I did this yesterday re my visit to NT on 9 August.
Why has my comment not gone on line? - JEAN RAMM
11 Aug 11
It has been stated that Emperor and Galilean is for Ibsen completists only although it could not be further removed from his other realist dramas. It's a remarkable achievement for Ben Power to have adapted Ibsen's nine-hour prose poem to a three-hour play and equally for Jonathan Kent's production to be such an exciting and clear examination of Julian's struggles with questions of faith, destiny and mortality. Inevitably there are times when Julian's change from Christianity to paganism appear to be sudden rather than a lengthy process and I must have missed the reference to Julian's wife being pregnant by another man, but this should not detract from the achievement of Power, Kent and a huge cast. Andrew Scott is brilliant in the first half as the younger Julian, resolute in his faith but thirsting for the freedom to expand his knowledge and fatally susceptible to Ian McDiarmid's mystic Maximus, but he is less convincing as a military leader and pagan tyrant. This is a production that has had to make some necessary compromises but it was an exhilerating and memorable experience. - David Baxter
10 Aug 11
This production really adds up to something: brilliant biographical theatre. Andrew Scott is magnificent. At the start he's like a child parroting rote religion, then he's like a teenager who puts on a Che Guevara t-shirt but really doesn't know anything, then he becomes a fanatical idealist bent on changing the world, then he's a power-mad despot with vestiges of the initial idealism, and then he's one supremely tragic antihero. Really Andrew Scott is unforgettable. Sadly there were empty seats, but it's a little known Ibsen and there was never going to be the rush for this as there was with Frankenstein, to which this is a worthy successor at the Olivier. Only the National could produce two such epic productions, which are also coincidentally connected also by the BBC's recent Sherlock, given that Sherlock (Cumberbatch) was in Frankenstein, and Moriarty (Scott) is in this. I resist giving this 5 stars because the production's generic use of war plane footage and modern backdrops did little to guide me in determining whether Christianity triumphs over paganism because it is more fanatical, more propaganda friendly, more true, more vicious, or what - I mean the themes simply don't cohere as much as I would have liked. The biography of Emperor Julian works wonderfully, but the treatise on two fundamentalist religions is somewhat muddy. - Steve
31 Jul 11
Interesting that there seems to be no middle opinion about this production. People have either loved it or hated it. I loved it - with one quibble: the casting of Andrew Scott as Julian is completely wrong. He has poor voice projection (so bad that I found myself looking more and more frequently at the very helpful surtitles for the deaf), and a total lack of charisma. He spoiled what was other wise a superb theatrical experience, and the NT deserves a huge pat on the back for daring to stage this neglected Ibsen masterpiece. The always wonderful Ian McDiarmid was stupendous as Maximus, and all of the rest of the cast could not be faulted. Special thanks to Paul Brown for his creative design and Jonathan Dove for the impressive music. This is a play with guts, and it makes you think - no small achievement. Ignore the moaners and go and see it. It's a real bargain for £12. - sc
30 Jul 11
Please make it end please...ple..... - coral
19 Jul 11
Itís not often you get to see the British premiere of a 138-year old play by a world-famous dramatist. In this case, itís probably because few theatres have the resources (or the balls) to put on such an epic. Fortunately, we have the National Theatre.
Itís a fascinating 12-year slice of history, from the beginning of soon-to-be emperor Julianís crisis of faith in AD 351 to his death in AD 363, soon after becoming Emperor. The 20-year old goes from Constantinople to Athens where he dumps christianity for paganism. He returns briefly, to Ephesus, before heís despatched for a sortie in Gaul (France) from where he returns to become Emperor. Though he claims to champion religious freedom, in actuality he suppresses christianity. He heads off to war with Persia, where he meets his maker on the battlefield.
Ben Powerís adaptation makes all of this very clear and lucid, with modern dialogue peppered with wit. Jonathan Kentís epic production makes full use of the Olivier drum & revolve with giant projections from Nina Dunn adding to the impact (though the inclusion of helicopters jarred with me). Paul Brownís design is timeless and classic and allows the drama to unfold without smothering it with concept or detail and slowing it down. Jonathan Doveís music, using four percussionists, adds atmosphere but I found Mark Hendersonís lighting occasionally too dark. Though there is real pace, a few judicious cuts to the early years in Constantinople and Athens would have sharpened it further and cut the running time by 10 to 20 minutes to a more accessible 3 hours.
The role of Julian is a real challenge but fortunately Andrew Scott is more than a match for it. Heís hardly ever off the stage and speaking most of the time heís on it. He acts with great passion and evolves believably and seamlessly from troubled youth to troubled tyrant. Thereís a fine supporting cast of 49 (half of them from drama schools getting an early shot at the Olivier stage) plus 4 musicians Ė the largest I think Iíve seen on this stage Ė which includes the excellent Ian McDiarmid in what I think is only his second National performance.
Itís not a great play, but Iíd be surprised if it has ever had such a good adaptation and production and I think itís part of the NTís role to stage work that would never otherwise be staged. Iím glad I had the opportunity to see it. - Gareth James
03 Jul 11
tedious, badly acted and unengaging. - mym
02 Jul 11
Very special production indeed - we loved it. - wilf
27 Jun 11
Was at the Olivier on the 16th and found the preceding Platform with Jonathan Kent extremely helpful and iteresting. Really set me up for a brilliant performance. It is long but I'm used to opera which is a similar length. A uniformly strong cast, lots of exciting movement, brilliant lighting and scenic effects. I quite liked the mix of modern and period dress - though I usually am anti modern dress in historic plays/operas. All in all, a superb evening of theatre. - Phyl Swindlehurst
17 Jun 11
We left in the interval as we could not hear the main actor Andrew Scott in the Circle. It was as a result very boring indeed. Think very carefully about spending money on this as you will need to have the more expensive seats to actually hear the main actor who is on stage nearly all the time. It starts at 7pm and ends at 10.30pm. I had had enough 4 minutes in with the lack of spontaneity and forced bonhomie coupled with inaudible speech.Even the over use of the famous Olivier Drum did not cheer me up. Looks like it's going to be a Love it or loathe it Production. So sorry to say I am in the latter camp when I am a great admirer of Jonathan Kent. - H.L.
17 Jun 11
I saw this play on Saturday and found it spellbindingly moving. A breathtaking production and a clever script combined with some fine acting to create a truly memorable theatrical experience. Definitely not-to-be-missed. - Jonathan Potts
16 Jun 11
The only thing wrong with this excellent production is the National's consistent obsession these past few years with using modern dress, uniforms, tanks, helicopters, jet fighters etc, in any ancient battle or situation. In this case we have a 4th Century setting and when the actors are talking about horses and swords they come on dressed for Iraq. This production would be so much better with period costumes being used throughout the play as they occasionally are. Then it sparkles. Other than costume problem this was an excellent production played with the full use of the Oliviers drum stage revolve and Andrew Scott is superb in the lead role. - ils
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