13 September 2006

The Alchemist, National Theatre, 9th September 2006

Maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind. I was tired and feeling crabby and ill. I tried to like this, I really did. Maybe the problem was that I found it difficult to reconcile the Jacobean language with the modern dress and set, which were obviously there to point up the fact that the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the characters and the situations in which they found themselves are universal and belong to every period.

Maybe it was the dawning realisation that Jonson had written what, in centuries to come, would have been called a farce. Lots of “humorous” comings and goings, changes of costumes, openings of doors not knowing who might be coming through them. Farce grates on me. And this could well have been one.

Maybe it was the fact that I lost my grip on the plot quite quickly - diction during the first 20 minutes didn’t help – its very difficult to follow a plot when you can’t hear what is being said. And so I think I gave up trying to follow it. And I do find the way that Simon Russell Beale spits all over people while shouting at them very irritating. Im surprised that Alex Jennings didn’t need to wipe off with a towel during the interval.

In the end, I amused myself by admiring the set, which was a rotating cube missing two walls. The set design exploited lots of levels with stairs, doors and cupboards, and was visually interesting in itself. Shame that such a lovely, well thought out set didn’t get a better play. Costumes were well thought out and completely and utterly appropriate to each character – even down to socks and underwear. The “Fairy Queen” dress made out of a duvet was particularly good.

I think I laughed once all the evening. And this is supposed to be the hottest ticket in town.

As I said, maybe I was just in the wrong frame of mind. But no more Jacobean “comedy” for me, thanks.

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