Richard Bean’s GREAT BRITAIN: a counter view of the National Theatre

July 6, 2014

Paige_3053907b-1Did I laugh at Richard Bean’s Great Britain at the National Theatre. Yes … largely at the crudity of the tabloid editor, at the buffoonery of the Metropolitan Commissioner.

Was I braced by fierce insights into the national condition in the wake of the hacking trials? Well, no. guess I was foolish to expect such a thing … but the admirable secrecy of the production, rehearsed off-scene and only advertised once Andy Coulson was found guilty by the courts, made me expect something sharp and scabrous and likely savage from the production. it wasn’t so. In fact it was about as tame as an Alan Bennett production. The main players were rendered comic; they felt more amusing than shocking.

Critics seem to have loved it. It’s West-End transfer is already in place. It had skill and all … though the production seemed slack to me and needed tightening. In fact it all needed tightening, but then Bean isn’t Joe Orton. And the National Theatre is something of a state-sponsored institution I guess. it’s years since I’ve seen anything there that truly startled, turned me inside-out the way true theatre can. The Almeida takes more risks and has more of the counter-cultural energy that suits me … but then they’re probably not so invested in selling to the mainstream and tourist market.

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