Review (or something like it): Mr Burns by Anne Washburn, Almeida Theatre


The company - photo Manuel Harlan

The company – photo Manuel Harlan

Sometimes you need a get-out clause. It’s the plays and productions you don’t want to review, not for lack of things to say but because a conventional review would be a betrayal of the experience.

So let’s do it differently. Ten cryptic puzzles, ten reasons to see Anne Washburn’s Mr Burns. And remember, it doesn’t have to make sense. But you need to remember.

1) Between beginning and end, you will travel the greatest distance (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) you have travelled in any play. You might experience g-force physical symptoms, not least your jaw dropping to the floor. Do not be alarmed. No harm will come to you.

2) It defies definitions of “good”, “bad”, “well-made”, “unconventional”. They are irrelevant.

3) It will tell you what kind of theatregoer you are. It’s not made for a good night out. Which is not to say it’s not enjoyable. But it’s made for theatre junkies and adventurers, those who boldly go where no man, woman or child has gone before.

4) Michael Shaeffer is weirdly sexy as Mr Burns. As is Justine Mitchell, especially with a wolf tail and work boots.

5) It contains the sentence “poignant warble”. Google tells me this sentence exists only nine times on the internets.

6) What part of us will survive the end of everything? It might not be what you think.

7) Is a piece of art good because we love it, or we love it because it’s good?

8) We always knew Bart Simpson was a tragic hero.

9) In all truth, it has a fabulous cast (Demetri Goritsas, Adrian der Gregorian, Adey Grummet, Justine Mitchell, Wunmi Mosaku, Jenna Russell, Annabel Scholey, Michael Shaeffer) directed with great skill and valiant heart by Robert Icke. They will hold your hand through the journey if you hold theirs.

10) I should probably mention designer Tom Scutt. But he seemed to have so much fun with set design and costumes, this is probably the only reward that he needs.

So brush up your Simpsons and go. You might not get a chance for something like this ever again.

7 responses to “Review (or something like it): Mr Burns by Anne Washburn, Almeida Theatre

  1. I think you defiantly need to like The Simpsons – I must admit I struggled with this.

    Act III would not be out of place at the ENO (though a tad too long), but true, who knew Bart was so tragic.

  2. Pingback: Review – Mr Burns at the Almeida Theatre | tat

  3. I have to say I’m baffled by all the negative responses the play has drawn. I saw it on its penultimate day and absolutely loved it. It was thought-provoking, completely original in concept and hugely entertaining. It’s still bubbling away in my head two weeks later.

    Anyway, I’ve just discovered your blog and it’s brilliant.

    • Thank you very much, that’s a very nice thing to say.

      I think some people reacted negatively to the play because it’s built a bit like an obstacle course. At the beginning of each section you have to renegotiate your relationship with it, and that’s not easy. But as you said it’s a complete original.

  4. Pingback: Review – Mr Burns at the Almeida Theatre | Tim Bano

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