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Friends and Crocodiles

Friends and Crocodiles

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

Friends and Crocodiles, from acclaimed writer Stephen Poliakoff whose previous works include Shooting the Past, Perfect Strangers and The Lost Prince, is a powerful portrayal of the working relationship between two very different people – Paul Reynolds (Damian Lewis) and Lizzie Thomas (Jodhi May), played out during the turbulent Thatcherite years.

Paul has it all – looks, wealth, a good head for business and a band of loyal friends. And he’s renowned for throwing the odd wild party or three. Yet fuelled by a self-destructive streak, Paul creates anarchy and unrest in his life. Moreover, he refuses to accept anything easy or formulaic.

Lizzie, on the other hand, is a straight-laced young woman who thrives within the corporate systems set up in the 80s and 90s and, when hired as his secretary, believes she can bring order to his chaotic existence.

Not surprisingly, the two clash and Lizzie leaves on uneasy terms. However, over the next 16 years, their paths cross many times and as Lizzie’s career blossoms, so Paul’s wanes. Yet there remains a mutual respect and affection, uncomplicated by sexual attraction, that endures even their most heated exchanges. In a nutshell, they share a classic love/hate relationship.

Lewis, as you might expect from an actor of his calibre, turns in a masterly performance, in the process, ensuring that his character retains a degree of credibility whatever his circumstances – the hippie years, for example, stretch it to the limit – while at the same time, eliciting empathy for a man who, for all his brilliance, is fallible – just like the rest of us.

May, too, is well cast and imbues Lizzie with charm and grace, thereby offsetting the primness and bossiness that could so easily become intimidating. And like Lewis, she’s easy on the eye – so much so, in fact, that it comes as something of a surprise to discover Paul and Lizzie’s relationship remains purely platonic. So much for theories…...

Friends and Crocodiles is, without doubt, a lavish production and almost leisurely in its approach to the subject of work. In fact, you could almost be forgiven for forgetting that that is what it’s really all about.

As for the crocodiles – there is one (a very small one) but the analogy is simple – crocodiles are survivors; as indeed are Paul and Lizzie. So too, will their story survive, thanks to modern technology and this entertaining BBC DVD.

Jodhi May can be seen in Blackbird at London’s Albery Theatre from February 7 to May 13, 2006.