3 short theatre reviews: The 'meh', the bored and the interval exit
Regular theatre-going is a bit like surfing, sometimes you catch the wave and it carries you exhilarated into shore, sometimes you wipe out only to surface bedraggled and nonplussed. The past week or so has definitely been the latter.
The Lehman Trilogy, National Theatre - the 'meh'
Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godfrey and the lovely Ben Miles play all the roles - male and female - in the story of the Lehman Brothers.
The brothers arrive in America in the 1850s and we follow them from rags to riches as their family business evolves from cotton retail to investment banking over three generations.
The collapse of Lehmans bank in 2008 - by this stage no longer a family business - is well-trodden ground and as such is virtually a footnote in this play which might be part of the problem because it looms on the horizon throughout.
Grand performances from SRB et al including some amusing gender swaps which are done with a change of demeanour and expression rather than costume, wig and makeup.
The stage revolves with a series of glass-walled offices, a video backdrop adds context and later is used to give the impression of the set rising.
But despite the performances - with live piano accompaniment - and the slick staging I couldn't help asking whether this story genuinely deserved such a grand production - and a lengthy play.
Yes there is an interesting evolution of attitudes towards commerce and making money and contrast between the brothers but is it a unique story, are there others more worthy of telling?
And, it is an all-male story, the female characters are barely bit parts and that rankled particularly as there were hints of some really interesting women among them.
I didn't think it was bad, it was generally well executed but I couldn't help wondering whether there was more interesting material.
The Lehman Trilogy is three hours and 20 minutes including two intervals and is at the National Theatre until Oct 20. It's sold out so what do I know?
Exit The King, National Theatre - the bored
This was my first Eugene Ionescu play and I'm not adverse to absurdist drama - Waiting For Godot is one of my favourite plays and a good production will make me laugh and cry - but this just left me unmoved and...bored.
In a nutshell, it's 90 minutes of watching the King - Rhys Ifans - die. We are told he is going to die and when very early on.
He's ruled for centuries and has run his kingdom into the ground while enjoying the high life in dictatorial style.
It's biblical in a sense: war, famine, disease, toxicity ravaging his world, reducing it to his two wives, his doctor, servant and guard.
Take your pick of metaphorical interpretations. It's relentless and predominantly bleak despite the silliness and nothing settled for me - perhaps the world is depressing enough as it is right now.
At the root of Godot, you have characters with a bit of charm and a bit of care but there is none of that here.
There is some humour to start with: surreal, silly and sometimes almost slapstick but it quickly fades.
The play is also described as a tragedy but I didn't feel that just frustration as the King's demise was eeked and eeked - I just wanted it to be over.
Maybe that was the point. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Maybe it is just not the right time for this kind of play. Sorry, but I wasn't engaged, just bored.
It's one hour and 40 minutes without an interval and is at the National Theatre until October 6.
Edit 25/7/18 Since writing this the West End Whingers have posted their review of Exit The King. An amusing read.
Allelujah!, Bridge Theatre - the interval exit
Alan Bennett is back with a geriatric hospital drama/singalong.
While it ticks a lot of boxes in terms of having a predominantly older cast (most are 70+) and touches upon important issues about NHS funding cuts, bed-blocking, social care and immigration it feels too wrapped up in whimsy - and song and dance 'numbers'.
There are glimmers of Bennett's wit and observation but by the interval, I'd grown bored of the hospital choir interludes which felt at the expense of plot development and social comment.
I weighed up my levels of intrigue and interest in how things might pan out vs getting an early night (the Bridge annoyingly starts its performances at 7.45 pm regardless of running time) and the early night won.
Allelujah! is at the Bridge Theatre until 29 September and is 2 hours and 35 minutes including an interval.
As always, other opinions and reviews are available.
And for contrast, here are some reviews of theatre I've really enjoyed recently:
A Monster Calls, Old Vic - the hardest review I've written
Underbelly Festival, Circa's Peepshow - sweet dreams are made of this
Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noel Coward Theatre - dead cats and very dark humour
And my best (and worst) theatre of the year so far list.