Review: Arnold Wesker’s Roots at the Donmar Warehouse

Roots Arnold Wesker donmar posterMany things can be said about James Mcdonald’s production of Arnold Wesker’s Roots : the language – while grounded and naturalistic – twists and turns like a snake, the performances have vigour and precision and beauty and the set showcases both the small details and the grandeur of the Donmar stage. But ultimately, despite all these pleasures, the production’s structural problems linger in the mind.

Some of these problems come with the play: Wesker is not in a hurry to tell his story. In fact, only one significant event occurs and it comes at the end of the play. None of this would matter if the characters’ interactions played out with energy but at almost three hours and with two intervals, the production loses momentum. Continue reading

Review: King Lear at the Almeida

Jonathan Pryce as King Lear and Phoebe Fox as Cordelia. Photo Keith Pattison

If you are a regular theatregoer, you quickly find out you are never too far away from a new Hamlet or King Lear. And as much as I initially resist buying a ticket, more often than not I succumb to the temptation of any new production. Jonathan Pryce as King Lear is an irresistible premise, and in that sense the Almeida production doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, Jonathan Pryce is extraordinary. I don’t have the knowledge or inclination to compare him with other King Lears, but the fact remains I found him incredibly moving, his Lear full of “rage against the dying of the light” and increasingly desperate that he exhausts himself out of his sanity. In Act 2, Scene 4, when Lear confronts Regan about the treatment of Kent, his rage was so infused in sorrow that I felt myself going cold. This is only the second time seeing Jonathan Pryce on stage (the first time was in the Donmar production of Dimetos a couple of years ago, and I didn’t like that play), and his immediacy and emotional power alone are reason enough to see this production.

Jonathan Pryce is matched by Clive Wood as Gloucester and Ian Gelder as Kent. Clive Wood, a big man and a very powerful presence, makes Gloucester a faithful and unwavering subject to the king, whose fate is all the more moving because his physicality is so imposing. Ian Gelder plays Kent as if he is of the same stock as Lear and he understands him in a way that he can’t understand himself. The three of them are at the centre of the best scenes in the production. Continue reading