We Happy Few (Gielgud Theatre, West End)Back to Show Details
|Abolutely AWFUL! The air conditioning wasn't working, the play was far too long, the acting was poor, the story was non-existant. A great wet lettuce - USER: Whatsonstage.com (184.108.40.206)||25 Jul 04|
|Now that the closing notices have been posted, those who posted negative reviews in the media and on this site can feel vindicated. A great director cannot turn a dire play by a great actress (who happens to be his wife) into a great production. As with most of the other reviewers on here, this was easily the worst night at the theatre I have ever experienced. The whole evening cost the two of us in the region of £150 - including dinner (by far the best part of the experience) and £7.90 for a G&T and an orange&lemonade from the Gielgud bar. It has put me off of live theatre for the foreseeable future. What really annoys me is the fact that a number of "respected" reviewers saw reason to recommend this - a play so obviously unfit to grace the West End stage. Just what motivated their positive reviews? Is Sheridan Morley and old pal of the Nunns? Does the Time Out reviewer want to keep in with Trev & Im to secure future interviews for the magazine? I guess that Michael Portillo doesn't know any better. Or is it that they just like to have their quotes displayed outside the theatre and on the ads? The play was so obviously a failure that their motivations really must be questioned. I feel sorry for the actors who were mostly beyond criticism but they must have known in their hearts that the play was a failure. Despite the curtain call smiles, there was little sense of satisfaction or triumph on their faces. They needn’t blame themselves. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (220.127.116.11)||23 Jul 04|
|Dire! - USER: Whatsonstage.com (18.104.22.168)||22 Jul 04|
|Four of us saw 'This Happy Few'. Thank good ness we didn't read these reviews before we went otherwise we probably would not have gone. We all found it enjoyable and WELL WORTH SEEING. It can be criticised. It is too long. The curtain came down at the interval and we thought it was the end..but it wasn't! The second half had more story than the first half and the overall effect would have been improved if the first half had been shortened. It is always easy to criticise. I have a habit of being dragged to aplay in the West End and sleeping through it. This did not happen here probably because the quality of acting was excellent. We would all like to thank the cast for an evening well spent. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (22.214.171.124)||21 Jul 04|
|I saw this last Thursday as I had an afternoon to kill and boy did this killmy afternoon! Far,far too long. An ending that can be seen an hour and a half beforehand, a pointless prologue, a lesbian sub plot that comes from nowhere and the heads nowhere and just a general air of utter pomposity. Kate O'Mara was good but she was just playing the normal Kate O'Mara role. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (126.96.36.199)||20 Jul 04|
|Absolute tosh - a complete dogs breakfast! We were only drawn by the multifarious talents of the divine Miss Stevenson in the first place - but £42.50 per ticket was outrageous even for those. I think "Booking 'til November" may be a trifle optimistic. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (188.8.131.52)||19 Jul 04|
|The extra star for this disappointing, long-winded hodgepodge of cliches is for the valiant efforts of Juliet Stevenson and Marcia Warren. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (184.108.40.206)||14 Jul 04|
|'Time Out' liked it! - USER: Whatsonstage.com (220.127.116.11)||10 Jul 04|
|Too long! However for the most part the acting is excellent and the set design is clever. Lighting was quite dark which made keeping awake a bit of a struggle. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (18.104.22.168)||08 Jul 04|
|Director, Author and Number of start I would like to have given: all Nunn/None. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (22.214.171.124)||06 Jul 04|
|I can only echo the WOS review and other reviews here. This is a grave misjudgment by Imogen Stubbs and Trevor Nunn. The play is a mess and should have been savagely cut to at least two and a half hours. The Nunn magic is completely missing. The "revelations" about the various characters are utterly formulaic and lack credibility. And the design is utterly confusing. A waste of very considerable talent. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (126.96.36.199)||05 Jul 04|
