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: People by Alan Bennett at the National Theatre

Frances de la Tour as Dorothy, Linda Bassett as Iris. Photo Alastair Muir

“Decay is a kind of progress”. Alan Bennett’s new play is about people: people you want around, people who spoil things, people who let you down, people who can’t turn back the clock or move forward.  And when it focuses on people, it does what an Alan Bennett play does best: sees in them colours nobody else can see.

The problem is the play often strays away and loses its way. There are points to be made and they are made again and again. Some characters, like Miles Jupp’s Bevan and Nicholas le Prevost’s Lumsden, are little more than mouthpieces and take up too much time. A cheeky business with an adult film is appropriately silly and perfectly enjoyable but eventually it can’t resist temptation (pun intended) and starts straining credibility.  There is repetition and deviation (even if it avoids hesitation), and in those moments the play feels vague, unsettled. Even time has a hazy quality: the characters talk about the past as if it is a fairy tale. Continue reading