Directed by Richard Eyre, starring Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Rupert Everett, Ben Chaplin and Zoë Tapper.

In 17th Century England, women are forbidden to appear on stage. Men play the female roles and the most successful of these actors is Ned Kynaston (Crudup).

However, when King Charles II (Everett) allows women to appear on stage Ned's career is in tatters. His former costume assistant Maria (Danes) becomes a star in the roles previously played by Kynaston. As the first actress in English theatre she rises to the top, despite her lack of any real talent, while Ned is forced to perform in a seedy tavern.

Adapted from a play, 'Stage Beauty' shows how one man can go from being a popular actor lusted after by both men and women to a man with a redundant talent overnight. Although the main characters in the film appear early on, it takes some time before the film's plot is established. The first half-hour could easily be cut to five minutes and more time could have spent on the developing the relationship between Kynaston and Maria or the reasons for King Charles' eccentric behaviour. He is vibrant, colourful and flamboyant and his mistress Nell's (Tapper) aspirations to become an actress play a strong part in his decision to allow women on the boards.

'Stage Beauty' brings the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as Ned moves from elation to depression and everything in between while Maria is surprised and overwhelmed by her overnight success as an actress.

Although quite dark at times, 'Stage Beauty is an enjoyable drama that sheds new light on 17th Century taboos whilst still offering a well-timed helping of humour.

Eilish Barry