by Harley Granville Barker.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 19 March 2016.
2.15pm 21 Nov, 2, 15, 30, 31 Dec, 2, 13, 16, 19 Jan, 6, 9, 17, 20, 27 Feb, 1, 10, 12, 19 Mar.
7.30pm 17-21 Nov, 1, 2, 14, 15, 29, 30 Dec, 1, 2, 4, 12-16, 18, 19 Jan, 5, 6, 8, 9, 16-20, 25-27, 29 Feb, 3, 9-12, 14, 18-19 Mar.
Audio-described 6 Feb 215pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm), 7 Feb.
Captioned 17Feb 2.15pm, 10 Mar 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 11 November.
Meaty, pertinent and infinitely classy.
We keep discovering Harley Granville Barker as though he were a new playwright. Yet, as Richard Eyre movingly points out in the National Theatre programme, his name ought to resonate with every visitor to the NT building as one of the major figures in its creation (though whether it might be the better if we didn’t have it in terms of soaking-up resources is an argument for another time and another day).
Scholar/ writer/director/actor/ theorist, Granville Barker was the Edwardian theatrical polymath par excellence. Of the three plays that regularly surface, The Voysey Inheritance, The Madras House and Waste, it is the latter that was hailed when first produced privately as “the finest English tragedy since Hamlet.”
But Waste, with its discussion of abortion, a woman’s right to choose and its unsentimental, clear-eyed view of politics and politicians, plus its prescience on `the Irish question’, was initially banned. It had to wait nearly 30 years before receiving its first public performance in 1936, having undergone many changes in between, not least from its author as to his intentions.
Roger Michell’s revival finds it yet again as a play for `our day’; a grown-up play, tight as a drumstick in its distillation of ideas and tremblingly consonant with the heated issue of personal morality in public figures; how many modern-day politicians have we seen falling on their metaphorical swords because of some sexual peccadillo?
As Henry Trebell, the idealistic lawyer, brought in to steer through a Bill on the disestablishment of the Church of England but brought down by a lady love, Charles Edwards turns in a blinder of a performance: incandescent with fervour and belief, but not wholly sympathetic as a character.
Nothing in Granville Barker is that clear-cut. Nor is Michell’s production, which suffers from an unwieldy sliding panelled set. Ultimately, though, the play triumphs thanks to Edwards and a nearly (apart from a dreadfully stereotypical Labour MP) pitch-perfect cast led by Olivia Williams as Trebell’s unfortunate lover, Amy O’Connell, Sylvestra le Touzel, stolid as a rock as Trebell’s devoted sister, Frances, and Gerrard McArthur’s outstanding lizard-eyed Tory MP.
Walter Kent: Hubert Burton.
Lady Mortimer: Doreen Mantle.
Lady Julia Farrant: Lucy Robinson.
Frances Trebell: Sylvestra Le Touzel.
Lucy Davenport: Emerald O’Hanrahan.
Amy O’Connell: Olivia Williams.
George Farrant: William Chubb.
Russell Blackborough: Louis Hilyer.
Butler: Ian Jervis.
Henry Trebell: Charles Edwards.
Sir Gilbert Wedgecroft: Andrew Havill.
Lord Charles Cantilupe: Gerrard McArthur.
Cyril Horsham: Michael Elwyn.
Edmunds: Stephen Rashbrook.
Justin O’Connell: Paul Hickey.
Bertha: Fleur Keith.
Director: Roger Michell.
Designer: Hildegard Bechtler.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: John Leonard.
Music: Matthew Scott.
Movement: Quinny Sacks.
Company Voice work: Richard Ryder.
First performance of this production of Waste at the Lyttelton Theatre, London on 10 November 2015.