After a turgid evening watching The White Guard how lovely to see the NT not taking itself too seriously. Sure, the play's country/town culture clash is the stuff of Ayckbourn but the sophistication of the language rises above the meaningless plot. And, as with any good rep company, there is a real pleasure in seeing serious, talented actors, who we feel we know well, playing against type and enjoying every moment - we're in on the joke. All too often at the NT the audience isn't part of the experience and hasn't really been considered (see Women Beware Women to get my drift). SRB really is terrific too, best thing he's done for ages. - dgr1
29 Jun 10
Isn't it weird? SRB is only any good in comedy these days and FS just isn't funny at all. Interesting revival but I'd rather Sinden and Spriggs any day.
28 May 10
London Assurance is probably the closest the National will come to a Globe style production. It bursts through the fourth wall with tremendous energy and even ends with a rustic jig. The story is too daft to attempt to recount but a fabulous ensemble cast off all restraint - the rehearsals must have been almost impossible to get through. Fiona Shaw and Simon Russell Beale are two of our greatest classical actors but take visible glee in unashamedly hamming it up. There are also notable contributions from Nick Sampson as a Dennis Price / Jeeves valet and Paul Ready in full Hugh Grant mode. It's also a great pleasure to see Richard Briers, a boyhood hero. Greatest plaudits though go to the magnificent SRB in riotous Spamalot form, although he does look horribly like Bernard Manning. Traditionally comedy fares badly in awards season nut if I see a better performance than SRB's I will count myself very lucky. - David Baxter
25 May 10
What joy to go to the theatre with thousands of other people and to come out at the end all smiling at the hilarious nonsense of such a first-rate production. The plot is as daft as a brush, but the evident pleasure that all the cast had in performing it, along with the NT's usual amazing production values made this a delightful and very funny evening. SRB and Fiona Shaw are both treasures! - Frances Bulwer
20 Apr 10
Well yes the play is lightweight but what a jolly romp, a real fun night out capped by two superb performances from Simon Russell Beale who dazzled as Sir harcout Courtly and the brilliant Fiona Shaw, outrageous as Lady Gay Spanker. Some enjoyable performances too from some of the supporting cast, especially Paul Ready, Michelle Terry and Matt Cross. If you want a light hearted evening and a good laugh, this is the show for you. Enjoy - Paul Wallis
10 Apr 10
SRB was born to play this role, he really is the "weathervane of fashion for the beau monde". No it's not a deep and meaningful play but it's a great night out, half the price of the west end and more comfortable seats! As usual at the National the set was brilliant and I also concur that the other star turn was Nick Sampson's Cool. - Nicky W
30 Mar 10
Well I'm in agreement with Michael Coveney for the most part. Although I thought it was performed well, I found the plot juvenile & farcical. Yes, I laughed at some of it, because some of it was funny, but I really wouldn't have been more than mildly surprised if the vicar had walked in for tea & somebody's trousers had fallen down.
The valet, Cool, was terrific & I loved Simon Russell Beale, but these on their own were not enough. I found Richard Briers' Spanker ridiculous & I thought the rat was just daft.
