Charing Cross Road, Covent Garden, London WC2H 0DA 0844 482 5120
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Ends 30th October 2021.
Vienna, 1920, a town with a huge Jewish population... about to discover what that means in the first half of the 20th Century.
Tom Stoppard's new play features a huge cast directed by Patrick Marber.
(seen at the afternoon preview performance on 8th February 2020)
As the monkey never tires of explaining: it never leaves a theatre before the production has ended. This is because some plays resolve themselves only in the final scene – throwing everything before it into thrillingly sharp relief. This is one of those plays.
The shorter first half sees a family gathering in 1899. Adults gossip, plan and bicker, children are shown off, bonds are renewed between themselves and put in place with us, the audience. Stoppard gives us sepia, a little blurry as he knows these people through fourth or more generation stories and photographs.
By 1900 the scaffolding for the new century has been manoeuvred into position. Stoppard is a little monochrome in tone by now. After the interval, in 1924 the family has expanded in both number and ambition, we see black and white in the words and story. Blows rain down in an intense and deeply harrowing sequence in 1938, red is added to the text – blood will be spilled. 1955’s conclusion - knife-sharp colour - left the monkey in a state of tearful shock, murmuring prayers as the curtain fell.
Patrick Marber keeps the performances real. There’s a couple of weaker actors and lines in the opening scene which will no doubt be corrected by press night. Once the story builds to a climax, Marber’s human touch steers for maximum impact. A particular note for his respectful use of a substitute for a holy word other directors cause grave offence by using, too.
A huge cast makes singling out specific actors from a vital ensemble difficult. Perhaps Luke Thallon (Leo) for his instant and total transformation, Ed Stoppard as Ludwig, Adrian Scarborough as Hermann – but these are just representative.
Notes too for Richard Hudson’s sparingly opulent set, Brigitte Reiffenstuel’s obviously carefully researched costume designs, Neil Austin’s evolving with the times lighting, and Adam Cork’s sound and music bringing emotions even to the corners of the house.
The dissection of the writer’s identity and the conclusions he draws require work from those watching. Each memory may seem insignificant at first, but are stitches in life – and the pain as they are ripped are very real.
A fine play on a grand yet human scale. Don’t miss it.
Potentially Stoppard’s final play, this shared many autobiographical features and was his own journey of self discovery into his Jewish heritage. It tells the story of an extended Jewish/ Catholic Family from 1899 to 1955, through their trials the assimilation to Kristalnacht and beyond.
A huge cast of talented actors (notably Adrian Scarborough and Luke Thallon) and told within a single room, this was a excellent coming together of design, sound, lighting and performance. The script was fairly pacy in the first half, becoming more wordy and static in the second. There were possibly too many characters to fully engage with, but nevertheless the ending, with their stories cut short was necessarily powerful.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Runs 2 hours 10 minutes approximately, with no interval.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
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