It may be a massive case of wishful thinking but I remain sceptical of the most apocalyptic climate change theories so The Heretic comes as a welcome counterbalance to the likes of Greenland and Earthquakes in London (even though the latter was my best play of 2010). There is also a delicious irony in casting Juliet Stevenson as the heretical university scientist given her past association with the discredited Wakefield campaign which did such damage to child immunisation uptake. The cast of six are all excellent, including two extremely impressive performances as a student and the daughter from Johnny Flynn and Lydia Wilson who, in looks and ability, increasingly resembles a younger sister of the wonderful Anna Madeley. The first half manages to communicate complicated meteorological theories whilst also being extremely funny and also shows how the scientific community turns on someone who dares challenge the accepted orthodoxy. After the interval Richard Bean literally loses the plot as he veers off on unresolved tangents which unfortunately lessens the overall impact. However the Royal Court deserves credit for staging a play which probably has the core audience choking on their muesli as well as with laughter. Given Nick Hytner's previous tie-ins with Bean it's a shame this wasn't staged in rep at the National as a rebuttal to Greenland. - David Baxter
11 Mar 11
What a shame, it has all the potential for a masterpiece if the author wouldn't suffer from what Michael Frayn called "the English Obsession with Nazi Germany". It sad enough that so many authors and comedians turn to cheap Nazi jokes when they run out of ideas but this play is so smart and witty that he could done without them beautifully. Very disappointing that the Royal Court that prides itself in supporting new and forward thinking writing got itself entangled in this out-dated mind-set. We have 2011 and not 1946 and the play is about climate change and human ambition and not a new episode of "Allo Allo" - Elisabeth
08 Mar 11
The Royal Court really is on a roll. In less than two years, weíve had great new plays like Jerusalem, Enron, Posh, Clybourne Park, Sucker Punch and Tribes Ė and now Richard Beanís terrific new play The Heretic. Its evenings like this that remind me why go to the theatre; Iíd sit through five Greenlandís for one play as good as this! Iíve long been a fan of Bean, but heís excelled himself here. Unlike the NTís Greenland, this isnít a play about climate change, but it uses it as a back-drop to develop its main themes of science v activism whilst weaving in the stories of the complex relationships of its four main protagonists. Itís rich in detailed story-telling, well developed characters, sparklingly sharp & funny dialogue and boy does it make you think. It twists and turns continually Ė sometimes you see them coming and grin in expectation, but sometimes you donít and smirk at the surprise. He sets you up for an obvious outcome, only to confound you by doing the opposite. Itís clearly well researched; he even shows a HR Manager arranging the chairs for a disciplinary meeting exactly as HR managers do! As someone who was heavily involved in a major employment law case which resulted in the interpretation of Ďreligious or similar philosophical beliefsí to include views on climate change, Iíd already begun to buy Beanís proposition that climate change has become a religion and in doing so the debate has ceased to be objective. He puts this point centre stage and debates it more eloquently and entertainingly than you would ever think possible Ė whilst, unlike Greenland, remaining objective and not patronising or preaching to his audience.
Peter McKintosh has created two excellent realistic sets and Jeremy Herrinís direction is impeccable. The performances are terrific. The wonderful Juliet Stevenson clearly relishes her meaty role. James Fleet has never been better than here as her boss. Johnny Flynn and Lydia Wilson are both terrific in the complex roles of Ben and Phoebe, and there are fine cameos from Adrian Hood and Leah Whitaker. The Royal Court is now fully established as the place where you go for intelligent, thought-provoking, topical, entertaining plays and this one is an absolute unmissable treat!
- Gareth James
22 Feb 11
Terrific, at last someone arguing for real science in the global warming debate and what a slap in the theatrical puss for the National theatre and it's grotesque GREENLAND!
Well done to the Royal Court for having the guts to put this play on. No doubt had the high priests of the new religion had there way they would, after much gnashing of teeth and chest beating, had it suppressed as heresy. "Where is the Lord Chamberlain when he's needed" I hear them cry. I hope it gets a deserved West End transfer. - rds
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