Tonight's press night at the Old Vic is likely to have more than the usual buzz to it, given that the star is Joan Collins. Miss Collins, who has been a film star for nearly half a century, has a remarkable flair for publicity: last week's media feeding frenzy over pictures of the 68 year-old wearing a skimpy costume saw bookings at the Old Vic for Ken Ludwig's comedy Over the Moon (originally called Moon Over Buffalo when it was produced in New York six years ago) shoot up.
The play is about a husband and wife team of middle-aged stage actors who have heard that film director Frank Capra is coming to see their show, and may cast them in a new production of his. At that point things start to go horribly wrong, not least because the husband gets hopelessly drunk, and thinks he is in a production of Cyrano de Bergerac when the play that afternoon is in fact Private Lives.
Over the Moon was a remarkably successful return to the stage for actress Carol Burnett when it premiered in America in 1995. It is an ideal vehicle for Joan Collins, and also provides a very funny supporting role for another veteran actress, Moira Lister, who has been a stage and screen star since the 1940s.
Misses Collins and Lister are directed in Over The Moon by Ray Cooney, himself an actor, director and author for over forty years, who is providing something of an Indian Summer for older performers at the moment: Caught in the Net, of which he is author as well as director, currently running at the Vaudeville, stars Eric Sykes, whose career as a comic actor began in the 1950s. Sykes has lent his extraordinary comic stage presence to other West End productions in recent years - The School For Wives (1997) and Kafka's Dick (1998) - whereas Joan Collins has not been seen in the West End since 1990, when she appeared in Private Lives at the Aldwych.
The fact that she is in a play in which a peformance of Private Lives is central to the action will add an extra layer of interest to her performance tonight.
Old Vic Box Office is 020 7369 1722.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow