Douglas Hodge in Inadmissable Evidence
(© Johan Persson)
Douglas Hodge in Inadmissable Evidence
(© Johan Persson)
Douglas Hodge delivers an utterly mesmerizing performance in Jamie Lloyd's revival of John Osborne's 1964 play, Inadmissible Evidence, at the Donmar Warehouse. His physically and emotionally rich work here is an astonishing exercise in stage acting.

Hodge plays Bill Maitland, a washed-up London solicitor; popping pills like candy and taking regular swigs from a whisky bottle; he is a man acutely aware of his own "irredeemable mediocrity" and constantly frightened that he's about to be found out. The angry young man is now in middle age, and his rage is tempered with an increasing sense of anguish and despair as well as a measure of self-knowledge.

The play opens with a disorientating sequence in which Maitland addresses the audience as if they were jurors; it then goes on to show how he systematically isolates himself from family and colleagues, until he is absolutely alone. The courtroom parallels from the start of the play are extended through the second half, in which a series of characters -- clients, colleagues, lovers -- appear like witnesses, vocalizing his inner fears and desires, as Maitland puts himself on trial.

There's strong support from Daniel Ryan, as Maitland's patient associate Hudson, Al Weaver as office junior Jones, and Amy Morgan as sexually confident young secretary, Joy, but Hodge dominates the production in every sense. Only Weaver is -- briefly -- given room to breathe, doubling as a young homosexual man whose case Maitland is handling.

Hodge brings his whole being into play. He seems to be constantly straining -- arching his back, twisting his neck; he is a man uneasy in his own skin, desperately trying to escape himself. His voice is often equally taut, shrill and mocking, at times full of fire, rarely relaxed. He barks at his staff, and cruelly mimics them, but whimpers like a small boy in distress when he hurts his thumb. A nervous energy permeates everything he does and in lesser hands it might have been interminable, for Maitland's behavior is often vile and his fraught attitude towards women, which extends to his own daughter, is often unpalatable. But Hodge roots Maitland's excess into something human and moving; crucially, as Maitland alienates everyone around him, the actor manages to keep the audience on his side.

Lloyd's production has a subtly nightmarish edge, a dream-like teasing, while Soutra Gilmour's set -- a cluttered, paper-strewn solicitors' office -- both locates the play in space and time and enhances the sense of Maitland's disintegrating mental state.