Categories Devil's Disciple Print Media Reviews

The Devil’s Disciple at the National Theatre – Review

A Roisterous production of Bernard Shaw’s 1899 Melodrama

by Matt Wolf | September 12, 1994 |  Variety

The National marks time pleasantly with a roisterous production of Shaw’s 1899 melodrama and at least restores to the Olivier stage some of the energy missing from it of late. If the play hardly seems worth such a fuss, it’s only because Shaw is relatively rarely done at this address; one yearns to see the same theater take on, say, “Man and Superman.”

Still, as directed with brio by Christopher Morahan against John Gunter’s scenic backdrop of a map of Revolutionary War New England, “Devil’s Disciple” will be a crowd pleaser. There’s no harm in that, particularly with as winning a central trio of performers as Richard Bonneville (Dick Dudgeon), Paul Jesson (Anthony Anderson) and Helen McCrory (his wife, Judith), all of whom barnstorm their way through a play that has not an ounce of depth or subtlety to it. The “devil’s disciple” of the title, Dudgeon is the family black sheep led mistakenly to the gallows in 1777 New Hampshire in place of the town pastor, Anderson.

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Categories Print Media Reviews The Seagull

The Seagull at the National Theatre – Review

It is the women who dominate this show

By Irving Wardle | July 9 ,1994 | The independent

Besides allowing Dame Judi Dench to add another trophy to her collection of Chekhov leads, John Caird’s production of The Seagull has the pretext of restoring a picture frame to the open stage; or, rather, four picture frames, which descend one by one on John Gunter’s lakeside perspective, so that by the end you are looking through the accumulated settings of the whole play. The apparent aim of this romantically cumbersome design, supported by Dominic Muldowney’s wistful valses oubliees, is to break the embargo on Chekhovian ‘atmosphere’. The effect is contradicted once the opening image of the ghostly company drifting under moonlit birch trees gives way to the play itself, performed with full egoistic drive in a colloquially muscular version by Pam Gems.

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Categories Print Media Reviews The Seagull

The Seagull at the National Theatre – Review

How does director John Caird avoid predictable performances?

by Clara Bayley | July 3, 1994 | The Independent

When actors portray actors, or worse, actors acting, it can become an excuse for over-the-top self-indulgence. Chekhov’s The Seagull, which is previewing now at the National, features both the celebrated actress Arkadina (played by Judi Dench, right) and the youthful aspirant Nina, performing in Konstantin’s experimental play. How does director John Caird avoid predictable performances?
‘That can be true of any ill-considered portrayal of a theatrical or of any kind of character,’ he points out. ‘You might cast someone who is 75 years old to play an old person, and they start playing old. You have to tell them to play young then.’

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Categories Reviews Trelawny of the Wells

Trelawny of the Wells at the National Theatre – Review

By Sheridan Morley | February 24, 1993 | International Herald Tribune

“Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ ” is one of those scripts that everyone hates except the public, and the actors who get to play it. After a 30-year absence from London, Pinero’s epitaph for the old actor-laddies has turned up twice, just before Christmas in a patchy all-star West End revival sadly lacking much direction, and now in a vastly better John Caird production for the open Olivier stage of the National.

The mystery, though, is why he didn’t go for the musical; Caird at his best (“Les Misérables”)and his worst (“Children of Eden”) is a director who, like his old partner Trevor Nunn, knows a very great deal about how to give classical dignity to song-and-dance shows.

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Categories Blood Wedding Reviews

Blood Wedding at the National Theatre – Review

Helen McCrory’s Bride is a tangle of anguish

by Ian Shuttleworth | December 17, 1991 | City Limits Magazine

Cuba, on a set that could have been designed by a Catalan, Salvador Dalí: a cross stands above a flimsy veil of drapery, lilies thrust through oil drums. It gives visual form to the verdure of Lorca’s poetry, in a production which elsewhere drifts in and out of focus with the cast’s bludgeoningly rolled Hispanic Rs. The bride and her family are white… not white trash exactly, but poorer than the groom’s folk. Having chosen to use such a device rather than fully integrating the casting, director Yvonne Brewster says nothing with it; it doesn’t even seem a pointed un-statement.

Helen McCrory’s Bride is a tangle of anguish: she knowingly runs off with her former lover after her wedding, but can truthfully say, “I didn’t want to.” After husband and lover have killed each other, the typically Lorquista outburst of keening women (rural Spain showing kinship with rural Ireland) ends with a gratuitous labour spasm from the lover’s widow. Brewster strives for resonance, but neglects to supply solid surfaces for her production to reverberate against.