10 October – 24 November 2017
by Mike Bartlett
Directed by Rupert Goold
A successful business woman attempts to restore a ruined garden estate to its long-gone glory at any cost. A new play by acclaimed playwright Mike Bartlett, it is a biting political satire, a deeply moving character drama, and one of the best plays I’ve seen all year.
The play is a powerful ‘State of The Nation’, with characters providing a political conversation more nuanced and complex than almost any newsroom or editorial. It is to be ignored at our own peril.
Mike Bartlett substitutes the epic scale/giant cast/many locations style he displays in plays like King Charles III, Earthquakes in London, and 13, for something more intimate: a single location in a garden that becomes an increasingly emotive setting for the play’s events. It changes and grows, and becomes breathtakingly layered with trauma, allegory, and meaning.
Under the expert machinations of Rupert Goold, the play is visionary and ecstatic, dialogue leaping off the stage with Mike Bartlett’s characteristic wit and humour, undercutting one-liners, biting insults, and scorching satire, with allusions to Trump and Brexit receiving huge laughs, and occasional gasps from the enwrapped audience.
It’s a masterly cast without a weak link among them. Victoria Hamilton (Audrey) is completely sublime in the lead role. She brings a deep humanity to her performance of an often intensely unlikable character. It’s a superb performance, and it’s worth coming to the show just to see her.
Supporting her are standout performances by Helen Schlesinger (Katherine), who brought me to tears with her genuine, truthful and gripping delivery, Luke Thallon (Gabriel) who gives an intensely likeable and tragic performance, as well as Charlotte Hope (Zara) and Vinette Robinson (Anna) who are moving and powerful presences on stage.
Edyta Budnik (Krystyna), Nicholas Rowe (Paul), Christopher Fairbank (Matthew), Nigel Betts (Edward) all give captivating and charismatic performances in smaller roles, with Margot Leicester (Cheryl) in particular stealing several of her scenes with her quiet mannerisms and brilliant comic timing.
It is nuanced character and text at it’s best. Do yourself a favour and book a ticket.