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Gillian's Performance: Critics Roundup
BBC Radio 4: Front Row (Matt Wolf of Variety and International Herald Tribune):
"I thought she was much better than the play, to be honest. You have to applaud anyone who can convince the audience in the 2nd Act that her career is resurrected by being able to paint a baseball-playing chicken, which is not an easy thing to do. She is actually, like a lot of American actresses who go on to film and television, somebody who began on stage. I remember her off Broadway many years ago with Brenda Blethyn in an Alan Ayckbourn play called "Absent Friends" in which she was terrific. The stage is her natural home. The Michael Weller play eighteen months ago didn't convince you of that. This play does and I hope the next time she does a play in London, it's really worthy of her."
British Theatre Guide (Philip Fisher):
"Her main strength in the part is that she demonstrates Dana's vulnerability superbly."
Daily Mail (Patrick Marmion):
"And yet Anderson still contrives to be good to watch, exercising a curious detachment, looking at everyone as though she's coolly sizing them up, while her eyes flicker with the wounded emotion of the ruined artist she is underneath."
Daily Telegraph (Dominic Cavendish):
"Gillian Anderson swung back into the frame as a serious stage actress last night. After the disappointment of her west end debut in Michael Weller's atrocious What the Night is For, and after years of being known here only for her part as Agent Dana Scully in X-Files, her winning performance as yet another Dana - this time the tortured artist at the centre of Rebecca Gilman's latest play - suggest she's capable of batting away doubts about her talent once and for all. To be blunt, she is quite the best thing about The Sweetest Swing in Baseball."
The Evening Standard (Fiona Mountford):
"It was brave of her to come back for more. Gillian Anderson, fated to have her name forever suffixed by Agent Scully from the X-Files, has return to the stage after a less than auspicious debut in 2002. Fans will be relieved to hear that whearas What the Night is For was almost universally panned, The Sweetest Swing in Baseball is a whole new ball game, even if Anderson's character is, like Scully, named Dana.
Two hours worth of playing time in Ian Rickson's chic, stripped down production, sees Anderson leave the stage only once, for about 30 seconds, and to her immense credit, she is missed even then.
When we first encounter her, Dana is a woman desperately trying to hold it all in, because of the consequences of letting it all out would be cataclysmic. Anderson, with her brittle gestures, staring eyes and suppressed tears, perfectly conveys the scarcely hidden panic of the depressive.
There can be no denying what this particular night is for: the triumph of Gillian Anderson."
Evening Standard Metro Life Magazine:
"...she triumphs in this one. ...Anderson is better than her part: for a play concerned with the rehabilitation of identity, Dana's characterisation is slight. Yet Anderson's racked intelligent performance finds real depth and personality in Gilman's lightly sketched pathology of mental illness. Ian Richarson's fluent production and Hildegard Bechtler's poignant set design, littered with blank canvases, elevate the play further, but it is Anderson who makes you feel."
The Express (Robert Gore-Langton):
"Anderson is on fine form as a successful New York artist who flips out when her new exhibition bombs and her boyfriend dumps her. ...It's a watchable if rather trite yarn, with the tiny Gillian Anderson commanding the stage as the messed-up artist."
Financial Times (Alastair Macaulay):
"And during the first few scenes of Rebecca Gilman's new play, you watch her with your heart in your mouth. ...Anderson is luminous. She can seem overwrought without moving a muscle, as if her raw nerves were all exposed."
The Guardian (Michael Billington):
"What gives Ian Rickson's production its emotional drive, though, is Anderson's astonishing performance. She starts out looking strained but seems transformed by assuming another identity. You see her becoming more and more resilient, wary and determined by the minute as she realises that the only way to survive in America is to create a protective other self; and while the argument is Gilman's, it is Anderson who gives its memorable flesh."
The Hollywood Reporter (Ray Bennett):
"But any thought of Dana Scully from "The X-Files" quickly evaporates as Gillian Anderson presents us with another Dana, an artist whose tousled, tied-up hair draws back from a face filled with the misery of failure.
