie Smith flitting about Edinburgh in a chiffon scarf dripping witty epigrams about Mussolini — think again.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

David Harrower’s breathtakingly clever adaptation puts a postwar perspective on Miss Brodie’s 1933 preference for all things Italian from Art to Blackshirts, by framing scenes in 1947 with her protégée Sandy interviewed following a blockbuster novel about her childhood, and on the brink of entering a convent.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Partly drawing on author Muriel Spark’s own experience — Jean Brodie eclipsed all her other writings — it allows us to both see and enjoy the beloved teacher inspiring her pupils, but also consider how wise it was to inculcate them with admiration of fascism, or early sexual experimentation, or sherry.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

This depiction reinforces that the girls are 11 at the start of the story, and may make you feel that Sylvestra LeTouzel’s splendidly buttoned-up headmistress Miss Mackay may not be entirely wrong to disapprove.  

Photo: Manuel Harlan

Lia Williams’ portrayal of Jean Brodie is astonishing.  She is to the life the luminous, literate freethinker the girls naturally adore;  but her reactions to any perceived slight, her sudden and frightening anger, and her subtle miscalculation of the pivotal point in more than one of her girls’ lives are superbly crafted, and eclipse any version of this story you may have seen before.

Photo: Manuel Harlan

It’s a short run at the Donmar — take any available ticket, Polly Findlay’s splendidly-cast and nimbly directed production is a must-see.  And let’s hope it has a longer life somewhere else.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,Donmar Warehouse, Earlham Street, WC2. Tickets £10-40, until 28 July 2018.

Last Updated 20 June 2018