WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE? Almeida Theatre
WHEN? 15/3 runs to 30/3/19 RUNTIME: 3 hours (including a 20-minute interval)
Can political plays ever be about now? Was Shakespeare liberated by the censorship which dominated his writing or did its influence transform the Bard’s work into something truly universal?
- Read on for reasons including how this work is like the best of James Graham
These are just two of the ideas that the seven white American Liberals who gather at an isolated farmhouse for the weekend debate as they are snowed in.
Mostly, however, author Anne Washburn’s (her Almeida transfer of The Twilight Zone has just opened in the West End at the Ambassador’s Theatre) new play is concerned with US President Donald Trump and why those who voted for him did so.
Can a play about a current US President ever have enough reflection to be truly satisfying? We’re enjoying how the friends’ disjointed conversation is reflecting what many in the audience is likely thinking.
Why, however, is Fisayo Akinade’s wise Mark wandering in and out of the action telling us about his childhood, how he was adopted and what it was like growing up as a black man with white parents who don’t want him spending money on renting MTV?
Back at the farmhouse and the most compelling character is Yusuf (Khalid Abdalla, relishing the bomb he is about to drop) whose relationship with Andrew (an uptight Adam James) is faltering. Elsewhere the cast is strong and Raquel Cassidy’s ever exasperated host and Tara Fitzgerald’s apologetic guest hit home.
Director Rupert Goold was behind the triumphant Ink at this venue (which opens on Broadway next month) and its the innovative staging, designed by Miriam Buether, which most impresses here. We’ve been to the Almeida many times and never seen it transformed like this: there’s a gigantic revolving stage at the centre of where the stalls usually are that the cast and audience sit around, as if dinner guests, and which the actors also stand upon to perform.
Later in the piece it is also unafraid of asking: what if the world needs Trump? What if those who oppose him are in the wrong?
Like the best of James Graham, the Almeida is a theatre which doesn’t duck the pressing issues of the day and although this feels too long and occasionally muddled it’s exactly the sort of original theatre and thinking to be applauded.