Timon of Athens: to at least Oct 31
TIMON OF ATHENS
by William Shakespeare.
Olivier Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 31 October 2012.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 4 August.
Grand gestures. Big statements.
What a rare and unadulteratedly bilious account of human nature in hock to Mammon is Timon, the tale of the Athenian grandee and benefactor who like Lear, gives all away. Uniquely in Shakespeare there is no redemption to soften the final act.
Indeed, Nicholas Hytner’s NT revival emphasises the point by showing the Athenian senators – modern suited politicians all – cravenly suing for peace with their avenging conqueror, Alcibiades, played here as a Northern Ireland rebel leader with a pack of St Paul’s anti-capitalist hoodie protestors for supporters. Contemporary cynicism to the end.
Maybe that is why, too, Timon is seen so infrequently. The tone of bitterness is so undilutedly, unrelievedly misanthropic. And maybe that is why Hytner, with dramaturg, Ben Power has seized on its contemporary relevances so wholeheartedly.
Cutting here, transferring there – Timon’s male steward is played by actress Deborah Findlay; Alcibiades, `Timon’s one good friend’, crucial to the full texture of the play’s exposure of altruism defeated, only appears after Timon’s self-exile – this Timon with designer Tim Hatley’s clever contemporary backdrops of skyscraper banks, West End mansions and parliamentary House of Commons, becomes a deafening mirror reflection of our own morally tarred and financially tawdry times.
Hytner was ever the director of the grand gesture. This Timon, led by Simon Russell Beale’s smilingly amiable then excoriating Timon who discovers friendship is fleeting when money and influence dry up, sweeps all before it.
Clear, vivid, and engaging if lightweight, this is another successfully modernised Travelex sponsored Shakespeare so favoured by the National under Hytner.
But couldn’t there be more to Timon than this production presents?
Admittedly, the text of Timon, here styled as co-written with Thomas Middleton, lends itself to tinkering. The verse is often unwieldy but carrying echoes of Coriolanus and overwhelmingly of Lear, it can rise to rhetorical heights which Russell Beale, railing against the elements and comparing man to worse than beasts, conveys with powerful disgust.
Hilton McRae’s Apemantus – half Fool/Jaques/Thersites – makes a fine world weary counterfoil to Russell Beale’s victim of extremes, condemned to terminal disillusion.
I just would like to have felt the weft as well as admired the weave.
Timon of Athens: Simon Russell Beale.
Flavia, a steward: Deborah Findlay.
Flaminia: Olivia Llewellyn.
Servilius: Tim Samuels.
Philotus: Alfred Enoch.
Lucilius: Stavros Demetraki.
Apemantus, a philosopher:
Poet: Nick Sampson.
Painter: Penny Layden.
Jeweller: Jo Dockery.
Actor: Ciarán McMenamin.
Lucullus: Paul Bentall.
Ventidius: Tom Robertson.
Varro: Martin Chamberlain.
Isidore: Michael Sheldon.
Sempronia: Lynette Edwards.
Lepidus: Ross Waiton.
Livia: Cindy Jourdain.
Caphis: Craige Els.
Hortensius: Paul Dodds.
Titus: Jason Cheater.
Hostilius: Ross Waiton.
Dancers: Christina Arestis* Olivia Cowley* Emma Harris, Nathalie Harrison* Kristen McNally*
Pietra Mello-Pitman* Karis Scarlette*
(* appearing by kind permission of The Royal Ballet. Two dancers appear at each performance).
Alcibiades, a rebel leader: Ciarán McMenamin.
Timandra: Olivia Llewellyn.
Phyrnia: Jo Dockery.
Three thieves: Jason Cheater, Paul Dodds, Craige Els.
Additional Company: Charlie Blackwood, Scheherzade Braithwaite, Anna Burkholder, Jamie Champion, Tyson Douglas, Harper James, Jatt Jessup, Pandora McCormick, Haydn Whiteside.
Director: Nicholas Hytner.
Designer: Tim Hatley.
Lighting: Bruno Poet.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Grant Olding.
Choreographer: Edward Watson.
Company Voice work: Jeanette Nelson, Zabarjad Salam.
Dramaturg: Ben Power.
This production of Timon of Athens opened in the Olivier Theatre London 17 July 17 2012.
Sponsored by Travelex, it forms part of the London 2012 Festival and is also part of the World Shakespeare Festival
Timon of Athens will be broadcast to cinemas across the UK and around the world on 1 November 2012 as part of National Theatre Live.
An exhibition, ‘The Making of Timon’ runs in the Olivier Exhibiton Space to 9 Sept and is produced in association with the British Museum whose exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world in collaboration with the RSC runs to 25 Nov.