During the interval of Waste the conversation centred on why Rufus Norris had programmed Harley Granville Barker's play. It was banned by censors in 1907 because one of the married women characters has an affair, gets pregnant and has a back street abortion which results in her death.
Part of the problem with Waste is that while that scenario is sad, it isn't shocking today and once you take out the shock factor you are left with a rather dull political piece about reputation and there are better plays out there that look at this.
Charles Edwards plays Henry Trebell who is persuaded to join the Conservative Party to push through a disestablishment bill which will take church money to create an education programme. Henry is very enthusiastic and committed to the bill. But then his brief affair with Amy O'Connell (Olivia Williams) comes back to haunt him and the scramble begins to save his reputation and the Bill.
Instead you end up with long, dull scenes of men sitting around discussing politics and morals. Perhaps if Trebell had been likeable it would have created more tension around the threat to his career but he isn't. His passion is the Bill and Amy just a brief physical dalliance, the closest he comes to grief is in lamenting the loss of a potential heir. His colleagues debate not the tragedy but the 'sin' of his having had an affair and whether that can be brushed to one side. When Henry's secretary laments "waste" at the end you hope that Barker was referring to Amy but he probably wasn't.
Despite the problems I have with the play the performances are superb and the staging simple and clean but it doesn't answer the question of why choose to stage it in the first place.
It is two hours 45 minute including an interval and runs in rep at the National Theatre until March 19, 2016.