Those who loved the 1969 film starring Maggie Smith in the Brodie title role, Celia Johnson as her sceptical headmistress, Robert Stephens as the randy art master, Gordon Jackson as the dependable music teacher and Pamela Franklin as the precocious schoolgirl nemesis who betrays her will enjoy the latest theatrical incarnation of the Muriel Spark novel.
Playing at the Donmar Warehouse, Covent Garden until July 28 this very satisfying version makes it very clear very early on that Jean Brodie, played beautifully by Lia Williams is actually bad for the impressionable young girls at the conservative Marcia Blaine all-female school in 1930’s Edinburgh, in particular for one excluded from membership of her “Brodie Set” in this play who, influenced by Brodie’s urging pupils to be heroines, runs away to fighting in Spain and gets herself killed. This and Brodie’s declared and very public support for fascism and Mussolini brings about her downfall when Brodie girl and Miss not-so-goody-two-shoes Sandy Stranger, another beautifully played role by Rona Morrisson, grasses her up to headmistress Miss Mackay, a strong performance by Sylvestra Le Touzel
For us the real key to Jean Brodie’s charismatic but deeply flawed character, and the point where we stopped rather liking her was when she wantonly kisses art master and lover Teddy Lloyd, ( Edward Mcliam, in dashing mode) and then, seeing that she is being observed by one of the girls, loudly orders him out of her classroom as if he had assaulted her. Another indicator is her dismissive treatment of the dependable but shy music teacher, Gordon Lowther, well played by Angus Wright.
“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is an assured adaptation by David Harrowver and is directed by Polly Findlay. Review based on the June 14 matinee.