It could be argued that it was his production of Don Carlos which brought Michael Grandage to the attention of the London theatre audience and, although he didn't direct, Mary Stuart was an early highlight of his reign at the Donmar. Therefore it is fitting that Grandage revisits Schiller as his wildly successful period at this wonderful theatre comes to an end. The first half of Luise Miller is superb as Ben Daniels' Chancellor schemes to break up his son's infatuation with a lowly musician's daughter in order to marry him off to the Prince's mistress to protect his own hold on power. Grandage's taut production is greatly enhanced by Paule Constable's characteristically atmospheric lighting. After the interval some of Schiller's twists and turns become confusing and contradictory leading up to a climax lifted from Romeo and Juliet. As almost always at the Donmar the acting is superb: Felicity Jones is deeply touching as Luise and still looks young enough to be a believable 16-year old; Paul Higgins and Finty Williams are superb as her parents and John Light is creepily convincing as the aptly named Wurm. Luise Miller might not be quite in the same league as some of his later plays but in Grandage's hands it becomes memorable. - David Baxter
29 Jul 11
Brilliant, not one scene was wasted, everything built inexorably and logically to a terribly tragic heartbreaking conclusion. The difference between this and Shakespeare's Othello is that in this political world nearly everybody is like Iago, so heroic innocent Luise Miller is really up against it. This could make the outcome feel such a foregone conclusion that the drama simpers, but it doesn't, and the slow closing of the noose around Luise's loving heart pulls taut with full dramatic force. The actors are uniformly excellent (although for a moment I was distracted from the drama by just how ridiculously goodlooking Max Bennett is), with Felicity Jones a tour de force of (Desdemonan) purity and goodness never giving in to the evil all around her. Max Bennett is the Shakespearean style tragic hero, convincingly passionate and volatile. Ben Daniels, John Light and David Dawson are a compelling trinity of evil, with Daniels somehow gloriously tragic as well as evil, and Dawson hilariously funny as well as evil, with Light simply embodying pure pure evil. Playing the most well-rounded and defined character, Alex Kingston melds grandiosity with fragility together to paint a wonderful portrait of a passionate but troubled courtesan. This production is all-round excellent, and though I generally balk at plays that have a lot of shouting in them, this play seems to earn each and every angry outburst. - Steve
28 Jul 11
There was a time when Schillerís plays were dull and turgid. Then along came Mike Poulton with adaptations which breathed new life into them. His adaptation of Don Carlos was masterly and now he excels with this cross between Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Romeo & Juliet.
The Chancellorís son, an army major, is in love with court musicianís daughter Luise, but his father plans to wed him to the Princeís mistress to provide cover for the Prince and obtain influence for himself. The Chancellorís private secretary, appropriately named Wurm, wants Luise himself and with the help of Lady Milford and Hofmarschall ( I wasnít quite sure what his role is) his machiavellian plans unfold, ending tragically with its R&J moment. Itís a cracking story and the dialogue is sharp and often witty; not a word is wasted.
The Donmar space is simply but beautifully designed and lit by Peter McKintosh and Paule Constable respectively and Michael Grandageís staging is as ever impeccable. I donít think even the Donmar has ever assemble an ensemble this good. You totally believe in the love and passion of Felicity Jones and Max Bennett as Luise and Ferdinand. Ben Daniels has never been better than here as the Chancellor, whose craze for power unleashes such tragedy and results in his own deep remorse. John Light and David Dawson provide the intrigue in their deliciously smarmy, oleaginous fashion (and in the case of Dawson, very camp) whilst Alex Kingston is every bit the arch manipulator whose only interest is herself Ė at any cost . I also really liked Paul Higgins devoted passionate father who does much to illustrate the backdrop of the class divide.
This will Iím sure be one of the highlights of the year, and one of the defining productions of Grandageís reign at the Donmar. Miss at your peril. - Gareth James
29 Jun 11
Glad to see someone has already refuted the "big dud" review. We were riveted to the play throughout and were fascinated by the resonances of the dialogue to the world today with references to the corruption of despots and the desires to pass power down through the family. A great play wonderously acted by all and a set on that tiny stage which once again leaves the playgoer overwhelmed at designer's ingenuity. MLJ - Malcolm Judelson
25 Jun 11
SPECTACULAR! One of the best things I have ever seen, with impeccable performances all round. Can't find anything negative to say about it at all, apart from wishing it would be on for longer so I could go and see it again. Alex Kingston was a magnificent Lady Milford, but was matched by the rest of the cast. Felicity Jones was desperately moving as the tragic heroine who did nothing wrong but was ultimately doomed by her own goodness. MUCH more humour than I had expected, a lovely comic turn from David Dawson, and John Light's Wurm was deliciously malevolent, reminiscent in some ways of Iago. Just fabulous, richly deserves all the excellent reviews it is garnering. - LDE
24 Jun 11
Big dud for the Donmar,(Luise Miller), what a bore and tatty looking. - Faz
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