|First the good news - all the debt that the cast and crew obviously owed Imogen Stubbs (and the return of any incriminating negatives) is paid off in full - in fact it seems that Imogen now owes them (and us) BIG TIME........ In what felt like a "play" written for the end of term at Mallory Towers, she managed to strand this great cast on stage without a clue - and for people that should know better, and in whom we all put our faith - shame on you. I managed to survive until the interval - and had there not been too many little old ladies to trample over I would have left MUCH earlier. With this calibre of Cast and Crew didn't anyone - Director/Producer/ANYONE! - say those words out loud - "this isn't very good" or even "I'm a world class Actress - get me out of here!"?? - or it all chums together on this sinking ship? Thanks Imogen/Trevor - but no thanks. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (188.8.131.52)||05 Jul 04|
|When I saw the names of the director and author of this play, I wondered if there had been arguments about changes. It would appear not, as it seems that Trevor Nunn has allowed himself to be influenced and not for the good. If another director had been involved maybe the play would have been better. It is too long, jumps too much and there are too many bits that you just cannot understand why they are in the play at all. The cast do their best, but if I had paid full price for my ticket I would have felt I’d been drastically short changed. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (184.108.40.206)||05 Jul 04|
|This play is a case in point as to why actresses should not be allowed to write. One can only be surprised that, having performed in so many wonderful productions by brilliant playwrights, Ms Stubbs was so unaware of her own banality. She seems to have taken every theme that sprang to mind and attempted to cram them all into the same story, with the result that not one thread is fully developed or even partly developed. The actors made a valiant attempt but as we crept out during the second act we could only feel pity for their unenviable task. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (220.127.116.11)||01 Jul 04|
|This is easily the worst play I have ever seen. Really, truly a disaster. Although the cast do their best, the material is like reading a 14 year old girl's diary put into a food processor and stuck back together by an autistic eight year old. It is almost compellingly awful. We managed to stay until about an hour into the second act, by which time we could contain ourselves no longer and had to leave. No-one looked surprised. - USER: Whatsonstage.com (18.104.22.168)||01 Jul 04|
|Deapite valiant efforts by the cast, in need of some judicious editing - USER: Whatsonstage.com (22.214.171.124)||30 Jun 04|
|The first half was bearable, but the second half was awful. As a previous reviewer commented, there were a number of monologues and dialogues that were not needed within the play and needed to be lost. For any play to captivate an audience for three hours, it should be exceptional, this was, towards the end absolute drivel. Saying that, the cast make the most of a bad play and make it slightly more bearable. Not a recommendation! - USER: Whatsonstage.com (126.96.36.199)||28 Jun 04|
|Shame! Shame! shame on Trevor Nunn and his wife Imogen Stubbs. This play is a derivated piece unworthy of the West End. The play, lasting three hours, is made embarrassingly long by some of the worst dialogue and monologues I have ever heard. The cast work hard to try and breath life into their predictable characters. But not even the talented Juiet Stevens can save this staged piece of amateur work that Mr and Mrs Nunn seem to think is a play. Don't be fooled, by the top hat and tails the actors wear in all the publicity stills; for some reason these clothes or donned for the cast to stand in line, a la Chorus Line, and then exit no explanation given. Imogen Stubbs is not a playwright, and in my opinion Trevor Nunn has commited professional suicide by putting his name to this awful piece of theatre. We were not a Happy Few to night June 25 JH - USER: Whatsonstage.com (188.8.131.52)||26 Jun 04|
|It was a long wait. Finally, a figure appeared on the stage and announced: "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Trevor Nunn and I am the director ..... no, no - no applause please, especially when you hear what I have to say....."
A few groans and expectations of cancellation. But what Sir Trevor had to say was that despite strenuous efforts all round, the previous evening's opening performance had been called off and though the dedicated cast had worked long and hard, they had, as yet, not managed to have a dress rehearsal of the play. What we were about to see, therefore, on this June 19 matinee performance, was the first dress rehearsal. It would be an anything-can-happen event and we were warned that proceedings could come to a halt at any time if things went wrong and there needed to be a re-think.
