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Helen McCrory would have been the next Helen Mirren or Judi Dench

The actress leaves an extraordinary body of work, but there is no doubt that she had so much more to give

The wonder for me about Helen McCrory – whose passing, at 52, is so cruel, so sad, such a profound and premature loss to the acting profession – is how relatively long it took for people to cotton on to her magnificence.

I was lucky enough to visit the Tricycle, north London one winter evening in 1995 and see her star as Lady M in Macbeth. In fact, of course, she wasn’t then the “draw” – here was, surprisingly enough, a Shakespeare production at a major off-West End venue renowned for its contemporary political work. It was an oddity from artistic director Nicolas Kent. Yet within the space of a couple of hours, I emerged with her name on my lips, and the surest conviction that I had set eyes on one of the greats.

Here was an actress who was so intense, so spellbinding, so caught up in every moment of every scene she was in that it was as though she carried a lifetime’s acting experience within her: but she was just in her mid-20s. Her flintiness illuminated every line it sparked off.  Rapt, I ended my review of that dark, sinister torch-lit night, referencing the sleepwalking scene, saying that “it is the sight of McCrory alone, scurrying restlessly round in the dark and hugging a single flame, that burns a lasting image of unstoppable evil onto your retina.”

Categories Old Times Reviews

Old Times at the Donmar Warehouse – Review

A Sleek and Assured Revival

by Paul Taylor | October 10, 2004 | The Independent

It’s a fact seldom remarked on that the two women are never seen alone together in Harold Pinter’s 1971 three-hander Old Times. Why? Is it because an all-female conversation would blow the whole brilliant, artificial construction to bits? Would any private talk between them give the lie to the exaggeration in the play’s fundamental idea: that the past can be reinvented at will according to the needs of the present moment and that “memories” are merely weapons in a deadly battle over current contested territory?

The female characters interact with each other entirely under the eyes of Deeley, a film-maker who is forced into a duel over possession of his wife, Kate, when her old friend Anna, with whom she once shared a flat in London, visits them at their farmhouse near the sea. If the liberating twist is that Kate eventually sees off both claimants, the play uses the women as agents in a disturbing study of male insecurity, and of the savage operations of retrospective jealousy.

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Categories Old Times Reviews

Old Times at the Donmar Warehouse – Review

That rare performer who can simultaneously play intelligence and desire, a woman at once on the prowl and gently pained, McCrory turns out to be the Harold Pinter interpreter of one’s dreams.

by Matt Wolf |  July 18, 2004 | Variety

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Alastair Muir/Shutterstock (510620hd)
‘Old Times’ play at The Donmar Warehouse – Helen McCrory (Anna)
VARIOUS

It takes a real gift to make the mere question “Do you?” at once sexy, funny and mysterious, but it long ago became clear that Helen McCrory is no mere actress. That rare performer who can simultaneously play intelligence and desire, a woman at once on the prowl and gently pained, McCrory turns out to be the Harold Pinter interpreter of one’s dreams. Those same qualities were on show, triumphantly, in the Donmar’s “How I Learned to Drive” and in McCrory’s Yelena two years ago in “Uncle Vanya,” directed by Sam Mendes. And they prove crucial to a play like Pinter’s 1971 “Old Times,” which turns on issues of absence, abandonment and loss, and whether a supremely malleable drama’s two female characters might in fact be one.

On the other hand, “in fact” isn’t a phrase readily applied to a text whose ellipses shift from production to production, along with a sense of where its erotic pivot lies. In the last London “Old Times,” on the West End in 1995, Julie Christie brought a sphinx like command to the crucial role of Kate, the wife who is being fought over by her filmmaker husband, Deeley, and her best friend from 20 years before, Anna.

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Categories Interviews Old Times Print Media

Old Times at the Donmar Warehouse – Review

Helen McCrory: Memories are made of these

by Sam Marlowe | July 10, 2004 |  The Independent

In an old interview with Helen McCrory, there’s an eye-catching account of her first day at a rough Bletchley school. The story goes that the young Helen was sent home in disgrace after defending herself from a skinhead schoolboy thug (who threatened her with a knife) by breaking his arm. Sitting opposite the delicate, dark-eyed heroine of this tale, I try to picture the scene, and I have to ask: is it true? “Did you read it in a paper? Then what do you think?” replies the actress with a throaty laugh. “No, of course it’s not true. It was me being rather sarcastic. I’ve soooo learnt that irony does not read well in print.”

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Categories Old Times Print Media Reviews

Old Times at the Donmar Warehouse – Review

A Masterpiece Has Found The Production It Deserves

by Charles Spencer | July 8, 2004 | Daily Telegraph

OLD TIMES by Pinter ;Helen McCrory as Anna ;
Credit: Ivan Kyncl / ArenaPAL ;
www.arenapal.com

So many of Pinter’s plays inhabit a predominantly masculine world, in which one chap is always trying to get one over another. The rooms in which his dramas are set become battlegrounds – for territory, possession and control.

But in what for me are undoubtedly his greatest dramas, women emphatically make their presence felt, too. You only have to think of Betrayal, The Homecoming and of course, this piece, Old Times (1971), to realise what a master Pinter  is at conveying the thrill, the mystery and the destructive force of desire.

His work can be viewed as a series of illustrations of various forms of bullying and intimidation, whether at a personal or a political level, and these persistent motifs are certainly present in Old Times. But so too is a seam of dangerous, provocative sexuality and a fascinating analysis of memory – its almost hallucinatory clarity, its possible unreliability and the devious uses to which it can be put.

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