THEATRE REVIEW: Splendour

WORTH A LOOK?: *****

WHERE: Donmar Warehouse

WHEN: 17/8 runs to 26/9

Four women in one room: waiting for the return of a dictator in the opulence of a presidential palace. A photojournalist, a translator, the dictator’s wife and her best friend are all wondering why he is so late.

Playwright Abi Morgan (The Hour, The Iron Lady, Shame) has crafted something with humour which becomes increasingly more tense as we see the same scene from the perspectives of the four different women and the palace’s staff disappear, the power is repeatedly cut and mysterious phone calls are made.

The cast is extremely strong, anchored by a superb Sinéad Cusack as the increasingly fraught dictator’s wife, but matched by those around her: Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones) as the best friend, Genevieve O’Reilly (Banished) as the photojournalist and interpreter Zawe Ashton (the brilliant Not Safe For Work, Misfits and Fresh Meat), who is fast becoming  one of our most exciting stars.

Special mention for the set: crushed glass around its edges, a red carpet leading into a room with an ornate light, a giant window looking out onto what is happening outside and a controversial picture which is described differently but we cannot see. Much of the fun in the script is with Ashton’s interpreter who is selective in her work and enthusiastically pocketing much of what she sees around her.

How refreshing also to see a play that has four strong female characters, fleshed-out and of different ages that is also written by a woman.

Splendour has generally had four-star reviews but we’d go one better than that and describe it as the must-see play of the moment.

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