Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Gethsemane - Theatre Royal Brighton

Gethsemane by David Hare
Director: Howard Davies
Reviewer: David Saunders

The National Theatre’s production of David Hare’s Gethsemane arrived in Brighton to much fanfare and with good reason. The piece deals with how the world of politics and in particular political party fundraising effects different people.

The cast are given well rounded beautifully crafted characters to work with here and it is only in the role of Suzette that the writing lacks the incisive understanding displayed elsewhere. The cast offer fine considered performances delivered with a real relish of the words. In the performance of Nicola Walker as Lori there is a sharpness of delivery and a subtlety which highlights the struggle that the character experiences through the piece. The rest of the cast are not without praise and all attack the material with energy and verve. The work in each of the pieces’ small cast elements is focused and tightly directed, nothing in the performances is without need and the piece rattles along thanks to the streamlined nature of both the writing and the interpretation of it. The cast in each of the moments give colour and shape to the words with skill and much prickling energy. This set of performers received praise during the pieces run at the National and you can see why.

The technical aspects are stellar, as you would expect from a show which has moved directly from the National Theatre to a nationwide tour. The lighting design by Mark Henderson is stunning and moves through the piece adding a seamless layer of atmosphere and tone. The sound design by Christopher Shutt has depth and puts the audience and at ease at times but adds beautifully to the action on stage. The set design and projection again have all the hallmarks of the budgets the National Theatre has to throw at its productions. This production has quality oozing from it and the standard here is high across the board. You do begin to wonder at times why the National continues to throw quite so much money at productions. I do feel that the other layers that are added to what is already a finely written and superbly acted piece are added simply because it is the National Theatre.
I wonder at what stage they will produce something more pared down. The performances are excellent across the board and the whole production is the sort of theatre that regional houses should be looking to produce but there is the feeling with this piece that in actual fact more of a focus on the performances would have been appreciated rather than the bells and whistles that it has garnered from its producing house.

Photos: Catherine Ashmore
Gethsemane runs at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Sat 4th April 2009
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