THEATRE REVIEW: Against starring Ben Whishaw

WORTH A LOOK?: **

WHERE: Almeida

WHEN: 12/8, press night 18/8 runs to 30/9

We’re at the first preview of this new play commissioned by the Almeida and Ben Whishaw plays Luke, a Silicon Valley billionaire, who is spoken to by God.

  • Read on for reasons including why Whishaw is one of the best actors of his generation

There’s a crackle in the air as the audience spills out onto Almeida Street because this venue is welcoming back one of its favourite stars, Whishaw’s last UK theatre role was two years ago at this venue in Bakkhai.

The queue for the ladies’ toilets stretches back into the bar and it becomes clear that his fanbase is both predominantly female and, from the multitude of different languages we can hear around the venue, international.

The Almeida is having a particularly strong run at the moment with three of its recent productions (Hamlet, Ink and Mary Stuart) either in the West End or about to transfer. We doubt, however, that Against will join such stellar company.

Against is written by Christopher Shinn (whose Teddy Ferrara we saw at the Donmar two years ago) and tells the story of billionaire Luke who decides to devote his time to meeting people who have experienced violence, chronicling their stories on a new website he has set up for that purpose, after God told him to ‘Go where there’s violence.’

Amanda Hale plays Sheila, the journalist who accompanies him to a series of locations including the site of a school shooting, a campus rape and the headquarters of a company revolutionising the distribution of items bought over the internet.

It’s an ambitious work with topical themes including the need for people to work, the necessity of capitalism to make money and the consequences, both good and bad, advances in technology have for ordinary people.

Whishaw is one of our favourite actors and does well here to sustain our interest in a protagonist who is both delusional and infuriatingly self-obsessed and hyper analytical.

The play is two hours and 50 minutes, with an interval, and is a long watch because, despite the many changes of location, it feels like the interesting ideas at the play’s heart are never fully explored as satisfyingly as they might be.

Gavin Spokes (fabulous in Guys and Dolls last year) is criminally under-used in a late pivotal role and it feels as though Against is probably one of the least interesting things that star Whishaw has put his name to.

  • Picture via Facebook courtesy Almeida. Tickets
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