I love history plays and have been well served on the South Bank in the last couple of years. Howard Brenton has been responsible for some of the best of those plays but his adaptation of Buchner's Danton's Death is a severe disappointment. It never engages as a drama and mainly consists of a series of speeches, frequently shouted at the audience, particularly by Toby Stephens. The final coup de theatre is clever in a "how did they do that" way but frankly I got more of a flavour of the French Revolution from the short-lived musical of a Tale of Two Cities than from this. - David Baxter
01 Sep 10
I could have been less generous and given just one star, but I couldn't quite bring myself to be so unkind. Firstly, why Toby Stephens? He can't act for toffees and in this production he was totally lost, strutting about the Olivier stage an actor desperately in search of his character! Can someone tell him that spluttering and shouting ain't necessarily acting! The rest of cast were just so so too and this is our National Theatre! What's going on? I am mystified how Michael Grandage who has done such wonderful work could have let this happen? I could go on but I won't - another duff night at the NT and why I go for the ten quid seats now instead of the £49.50s in the row behind! The program says Alistair Coomer was the casting director in which case he should be sacked! Don't waste your hard earned cash on this turkey. - rds
20 Aug 10
I found this a totally absorbing piece of theatre. Mainly due to Howard Brentonís new text. The casting was excellent, notably from Toby Stephens as Danton and Elliot Levey as Robespierre. The staging and set were imaginative, with a special mention for the guillotine! I enjoyed the evening very much.
14 Aug 10
Well I liked the set! It managed to fill the stage and Grandage did create his usual slick style of production but itís a dull piece of theatre. I havenít read the original but it sounds a lot more interesting with views from the crowd scenes and man who is hung for wiping his nose with a hanky and not his finger (the true sign of spotting a gentlemen apparently).Also the crowd scenes may have given the impression of a revolution going on!
What was with Toby Stephens accent? He sounded like a character from a That Mitchell and Webb Look
Why did Dantonís wife and maid suddenly perform in a stylised way towards the end?
Also windows open for the good guys and shut for the baddies. Oh please
Also for a production that was very minimal did we need the guillotine at the end? Could we of just had some sound effects? Ė it was all a bit Andrew Lewd Rubber Ďsuper musicalí for me.
This one my first trip to the NT this year and judging by the schedule I have nothing else planned. Even at £10 itís not worth it
- grrr to the nt
12 Aug 10
This is a wordy play, even after being seriously cut, made even more dull by a conspicious lack of emotion in virtually all the cast. Toby Stephens is a very 'stagey' actor and a lack of real conviction from him influences everyone else. Why this was staged in the Olivier when, especially with such a small cast, it could easily and more effectively have been done in the Lyttelton, or even the Cottesloe. No real use made of the wonderful Olivier stage and the frequent dimming and raising of lights to indicate a change of set served as a distraction. This should be a tense play about passion, disillusionment, intransigence and the power of oratory with a dramatic, shocking finale. Instead we were all quite glad by the end when, instead of being shaken and surprised, the entire audience was busily working out how the guillotine scene was done and then glad to go home - maybe that is why there is no interval - as virtually everyone already knows the ending - a lot of people would not have come back in after the break. - Rebekkah
03 Aug 10
Disappointing. Would need further persuading that this is a great play based on this production. As the outcome of the evening is given away by the title of the play I was expecting more drama and tension to compensate. Some good speeches but generally lots of shouting, people sitting on the floor (presumably because the budget didn't stretch to furniture), some big shutters being opened and then closed, three people pretending to be a crowd,longed for (because it's not in the play) final showdown between Danton and Rospierre never materialising, big blackout at end in which the 'is that it?' question hangs in the air so tangibly that the applause when it finally comes is somewhat of a relief. Modern phrasing of some of the translation jars at points. More thought needed to be given to how this plays if you're not sitting close to the stage. Extra star for the guillotine though. - PJ
26 Jul 10
Rubbish review Michael Coveney!
It was excellent. A stark and exciting portrayal of the end of the revolution, pared down in terms of cast, but it still managed to bubble with energy and intelligence. - Jo
25 Jul 10
Utter stinker, AVOID!
Must try harder. - coral
24 Jul 10
Somehow playwright Georg Bruchner and adapter Howard Brenton have managed to turn an interesting piece of French history into a very dull play. The tail end of the revolution is ripe territory for a political / psychological thriller, but thrilling this is not. Itís almost two uninterrupted hours of angst and rants with few redeeming features. Itís just badly written and thereís not a lot director Michael Grandage or his fine case can do to redeem it. I felt very much like I did after the same directorís Madame de Sade last year i.e. that there seemed to be a much more interesting play happening off-stage. I donít even think I want to write about it any more Ė except to say that if youíre still awake when they get to the executions, they are very cleverly staged; I still havenít worked out how they do it! - Gareth James
24 Jul 10
I agree with your reviewer. Toby Stephens gives a mercurial quality to Danton. His bravado in the face of death, the ruefull acknowledgment of the biter bit is gripping. Lighting fab,in the waste of the vast space,and the sounds dramatic but call in the mob please - claudia Boulton
23 Jul 10
Yes, more cast would have been more.
Yes, Christopher Orams set was as bleak as the dreadful ones he created for the Donmar
but with very strong performances from Stephens, Kay and the rest of the cast a worthwhile production. I hope they sorted out the "cliff hanger ending" of the second preview when the audience wasnīt sure when it was over. The only real disappointment was the actress playing "Julie", who completely lacked projection and energy, which was very strange given her theatre credits. - Elisabeth
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