19 March 2011 5:04 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Hampstead; Theatre Royal Haymarket; Vaudeville, all London

Ecstasy: by which Mike Leigh means desperation under a candlewick bedspread. His restaging of this 1979 play, originally devised at Hampstead with Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, is a significant occasion. It's the first time Leigh has returned to one of his old plays. It is, in terms of tickets sold and cash taken, the most successful production in the theatre's history. It is also a blazing demonstration of Leighland.

It begins with electric simplicity. When Siân Brooke and Sinead Matthews – the one with a gin bottle in the cupboard and sexually grumpy visitors, the other waving some pink, slippery tops she's just nicked from C&A – yelp on to the scene, they are bright outlines. The audience chortles, and bring to mind Dominic Cooke's project at the Royal Court: he thinks it grisly that the middle classes should huddle in the stalls to »

- Susannah Clapp

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