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January 2022

Review: Force Majeure, Donmar Warehouse - laughs, oddness and is the staging right for the space?

The Donmar Warehouse's stage has been converted into a French ski resort for Force Majeure. There is a mountain backdrop, in the middle of which are lift doors and a 'snowy' slope that tilts downwards towards the centre of the stalls.

Force Majeure poster
Force Majeure, Donmar Warehouse 2021/22

It's ski-able as some of the cast demonstrate, swooshing from one back corner, down the slope and through the audience. It's an impressive bit of staging, but it comes at a cost.

Adapted by Tim Price from Ruben Ostlund's film, Force Majeure follows a Swedish family on holiday. The father, Tomas (Rory Kinnear), is a workaholic, and his put-upon wife Ebba (Lynsey Marshal) is determined to keep him off his phone and focused on family time.

Meanwhile, their two children are glued to screens ignoring their parents and are indignant when they do get asked to do something. It is a familiar dynamic, but an incident on the slopes threatens family and relationship bonds.

It's an incident that forces them to face some hard and ugly truths. 

Nordic humour

I haven't seen the film, but there are shades of Scandi humour in the play. There are also laughs that come from the easily recognised behaviour - the plays keen observation is one of its strengths.

However, sometimes jokes are overused and become laboured. It occasionally slips into farce, and the humour doesn't always gel with the more serious, contemplative moments. At times the play feels at odds with itself.

And then there is the staging and the skiing. On the one hand, it is quite cool to see people skiing in a theatre and does bring the ski resort to life. But on the other, if you're sitting in the wrong seats, you will get a limited view of what is going on.

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