Intimate Apparel – reviews of 'superlatively acted' drama

Jul 15, 2014

Lynn Nottage's tale of a lonely black seamstress in early 1900s New York is 'a serious delight'

Simon Annand
What you need to know

Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel has transferred to the Park Theatre, London, from the Ustinov Studio in Bath. American playwright Nottage won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for her play Ruined.

Set in 1905 in New York City, Intimate Apparel is inspired by the story of Nottage's own great grandparents and focuses on a lonely black seamstress (Esther), who makes lingerie for wealthy clients while saving money to open her own beauty salon. When Esther finds a Caribbean labourer (George) to marry, it seems as if all her dreams will be fulfilled, but marriage presents new challenges.

Laurence Boswell directs Tanya Moodie as Esther. Runs until 27 July.

What the critics like

Whisking us from location to location with fluency, elegance and ragtime and blues music "this superlatively acted production is a serious delight", says Paul Taylor in The Independent. Moodie portrays Esther with intensely moving emotional transparency, while sharp irreverent humour imbues both the dialogue and painfully comic situations.

This determinedly quiet play is "propelled by a magnificent performance by Tanya Moodie", says Dominic Maxwell in The Times. It's a warm, rich, complex tale that will stay in the memory for a long time to come.

This "canny, sometimes dashing production" makes no attempt to disguise the drama's old-fashioned potboiler tendencies, says Lyn Gardener in The Guardian. On the contrary, it plays them up to terrific effect, and it works because Nottage's writing is as delicate as the lace undergarments Esther sews.

What they don't like

Nottage's remarkable play is perfect in almost every respect, except for "a dodgy accent", says Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph. George switches from Barbadian one moment to Bristolian the next, but in the end his conviction wins you over, and this play is simply too good to miss.

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