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The Royal Court really is on a roll. In less than two years, we’ve had great new plays like Jerusalem, Enron, Posh, Clybourne Park, Sucker Punch and Tribes – and now Richard Bean’s terrific new play The Heretic. Its evenings like this that remind me why go to the theatre; I’d sit through five Greenland’s for one play as good as this!

I’ve long been a fan of Bean, but he’s excelled himself here. Unlike the NT’s Greenland, this isn’t a play about climate change, but it uses it as a back-drop to develop its main themes of science v activism whilst weaving in the stories of the complex relationships of its four main protagonists. It’s rich in detailed story-telling, well developed characters, sparklingly sharp & funny dialogue and boy does it make you think. It twists and turns continually – sometimes you see them coming and grin in expectation, but sometimes you don’t and smirk at the surprise. He sets you up for an obvious outcome, only to confound you by doing the opposite. It’s clearly well researched; he even shows a HR Manager arranging the chairs for a disciplinary meeting exactly as HR managers do!

As someone who was heavily involved in a major employment law case which resulted in the interpretation of ‘religious or similar philosophical beliefs’ to include views on climate change, I’d already begun to buy Bean’s proposition that climate change has become a religion and in doing so the debate has ceased to be objective. He puts this point centre stage and debates it more eloquently and entertainingly than you would ever think possible – whilst, unlike Greenland, remaining objective and not patronising or preaching to his audience.

Peter McKintosh has created two excellent realistic sets and Jeremy Herrin’s direction is impeccable. The performances are terrific. The wonderful Juliet Stevenson clearly relishes her meaty role. James Fleet has never been better than here as her boss. Johnny Flynn and Lydia Wilson are both terrific in the complex roles of Ben and Phoebe, and there are fine cameos from Adrian Hood and Leah Whitaker.

The Royal Court is now fully established as the place where you go for intelligent, thought-provoking, topical, entertaining plays and this one is an absolute unmissable treat!

 

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What a cracker of a play!  Playwright Richard Bean takes a fresh look at ‘the troubles’ from a highly original perspective – an IRA (later Real IRA) cell in New York City. By starting just after Bloody Sunday and continuing through the Good Friday agreement to 09/11 some 30 years later and almost 10 years ago, he takes an objective historical perspective.

The play examines the motivation of Irish Americans to provide both funds and more active support to the IRA, a combination of emotional attachment to their roots and a profound naivety brought into sharp focus when Islamic terrorism emerges.  The loyalties evolve into betrayal, disillusionment and power games that become very ugly.

What’s so clever is the way he really makes you think whilst you’re laughing uproariously. The crackling, sparkling dialogue is simply brilliant, and it’s delivered superbly by a fine ensemble. Max Stafford Clark’s direction is impeccable with not a moment wasted; what you get out of 100 minutes playing time makes you realise how much padding most plays have got.

Often very funny, often dark, sometimes chilling but always thought-provoking. A deeply satisfying evening in the theatre. GO!

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This is an adaptation, by the prolific Richard Bean (whose new play The Big Fellah also opens this week), of David Mamet’s excellent film about con men.

It’s staged at the Almeida on a clever two-tier set by Peter McKintosh in an interval free 100-minute production with atmospheric electric guitar music by Django Bates played live.  Lindsay Posner’s production is well paced. There are eight good performances, with Nancy Carroll and Amanda Drew particularly effective (the latter in two roles).

I enjoyed the evening and I admired the skills of all involved, but I can’t really see how staging it adds anything to the film, so I’m left with the question ‘why?’. That’s all really!

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