Prism at the King’s Theatre (Monday 28th October to Saturday 2nd November) brings its own colourful light into the cold dark Edinburgh evenings. Starring Robert Lindsay, this play is based on the life of a real person, cinematographer Jack Cardiff, although as the programme states “artistic licence has been taken, as have a great many liberties”.
Prism is set late in Jack Cardiff’s life, when he is attempting to write his autobiography, but also suffering from dementia and finding it difficult to separate past and present. During his working life, Jack photographed and filmed, and allegedly had affairs with, some of the most famous and beautiful actresses of the time, so it’s maybe not surprising that he’d rather remember that past than live in his present confused state.
Although there are many moments of humour, this production is, at its core, a very poignant and sad one, with some heart-breaking scenes, particularly between Jack and his wife Nicola (played with great style by Tara Fitzgerald). The cast is completed by Oliver Hembrough as Jack’s son Mason, and Victoria Blunt as Lucy, a carer brought in to try and help Jack. The interaction between Jack and Lucy is lovely to watch, as Lucy moves from a seemingly indifferent young woman who “hates old films, especially black and white ones” to someone who is able to share her innermost secrets with Jack whilst growing very fond of him, and also learns to love old films along the way.
The set is a very effective one, moving easily from the garage which has been converted into an “inner sanctum” filled with mementos from Jack’s past, to a film studio, to the set of The African Queen, and there is some very clever use of light and video – keep an eye on the portraits on the back wall. The production team of Terry Johnson (director), Tim Shortall (designer), Ben Ormerod (lighting designer), Ian William Galloway (video designer), John Leonard (sound designer) and Colin Towns (music), have worked together to produce a set which is believable in all its forms, and blends seemingly effortlessly from one scene to the next.
I have to admit that this play was entirely different from what I was expecting, but turned out to be an exceptional piece of theatre, and Robert Lindsay, whom I remember fondly from “Citizen Smith” way back in the late 1970s, was completely convincing in his portrayal of a man struggling with dementia whilst at the same time happily living in his own past.
Review by Lisa Sibbald