Lawren After Arabia, London. To 04 June

Lawrence after Arabia
A new play by Howard Brenton

Hampstead Theatre to 4 June 2016
Eton Avenue,
Swiss Cottage,
London NW3 3EU

Box Office: 020 7722 9301
Monday – Saturday 10am – 7pm

7:30pm; Wed mat 2.30pm, Sat mats 3pm

Runs: 2hr 10 mins incl interval.

Review: by Carole Woddis of performance seen May 10, 2016:

Somethings old, somethings new, but a bit frustrating.
This is a strange subject for Howard Brenton if only because T E Lawrence (aka Aircraftman Ross and later T E Shaw of the Royal Tank Corps) is one so indelibly associated with the film and the Rattigan play, coincidentally being revived next month at Chichester.

What fresh insights could Brenton bring to a subject so well tilled?

Frustratingly it’s something new, something old. Part history play, part literary, psychological puzzle, something new comes by way of T.E as a hook to explore false memory. T.E, suggests Brenton, made up his account of rape and torture at the hands of the Turkish Bey at Deraa out of guilt at playing the double agent: a spy for the British Army and freedom fighter alongside the Arabs in the Arab Revolt.

Brenton is fairly unequivocal on Lawrence’s dual role but at the play’s centre is the relationship between Lawrence and the Shaws – George Bernard Shaw and his wife Charlotte, editor of one of the versions of Lawrence’s acclaimed novel, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a `celibate’ who falls in love with `Tom’ Lawrence, a frequent visitor to their home after his return to Britain.

Lawrence appears to have been as ambivalent towards his literary opus as he was to himself – all of which is fascinating where the Lawrence/Charlotte relationship is concerned, less so with GBS and the American photographer, Lowell Thomas who made Lawrence famous with his iconic photos of Lawrence in Arab dress. Both seem peripheral characters and underwritten.

More dramatically effective if familiar in John Dove’s cleverly designed production (the photographic past eliding into the present) are scenes between Lawrence and Khalid Laith’s leader of the Arab Revolt, Prince Feisal.

Jack Laskey, a doppelganger for the late, great Ian Charleson doesn’t quite encapsulate the introverted exhibitionist the play is at pains to paint him though Geraldine James nicely hints at Charlotte’s complex feelings for him.

As a reminder of French and British duplicity, the whirlwind of which we are now reaping (as foretold by Lawrence), it couldn’t be more timely. Typically Brenton is perceptive about the possible longterm effects of the Arab experience on its protagonist, but by his own high standards, it grips neither as strongly or fiercely as the recent Anne Boleyn play or Doctor Scroggy’s War.

Lawrence after Arabia
A new play by Howard Brenton

Lowell Thomas: Sam Alexander
Field Marshall Edmund Allenby: William Chubb
Charlotte Shaw: Geraldine James
Prince Feisal: Khalid Laith
T E Lawrence: Jack Laskey
Blanche Patch: Rosalind March
George Bernard Shaw: Jeff Rawle
Mohammed Abdullah: Kai Spellman
Ali Haidar: Cristóbal Pizarro

Director: John Dove
Designer: Michael Taylor
Lighting Designer: Michael Doubleday
Sound Designer: John Leonard
Composer: Philip Pinsky
Casting: Suzanne Crowley & Gilly Poole
Assistant Designer: Will Featherstone

World premiere of Lawrence after Arabia, Hampstead Theatre, London, April 28, 2016

2016-05-13 16:17:59

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