So happy expectations of calamities on stage added immeasurably to audience interest and we settled back to await developments.
As it turned out, there were very few fluffed lines and no calamities, other than the near toppling of a very tall, wheeled canvas prop, which looked like it could have ended up in the laps of the audience, had it not been for some supporting action by Patsy Palmer, the quick-thinking former Bianca of EastEnders.
So we were spared technical disasters. Dramatically, however, that was not to prove the case.
The play, written by actress Imogen Stubbs – now appearing as Gertrude in the Old Vic production of Hamlet – is inspired by the wartime experiences of the Osiris Players, a group of women who toured Britain in a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce putting on plays, mainly Shakespeare, in village halls and theatres, thus doing their bit for King and Country by brightening the lives of the culture-deprived masses.
Juliet Stevenson is the confidence-brimming, indefatigable, determined, resourceful Hetty, the leader of the troupe. You felt that if Hitler had been brought to see her, he would have simply given up, realising that defeat of such people was impossible. Stevenson is brilliantly effective and yields such charisma and presence that the stage seems almost empty when she is not on it.
That said, there is very strong support. Marcia Warren gives a flawless performance as Flora, the warm, endearing, sensible mother-figure, contrasted by Kate O'Mara's Helen. O'Mara has a face that almost demands she is cast as a world-weary bitch and the part of Helen obligingly offers her the chance to fulfill the role, one that she slips into with ease and conviction. Happily, this bitch has heart, too. Patsy Palmer, all teeth, chat and cheer, brightens up the proceedings, while Cat Simmons, with a delicious Midlands accent, draws sympathy and affection as Ivy, the maid turned actress.
They are joined by Caroline Blakiston, whose long list of credits range from The Forsyte Saga to Return of the Jedi; former Royal Shakespeare Company award-winning actress Rosemary McHale; Emma Darwall-Smith, who recently played Eugenie in the highly acclaimed Vincent in Brixton; and for good measure, a couple of token males - Paul Bentley, both comic and pompous, and Adam Davy, who showed that if he decides to give up the acting day-job, he can always make it as a serious saxophonist.
So the stage was (just about) set for a pedigree performance - top-drawer cast, acclaimed director, fascinating story. And in the first half, all went well. Stevenson dominated all as she set about assembling her troupe, brushing aside objections, difficulties and obstacles to achieve her single-minded vision. Lots of enjoyable Shakespearean allusions and the pleasure of watching enlightenment come to the unenlightened as the unsurpassable language of the Bard was explained and opened to them.
So far, all's well. Then came a long, long interval. And then came the disaster that we had half expected might befall us, thought it came not from any mishap on stage, but from the content of the play itself. Shakespeare was all but forgotten as the story turned from the activities of the troupe as a whole to the nitty-gritty of individual members' past lives. And it all became so dreary. When, for example, Marcia Warren's Flora, embroiled in a drawn-out account of some childhood trauma, paused and suggested to the listening Stevenson: "But you don't want to hear all this...." , it was almost irresistible to call out: "Hear, hear!" Sadly, Stevenson, seemingly for the first time -and like the audience - bored out of her brain, politely encouraged her pal to continue. Incidents in the past lives of other characters were equally interminably revealed. Did we care? Did we want to know?
And so the second half dragged on and on, leading eventually to a couple of set-piece Shakespeare speeches, which only the dimmest would have failed to see coming.
The play needs major surgery, principally in the second half, and one wonders, with all respect to his artistic prowess, whether Trevor Nunn, being so close to his wife's wood, is the right man to see the trees that need to be ruthlessly felled. Perhaps Imogen, watching this first performance half-hidden by a curtain in her box and witnessing some members of the audience leaving early, may have been having similar thoughts. Any may even have been reflecting on Horatio's words in Hamlet: "In the gross and scope of mine opinion, This bodes some strange eruption to our state."
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|21 Jun 04|