There's a deliciously subversive touch to Gilman's work here, and director Ian Rickson and star Anderson get it entirely. All the players are good, ...Best of all is Anderson, who is onstage for all but a few seconds. She understands that she's not impersonating Strawberry; it's only Dana who wants to believe she can be him too. It's a completely winning performance that builds to a final shout of defiance against the robbers of joy and despoilers of souls, and she hollers it with belief and fierce humor: "Fuckers!"
The Independent (Paul Taylor):
"Dana is convincingly played by the X Files star, Gillian Anderson, with the fevered glow of a sick person who make you understand why "hurting" has, in our age, become a intransitive verb".
Independent on Sunday (Kate Bassett):
"Dana is faking madness to stay in hospital for free, and clearly she's clueless about sport. But the pretence is rooted in genuine fear, and Anderson looks as if she is desperately fighting back tears. It's an extraordinarily double performance - simultaneously entertaining and tragic. One of the best productions of the year to date."
Mail on Sunday (Georgina Brown):
"Anderson scores a home run. She's a revelation. ...If it wasn't for Anderson's raw and intense performance, which commands total attention, there wouldn't be enough to keep one interested. Once again, Anderson deserves better.
The Observer (Susannah Clapp):
"Tiny, understated and determined, under Ian Rickson's direction in The Sweetest Swing in Baseball, Gillian Anderson is a magnetic presence at the Royal Court. ...in Rebecca Gilman's new play, as a neurasthenic painter - a woman who wants to recreate herself - she is fluent, witty, expressive.
Her character is on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and she is careful with her face and gestures, moving so cautiously that she suggests she may break herself with any sudden gesture. She has the sort of detailed emotion that you might expect to be visible on telly but hardly perceptible on stage. But good actors can make you see in close-up - and require you to register the heft of an eyebrow - even if you're yards away.
Audiences may go to see a celeb, but they'll leave having seen an actor."
Sunday Express (Mark Shenton):
"In this new play at the Royal Court, she doesn't leave the stage for a single scene throughout an intense, anxious evening in which the tension hardly lets up for a second.
It's about a painter called Dana Fielding who is plunged into a crisis of self-doubt when her partner leaves her and her latest exhibition flops. As Anderson vividly portrays her with all her raw, vulnerable feelings exposed, it is as uncomfortable to watch as it is gripping."
Sunday Telegraph (John Gross):
"As Dana, Gillian Anderson soars far above The X Files. Her performance is taut and intelligent. She captures both the self-containment of depression and the curious strength it can confer, while her attempt to masquerade as Darryl Strawberry is a tour de force of incongruity."
If Gillian Anderson had chosen this, rather than "What The Night Is For" as her London debut, the monkey rather suspects she would not only have been hailed a great actress, but also the play would quite likely still be running."
The Stage (Aleks Sierz):
"In Gillian Anderson's outstanding performance, Dana starts off as tense and fragile and ends up radiant and feisty."
The Times (Benedict Nightingale):
"Rebecca Gilman's Sweetest Swing in Baseball gives Gillian Anderson the opportunity to play a livelier role than she performed in What the Night is For in the West End in 2002, and she seizes it with some style."
The Times (Victoria Segal):
"Despite the dramatic potential generated by Dana's breakdown and the clash of environments, the play feels like overwashed elastic that's lost its spring, tension pulled to stretching point, then sagging rather than bouncing. Any sense of Dana's drive to create and self-destruct comes from Anderson's charismatic performance: tiny and alert like a spring-loaded china doll, she excels at seeming on the verge of collapse without indulging in cliched eye-rolling mania or catatonic staring. You can see her struggling with the sheer physical effort of holding her life together, eyes brimming luminously with tears, smile straining across her face. When she turns into Darryl Strawberry, her body language shifts again, the incongruous looseness of her new persona combining poignantly with her watchful vulnerability. Like hunters who believe that by eating an animal they take on its strength, you can see her drawing on "The Straw" for protection, fleshing out her own meagre psychic reserves with his personality. It's a subtle, shifting performance, one that flourishes in the gaps left by the writing."
Whatsonstage.com (Terri Paddock):
"Undoubtedly, this is a striking performer and, in the opening scenes in particular, face gaunt, eyes shimmering on the verge of tears, she makes a strong impression as an artist in the grip of self-doubt."