Gillian Anderson and Lily James – superb in the National Theatre live screening of All About Eve

This adaption of a 1950s movie films its actors while they perform live, projecting them onto a screen, while yet more the actors perform live on stage – all of which has then been filmed for live broadcast in cinemas. It’s the sort of wheels within wheels that tests the National Theatre Live production technique to its limits.

Fortunately, we still got to see some superb performances. Gilliam Anderson is suitably vampish as Margo Channing, a legendary Broadway star who is starting to both age and fade, and quickly eclipses Betty Davis’s movie interpretation. Lily James is, if anything, even better as the eponymous Eve, morphing from ingénue into something altogether darker with unsettling ease. There is sterling support as well, with Monica Dolan moving the narrative along by chatting compatibly to the audience between scenes. Perhaps best of all, and getting all the laughs going, is Stanley Townsend as Addison DeWitt, a power-crazed critic, who is larger than life, but manages to stay the right side of pantomime.

Those of us watching from afar may have missed out on some of the subtleties of Jan Versweyveld’s fiendishly clever production design but what remained undiluted was the energy and vigour with which this imaginative retelling of a classic has been re-engineered for modern audiences.

By David Vass