THEATRE REVIEW: Three Days In The Country starring John Simm and Mark Gatiss

WORTH A LOOK?: ***

WHERE: National Theatre

WHEN: 17/10, runs to 21/10

We’ve seen three plays written by Patrick Marber this year: the revival of Closer at the Donmar, the non-league football-inspired Red Lion at the National and this Turgenev adaptation at the same venue, which is the most successful.

By far the best thing about Three Days In The Country is Amanda Drew’s vivid portrayal of Natalya, at times both enchanting and infuriating as she falls for handsome new tutor Belyaev (Royce Pierrson) and rebuffs best friend Rakitin (John Simm).

The play is set on a Russian country estate in the 1840s and includes a scene-stealing supporting role by Mark Gatiss, the self-described ‘maestro of misdiagnosis’ and doctor Shpigelsky whose own marriage proposal at the opening of the second act is a comic masterstroke which is by far the most memorable thing here.

However, there is also a nagging sense that Gatiss (author of Sherlock, Doctor Who and League of Gentlemen) may have been given a little too much free rein over the text. One unforgivable example appeared to have been when Simm’s character (Simm played The Master in Doctor Who) and Shpigelsky address each other as ‘the master’ and ‘the doctor’ respectively. A frisson of excitement rippled through the audience when it happened but it utterly betrayed the integrity of the piece.

Recently we saw the Donmar’s production of Coriolanus (which featured Gatiss in a turn which won him an Olivier supporting actor nomination) on the big screen as part of National Theatre Live. Perhaps this success has won him more theatrical freedom than he deserves?

Three Days In The Country felt a little bit too soapy but is a definite return to form for Marber whose Red Lion felt like it should work given the author’s in-depth knowledge of the subject and the involvement of the usually excellent Daniel Mays but was let down by an unbelievable and overly melodramatic ending.

  • Picture: By Jay Brooks and Sorted. Used from the National Theatre on Facebook.
  • Enjoyed this review? Follow author Neil Durham on Twitter @NeilDurham

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