Did Mosquitoes get stung by the critics?
Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams star in Lucy Kirkwood's latest play about life, the universe and everything
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"This is the kind of play that makes me want to punch the air in celebration – it exudes as much energy as the protons pinging around the Large Hadron Collider, which is one of its settings, and one of its subjects."
"But playwright Lucy Kirkwood's real triumph here is to combine the thoughtful enquiry and large themes that marked her previous hit, the award-winning Chimerica, with a portrait of a dysfunctional family that exerts its own gravitational pull. The result is emotionally involving as well as intellectually satisfying."
"Her themes encompass faith and doubt, the responsibilities and challenges of knowledge and the nature of fear and its effects. In the course of nearly three hours, she examines different visions of Armageddon in tones that range from profoundly funny to deeply moving. But she never loses her essential hold on the idea that ties the entire play together – the way a family can be a mirror of the universe itself, a child's conception as important and devastating as the big bang."
"As the mother says: "Everyone thinks love is the greatest force in the cosmos and it isn't you know… It's just something we invented to help us survive chaos"."
Natasha Tripney, The Stage
"Rufus Norris' production takes the approach that, as this is a play about science stuff, it requires the deployment of all his toys. The play is staged in-the-round in the Dorfman on Katrina Lindsay's set, an iceberg-blue disc with a second disc suspended above it which occasionally descends to become a screen on which video imagery can be projected. Norris makes a mini-planetarium out of the stage in a way that is at times both dazzling and a bit bludgeoning; the over-emphatic sound design robs the delicate final seconds of their emotional clout."
"Fortunately, Olivia Colman and Olivia Williams are bulletproof performers. It's a joy to watch them work together, evoking the strengths and fragilities of these two women, the tenderness and rivalry and frustration of their relationship. Joseph Quinn more than holds his own as Luke, a smart kid but a kid all the same, while Amanda Boxer gives a performance of subtlety as their mother, a women of pride and intellectual might facing up to her physical and mental decline."
"Kirkwood is a writer of reach, intelligence and ambition. There's a hunger to her work, an urge to fill her plays to brim. She knows how to spring-load a joke and can write lines of total emotional devastation, but she's also prone to on-the-nose dialogue and her plotting contains moments of implausibility. Certainly Jenny, the 'stupid' sister and 'crazy' aunt, doesn't seem as vulnerable and susceptible as the plot needs her to be, despite Colman's rich, funny and poignant performance."
"It's a joy though to see a play devote this much space and time to examining what it is to be a sister, a mother and a daughter, while also effortlessly contemplating the universe."
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard
"Let's start by listing the best things about Mosquitoes, a new play by that admirably bold and ambitious dramatist Lucy Kirkwood, of Chimerica fame. It is, unfortunately, a very short list comprising just two words: Olivia Colman. Colman, unstoppable star of screens large and small, is a perpetual triumph in this misfiring look at two very different sisters, generating what little warmth, light and humour the evening has to offer."
"There's a trend in drama of late to use the Large Hadron Collider as a metaphor for, well, big and difficult and important things. There's more, much more, of this here, as Alice (Olivia Williams) is an experimental physicist living in Geneva and working towards the great switch-on of the LHC. Her sister Jenny (Colman) lives in Luton, dramatic shorthand for the back of beyond, and has a very ordinary life."
"The science sections in Rufus Norris's centrifugal production feel very boggy and bolted on to the family drama, which in turn resembles nothing so much as EastEnders Goes to CERN, so many times do Alice and Jenny argue and make up and then threaten never to speak again. Still, at least the family segments mean we get Colman, a spinning top of grief and humour and anger and destruction, both of self and others."
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
"Alas, [a] potentially fruitful storyline is obliterated by a mass of pseudish science stuff, delivered by a badly-shaved man in a white coat [Paul Hilton], waving his arms in the air."
"We are also delayed (at length) by a sub-plot about Alice's son (quite well done by Joseph Quinn), who is plainly on the autistic spectrum. Add a dotty mother (Amanda Boxer) and a remote boyfriend (an almost incomprehensible Yoli Fuller) and plenty of bad language. A giggly first-night audience actually laughed at the petulant line "I hope she gets multiple sclerosis"."
"During the science monologues, which take us 14 billion years into the future and envisage the creation of a new Earth by brilliant scientists, director Rufus Norris tries to hold our attention with lighting effects. They are certainly whizzy but do not by one atom explain how that part of the story connects to the stronger material about the sisters."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"Plot-wise, it's substantially set in Geneva, where a boozy Jenny is attempting to get over a devastating personal tragedy by foisting herself on her sister and her awkward teen son Luke (Joseph Quinn) – both of whom are still haunted by the disappearance of Luke's dad, years ago. Also in tow is their mother Karen (Amanda Boxer, very amusing), an even more brilliant scientist than Alice."
"Kirkwood lobs so much in that it's often hard to stay on top of it all... In particular the collision between glib, sassy humour and bleak personal tragedy feels awkward – it never has the emotional heft it might if left to breathe a bit, and perhaps even feels a bit callous. It's a domestic drama done at the scale of Kirkwood's globetrotting thriller Chimerica, which is kind of ridiculous, but again, Mosquitoes carries it off, in no small part thanks to Rufus Norris's big, brash direction. Full of projected galaxies and cosmic cacophony, he attacks Mosquitoes like an action movie, and it's tough enough to handle it."
"The authors's elegiac recent Royal Court hit The Children shared some concerns but was a stronger play and at least as smart. But under these lab conditions – in this theatre, with this cast and this director – this younger sibling is nearly its equal. Like the universe itself, it's sometimes hard to see exactly how or why Mosquitoes works, but it does."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Williams and Colman are well supported by a cast that includes Joseph Quinn, nervy and mercurial as Alice's troubled son, Luke, and the great Amanda Boxer, her voice in a state of perpetual querulousness, as the sisters' mother, herself a scientist who has been denied proper recognition and is now in the early stages of dementia (the rational thought on which she prided herself now cruelly lost)."
"It is safe to say that you do not need to understand particle physics to appreciate Mosquitoes (the title refers to the force of two mosquitoes hitting each other, like particles colliding), but there are moments when the science becomes overwhelming. This usually happens when Paul Hilton's Boson appears at intervals to explain the theoretical side of Alice's practical research. He sets out thoughts on Chaos theory and the Big Bang which act as a sort of counterpoint to the sisters' lives which are in freefall."
"Kirkwood stuffs much into two and three quarter hours, arguably too much, but Mosquitoes has a lot to recommend it – not least that, for a play about science, it is very funny and very sad – often at the same time."
Mosquitoes runs in the Dorfman, National Theatre until 28 September 2017.