Review: Notes From The Field / My Name Is Lucy Barton

A pair of stunning monologues don’t get the public acclaim I think they deserve, as Sea Wall steals headlines from Notes From The Field and My Name Is Lucy Barton

“What are your dreams?”

It bugs me a little that Sea Wall is getting so much attention as God’s gift to the monologue, when there’s two exceptional example of the form selling out major theatres in London right now. No disrespect to Simon Stephens or Andrew Scott but you do wonder whether it is the fact that they’re female-led that means Notes From The Field and My Name Is Lucy Barton haven’t quite broken through in the same way.

It is probably just the enduring Sherlock effect, for we’re talking about artists of the stature of Anna Deavere Smith and Laura Linney who can boast a whole host of Tony and Academy Award nominations between them, plus TV credits from such shows as The West Wing, Frasier and The Big C. And it ain’t as if they haven’t been getting rave reviews either. 

And deservedly so, for both shows are stunning – piercingly emotive and theatrical pleasures. Linney effortlessly fills the space of the Bridge Theatre in Rona Munro’s adaptation of Elizabeth Strout’s novel My Name Is Lucy Barton, an intensely personal tale of the stories we tell to say the things we couldn’t normally say, and even then can’t always reach the whole truth.

Deavere Smith’s Notes From The Field is an altogether more intellectual affair, but no less affecting, as she corrals together testimony from over 250 students, parents, teachers and staff to thoroughly indict the racial inequality endemic to the US criminal justice system. Complex, challenging, utterly compelling, all credit to the LIFT Festival for bringing this over.

Comparatively few people had heard of either show though, when talking about them to friends and colleagues, whereas Sea Wall had broken through to a larger extent. And as anecdotal as that is, it still saddens me.

My Name Is Lucy Barton
Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan 
Booking until 23rd June

Notes From The Field 
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Joan Marcus
Booking until 23rd June

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