- Harriet Marks
23 Mar 10
Every so often (and all too rarely in the National's recent history) everything comes together in a production - the directing, acting, set design and writing. This was an unmissable night at the theatre and one of Russell Beale's greatest performances. The moment with the 'Portuguese smelling salts' will stay with me for a long time. Superb stuff. - addicted to theatre
22 Mar 10
Michael Coveney has definitely morphed into Nicholas de Jongh! How can you not love this? The impact today of 19th century comedies like this depends more on the production and acting than the play (I remember a very mediocre London Assurance in 1989 transferred from Chichester and directed by a very young Sam Mendes). Well, here's a terrific example of how you can breathe new life into something that's 170 years old; I doubt it was that funny then! Nicholas Hytner's company get every laugh in the play, and a lot more that aren't in it. Simon Russell Beale has extraordinary range as an actor, and comedy is one of his best hands - he's the only person I know who can convey a reaction, emotion or opinion with just his eyes and cause a riot merely by striking an outrageously funny pose! – and this is one of his best performances. He's joined here by Fiona Shaw's larger-than-life Lady Gay Spanker (!), comic genius Richard Briers in a wonderful cameo and a fine ensemble who appear to be having as much of a ball as the audience. When Russell Beale and Shaw are struggling to suppress their own laughs (and at times, I wonder how it's possible to play against SRB without corpsing) it adds rather than detracts from the fun. Mark Thompson has built a terrific country house which fills the Olivier stage to great effect and created costumes that convey the characters perfectly. This is an absolute gem and one of the best things to grace the Olivier stage in 30 years - Gareth James
19 Mar 10
A dazzling cast and fantastic performances from the always wonderful SRB and Fiona Shaw! I haven't laughed this much in the theatre for a LONG time. A fantastically fun and joy filled evening. A must-see! Absolutely hilarious. - Alex
13 Mar 10
***** - and five more stars. Gloriously funny, beautifully acted. An evening of simple pleasure. - marge
12 Mar 10
Simon Russell Beale was not the best choice, as far as I'm concerned, for Sir Harcourt Courtly - well I did see Brian Bedford at Stratford, Ontario only a few years ago and he was sensational. Simon was a sort of thinking man's Sir Harcourt if you get my drift. Sure he had some amusing mannerisms, but it all looked rather strained unlike Bedford's delicious performance. Fiona Shaw was terrific, though, as Lady Gay Spanker, but the real star turn was Nick Sampson's superb Cool, Sir Harcourt's valet. The younger members of the cast were all good and in particular Matt Cross as Richard Dazzle who showed a more sinister side to the character than I had ever been aware of before. It looked terrific on the Olivier stage, clearly no budgetary cuts when the boss in directing. Not the greatest production, unfortunately, for that you would have had to have gone to Canada. - rds
12 Mar 10
Michael Coveney was obviously a bit hungover after his trip to his chum Andrew's press night the night before. 5 stars for Love Never Dies and 3 for this ? - time to hang up the pen you dinosaur.... - hal
11 Mar 10
Superb, excellent, outstanding piece of theatrical comedy at it's best. We loved it and laughed a lot too along with the rest of the audience. Simon Russel Beale and Fiona shaw are a joy to watch. Do not miss this one. - Ils
11 Mar 10
I'm going to give it four stars in anticipation!!! I can't wait til next Saturday. - Adam
11 Mar 10
ok it's mildly amusing at best, but boy does it become tedious by the end. - theatrat
11 Mar 10
Highly enjoyable play, with a brilliant cast.
Why was Mark Lawson in the first review? Isn´t is against the rule? But at times he seems to be very amused, so he cannot give it bad marks. - Elisabeth
11 Mar 10
So on the day all the critics rave, Coveney's lukewarm. The day the critics pan, Coveney's a rave. - William
11 Mar 10
Michael Coveney must have been at a different play to me. One of the funniest performances I have seen for a long time, in a sparkling play. Simon Russell Beale reminded me of Olivier in Love for Love what seems a hundred years ago at the National. And I loved the rat. - Mary Finch
11 Mar 10
What a disappointingly pedestrian review! Nobody has claimed this as great literature, but the reviewer seems to have missed completely the sheer sense of delight and joy that was evident in the company, and transmitted to the audience. It made for a wonderful, riotous evening.
Mr Coveney - Perhaps it's a bit different for you as you do this for a living, but if you can sit through this performance and not recognize the joy, perhaps you're in the wrong job? - Rod Fine
11 Mar 10
I agree a fabulous night out. Leave Coveney to his sickening sycophantic praise of his boss Lloyd Webber and enjoy this one for yourself. - Graham Brown
11 Mar 10
I wonder if I'm the only one who, at the sight of Simon Russell-Beale in a violet bonnet, immediately thought "Lady Bracknell"! Fabulous caper, Russell-Beale at his most camp, preening ridiculously throughout, making the very utmost of his remarkably mobile face. I've never seen those googly eyes of his used to better effect! And of course the always superb Fiona Shaw didn't disappoint, clearly enjoying every single second of her role as the super-hearty Lady Gay Spanker, smoking a cigar the size of a small torpedo. Richard Briers' small role as a daft old duffer suited him down to the ground. Hedda Gabler it ain't, but then it doesn't claim to be. A great romp, which does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it with aplomb. If you need a good laugh, it's hard to beat. - LDE
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