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Review Round-Ups

Did the critics find Angels in America heavenly?

Find out what the critics had to say about the National Theatre's revival of Tony Kushner's epic play


Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage


"Andrew Garfield is superb. It is hard to embody this model of high camp, but he brings Prior to full, biting life, never hitting a wrong note, inviting our sympathy but not our pity, and constantly emphasising the character's gallant, open-eyed courage in the face of odds that are always stacked against him"

"It is an extraordinary, humane performance at the centre of this great epic play. The National deserves enormous credit for bringing it back to the stage with such conviction and power."

"Elliott holds it all together with a firm but gentle hand, marking the shift from the comparative realism of the first play to the operative sweep of the second with confidence."

"Scene after wonderful scene could be taught (and no doubt is) as a lesson in making a drama out of an unlikely setting; the one where Harper and Prior sit in front of a Mormon diorama that comes to life is a dazzling mixture of the humorous and the heart-felt."

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph


"I don't mean to sound too gripey. The show's a start-to-finish sensation, but if I have a reservation about a production that's box-office dynamite, it's that there's not quite enough TNT in the visuals, at least in the first half.

"The performances and the plays themselves, however, absolutely fly. Angels will serve as a fascinating (if leftist-slanted) history lesson for the younger generation. We're reminded of the Reagan era, embodied most viciously in the closeted (also dying of AIDS) figure of legal power-player Roy M Cohn (the superb Nathan Lane, puppyish one minute, a Rottweiler the next, finally pained and emaciated).

"Garfield is boyishly intense, and intensely pitiable...And all around him, the cast do forensic justice to the atomised personalities and personal crises from which Kushner's absurdly ambitious state-of-the-nation "gay fantasia" is exquisitely constructed."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"Do these two plays justify their formidable eight-hour length? The answer is a qualified yes. Written in the early 1990s, do they come across as a fascinating period document, or something that speaks to us today? The answer is, a bit of both."

"Even allowing for the intervening presidencies of Clinton and Obama, this has a chilling resonance today; and it comes as no surprise to learn that the corrupt Roy Cohn acted as Donald Trump's legal adviser for a decade."

"Nathan Lane, seen previously on the London stage as Max Bialystock in The Producers, is magnetic as Cohn, creating a figure who is part predator, part patriarch but, above all, a victim of his own sad delusions about the significance of power. Meanwhile, Garfield as Prior excellently combines a head-tossing, period-style camp with the desperate anguish of a man craving love in his hour of need."

Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard


"With a running time of seven and a half hours, Angels in America is a true theatrical epic. Yet for all its bursts of surrealism and outrageous grandeur, it's illuminated by moments of tender intimacy."

"Kushner's writing dazzles. Though at times overblown and ostentatiously clever, its sheer imaginative reach can be exhilarating and it's studded with devilish humour. Instead of appearing dated, it seems pointedly topical in its scrutiny of intolerance, immigration, religious values and national ideals."

"Yet it's Andrew Garfield who makes the most profound impression. As the curiously named Prior Walter, a stylish young man ravaged by sickness, he is feverish, camp and frivolous, and Garfield catches all these notes while making him vulnerable and heartrendingly eloquent."

"True, there are times when the production's intensity drops off. But this is a courageous revival, underpinned by piercingly authentic performances."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"It feels sacrilegious to say it but this Pulitzer and Tony-winning play by Tony Kushner has quite a few moments of tedium. Indeed, more than a few."

"...written in 1993, it is an uncompromising look at the advent of Aids via three interwoven stories that take in heaven and hell, life and death, lawyers and Valium. It is also populated by visitors from dreamland, including a phantasmagorical travel agent (yes, really)."

"Marianne Elliott directs but the pace is, at times, glacial. There is, however, also brilliance. Nathan Lane gives a stand-out performance as the barracuda lawyer Roy M Cohn, a bully who is also in the closet. The most affecting story by far is that of Prior, played with almost uncanny sensitivity and comic timing by Andrew Garfield, best known as Spider-Man, and his death-phobic boyfriend Louis (James McArdle)."

"At least we now know what heaven looks like: it's a fancy dress party and (spoiler) the angels wear black."

Mark Shenton, The Stage


"Tony Kushner's kaleidoscopic two-play cycle is dense, baggy and frequently feels infatuated with the sound of its own words. It occasionally seems like a gay version of George Bernard Shaw. But it also liberatingly plays with form: conventional scenes of domestic realism defiantly throw off those shackles with abandon to enter hallucinatory realms of fantasy, mystery and mysticism.

"While Andrew Garfield slightly over-amplifies Prior's feyness so that he seems to be self-consciously acting gay rather than seeming gay, McArdle catches perfectly the conflicts of helplessness and raw guilt that inform Louis. [Russell] Tovey and [Denise] Gough also plausibly convey the shame and distress of their lives together.

"There are also hugely striking supporting performances around them, including Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Louis's nurse friend Belize, Susan Brown as Harper's mother (as well as doubling up as Ethel Rosenberg) and Amanda Lawrence as the constantly mobile angel.

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"It now stands as a canonical classic, probably the great American play of the late 20th century. But the plays themselves rarely get staged, for the simple reason that the enormously long, enormously arch, symbol-drenched magical realist epic (it is in fact two long plays, Millennium Approaches and Perestroika) borders on the unstageable.

"The acting company is RIDICULOUS, the sort of ludicrous confluence of talent that impressed simply for the feat of harmonising their diaries, even before we've seen the acting.

"I'd never been quite sure from his films whether erstwhile Spider-Man Andrew Garfield was anything special, but on stage he is absolutely stupendous as the sprawling show's nominal focal point Prior Walter."

"[Marianne] Elliott's production - with a remarkable, flexible set from Ian MacNeil - is suffused with rumbling existential dread, a sense that catastrophic event is just over the neon streaked horizon. In 2017, it feels entirely in tune."

Angels in America runs at the National Theatre until 19 August.