The Vertical Hour centres on American war correspondent-turned-academic Nadia Blye. She is sure of her place in the world and her opinion of it, and she knows exactly what her stance is on Iraq. Until, that is, she meets an equally opinionated and lethally charming man - her boyfriend Phillip's father, Oliver - over a weekend in Shropshire. Oliver’s intervention has far-reaching consequences for them all.
Hollywood’s Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy starred as Nadia and Oliver in the world premiere, which was directed by former Donmar Warehouse artistic director Sam Mendes and opened in November 2006 for a four-month run at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre. Although Nighy received strong notices, the play itself garnered mixed reviews and was overlooked in the 2007 Tony Awards.
The new Royal Court production, which continues until 1 March 2008, stars Indira Varma and Anton Lesser (pictured), with Tom Riley as Phillip. The production is directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Mike Britton, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Nick Powell.
First night critics seemed better disposed to Hare’s “Shavian” play on this side of the Atlantic, despite the absence of Bill Nighy, missed by many who saw it in New York missed. Nevertheless, in Herrin’s production, Hare’s text still provides “a thrilling contest of wills between two perfectly-matched opponents” and “a mature blend of the personal and the political” - Indira Varma's “excellent” and “stridingly confident” Nadia, and Anton Lesser’s “testy” and “spiky” Oliver – making it “a major, unmissable theatrical event”. There were voices of dissent from others who warned of the play’s “boredom” factor.
- by Tom Atkins