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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Zeffirelli makes West End return
Liza Tarbuck (left) and Joan Plowright in Absolutely (Perhaps)
Liza Tarbuck (left) and Joan Plowright star in the play
Legendary Italian director Franco Zeffirelli made his long-awaited return to the West End on Tuesday when his first London play for more than 25 years opened.

Zeffirelli, best-known for his films including Romeo and Juliet, La Traviata and Hamlet, is staging a production of absurd mystery Absolutely! (Perhaps).

Starring Joan Plowright and Liza Tarbuck, it is adapted from Luigi Pirandello's puzzling Right You Are If You Think So.

Pirandello's play was first staged almost 90 years ago. Zeffirelli's production is at Wyndham's Theatre for a 16-week run.

It centres around an enigmatic family whose circumstances are so strange that audience members have trouble working out what is really going on.

It is said to be so frustrating that someone threw a chair at the stage at the première of Pirandello's original in Italy.

Oliver Ford Davies
The cast also includes Olivier Award-winning actor Oliver Ford Davies
"It's a play which has been written tomorrow. It's so up-to-date, it's so advanced," Zeffirelli told the BBC's Rosie Millard.

"It was produced 90 years ago when theatre was established by great authors... when plays had a beginning and an ending.

"Somebody was right and somebody was wrong. Pirandello was a bit fed up with that sort of structure of the theatre."

Zeffirelli's screen work saw him nominated for an Oscar for best director after turning Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet into a film in 1968.

Last visit

The previous year, he had directed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in The Taming of the Shrew.

Among his other screen credits are the 1970s mini-series Jesus of Nazareth, starring Robert Powell, 1990's Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson, and Tea with Mussolini from 1999.

His last West End play was Filumena Marturano in 1977, for which Plowright won the Society of West End Theatre best actress award.

She and husband Laurence Olivier had also starred in another Zeffirelli production, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, in London four years earlier.

Tough audience

In Absolutely! (Perhaps), Plowright shares the stage with Liza Tarbuck, who is making her West End debut.

Tarbuck is best-known for TV roles such as Linda Green.

Zeffirelli said it would be tough to win over the London audience.

"You've got to be very, very good to convince the audience in England because they know so much, they've seen so much, you can't fool them," he said.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Franco Zeffirelli
talks to the BBC's Rosie Millard



SEE ALSO:
Verona parties with Zeffirelli opera
18 Jul 02  |  Entertainment


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