Review Round-Ups

'Chemistry-rich' Closer comes to Donmar

David Leveaux’s production of Patrick Marber’s 1997 play opened at the Donmar Warehouse last night – how did the critics react?

'On thrilling form': Rufus Sewell as Larry
'On thrilling form': Rufus Sewell as Larry
© Johan Persson

Matt Trueman

Rufus Sewell, so drawn he's practically a skin-covered skull, is twitchy and snarling as Larry. Oliver Chris's Dan is a wet blanket hiding beneath a nasty, dry wit… The women are pretty much beatified here, almost entirely blameless – and it's a problem… We get two villains and two victims, not four people, all brittle and vicious and trying. That's symptomatic of a production that's always too simple and often too stewed. It settles down eventually, but Leveaux's levels are off; the acting's too big for the Donmar… It verges on soap… Marber's writing is never that. It's insistent, true, with death woven into almost every other line, but Closer's as well-made as a watch… Psychologically, it's extraordinary – both bruised and bruising – and well, well ahead of its time.

Jane Shilling
Daily Telegraph

…Marber’s forensic dissection of his characters’ unsettling blend of anxiety, amorality and reluctant romanticism, and the elegant brutality of his play’s language and sexual mores seemed a disturbing reflection of their time. Almost two decades on, the shock value has slightly eroded to leave the play’s intricate, ludic structure interestingly exposed in David Leveaux‘s coolly controlled revival… With its power to outrage somewhat mellowed, Closer appears a play as preoccupied with the workings-out of its own exquisitely ingenious structure as with a deeper human truth. Nancy Carroll finds an emotional complexity in Anna that stands at a slight angle to her colleagues’ less nuanced performances in a play whose dazzlingly enjoyable qualities of intelligence and wit don’t quite constitute an insight into the human condition.

Michael Billington

…Marber’s portrait of the failure of men and women to achieve spiritual as well as sexual intimacy seems as powerful and pertinent as ever… Marber shows that all four characters still have a bottomless capacity for suffering and that the new freedoms… have done nothing to resolve the pain and anxiety of intimate relationships. It is that element of suffering that animates David Leveaux‘s fine production in which surface chic is offset by emotional intensity… Elegantly designed by Bunny Christie to evoke a world of minimalist modishness, this is a production that convinces one that Marber’s play is much more than the product of its time. It is an alarmingly durable, well-structured play about the distance between men and women and the restless neediness of love.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

…Now getting its first major revival, Patrick Marber‘s play still feels shrewdly observed… What’s missing, though, is real passion. Rufus Sewell is on thrilling form as Larry… But elsewhere David Leveaux‘s production feels stilted. Individually the performances work. Nancy Carroll has poise and a nervy vulnerability… Oliver Chris brings a mix of puppyish youth and destructive neediness to aspiring novelist Daniel… Rachel Redford captures the waifish appeal of Alice… But the chemistry isn’t convincing. There’s also a lack of atmosphere, though this is arguably an attempt to suggest these people are trapped in their bleak selfishness… Still, Marber writes perceptively about our obsession with appearances, the perils of honesty, and the damage we can do to others in the name of love. At its best his dialogue remains wickedly sharp.

Holly Williams

It may be seventeen years since Closer premiered in London, but Patrick Marber‘s four-hander about love, sex and relationships still has the power to wound… it’s also still very funny: Marber’s famously explicit script is as good at delivering witty zingers and power-play banter… as it is at the revelatory moments where people seem surprised at their own capacity to feel hurt, and to hurt others. And while they admittedly have the sort of pithy insight and ability to articulate their emotions that only characters in a play ever could, a chemistry-rich cast ensure most of Marber’s dialogue lands… There’s a lightness to David Leveaux‘s production that means all the hook-ups, fuck-ups and break-ups don’t leave the audience feeling too wrung-out…