Review: Waste, National Theatre

“The stateman’s task is the accommodation of stubborn facts to shifting circumstance and in effect to the practical capacities of the average stupid man. Democracy involves admission of that”

It’s always a bit tough to forge one’s own opinion of something already lauded as a masterpiece, the assumption being if you don’t like it then you’re missing something, but this is the second time I’ve seen a solidly good production of Harley Granville Barker’s Waste and it’s the second time that I just haven’t been blown away by it. Seven years ago saw Samuel West tackle it for the Almeida and now it is Roger Michell’s turn in the Lyttelton as Rufus Norris continues his balancing act of reinvigorating the National Theatre without scaring the regulars off.

But spread over a goodly three hours with a pace that could be described as stately at best and glacial at its worst, it’s hard to see Waste converting any newcomers to the joys of theatre. And even with the quality that emanates from the female-centric first scene – Olivia Williams, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Doreen Mantle and Lucy Robinson (forever in my heart as my first Lady Macbeth) doing fine work – the energy is just singularly lacking even as sex, sleaze and suicide pop up on the menu for this slice of the Edwardian political elite.  Continue reading “Review: Waste, National Theatre”

Review: Farewell To The Theatre, Rose Kingston

“Shall we go and get lunch?”

At the Rose Theatre in Kingston, The Importance of Being Earnest is playing in rep with another play, Farewell To The Theatre by Harley Granville Barker. A short 50 minute one-act piece, it stars Jane Asher as a famous actress who has decided to bow out from the theatre who visits her lawyer, Richard Cordery, to explain her reasons and revisit their shared past of missed opportunities. Written in 1916, this is the European premiere of this play and I am not sure that it is one which really merits this production: it is hard to see any real connection with Wilde’s piece, it is only on for just a handful of performances and it completely failed to engage me.

Granville Barker’s writing has some attractive moments but the abiding theme of the importance of the theatre feels a little too self-regarding and quite frankly, not as interesting as all that. Asher does wear a fabulous aquamarine satin dress in it and I do love Richard Cordery, but the static nature of this piece, also directed by Stephen Unwin, worked against it. So it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a curiosity that perhaps could have continued to collect dust on the shelf, though there may be some interest for theatre historians. Continue reading “Review: Farewell To The Theatre, Rose Kingston”

Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre

Waste, a play by Harley Granville Barker, is another one of those plays that was banned when first written, in this case in 1907. Directed by actor Samuel West at the Almeida theatre, this version uses the revised 1926 text to great effect with as strong an ensemble you will find in London this autumn.

The story follows Henry Trebell an independent MP with a lifelong dream of wanting to disestablish the Church of England and build colleges on the land and has formed part of a Tory push to get the bill passed as law with their anticipated arrival in government. However, his personal life is in disarray as a casual affair with a married woman who ends up pregnant comes to light and threatens to ruin everything that he holds dear. Continue reading “Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre”