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Review Round-Ups

Did the critics raise a glass to No Man's Land?

Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart play Spooner and Hirst who meet in a Hampstead pub

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Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage


"Stewart, in particular, never settles. His Hirst can be flinty, silent and still as a rock, but propped up in his armchair, bald and sinewy, he finds moments of utter frailty too: a skeleton haunted by death, heading into dementia."

"[Director Sean] Mathias pulls one thing out above all: the difference between night and day, between the selves we are and the versions we present. If, at night, identity seems unstable, come daybreak, the fronts go back up: spick suits and friendly formalities."

"Lighting lets it down, though – criminal for a play so infused with its imagery. In Pinter's play, light dwindles and dies, gets shut out and floods back in. Its memories are made of light: shadowy faces in flashbulb photographs, sunlight glinting on waterfalls. Yet Peter Kaczorowski flushes it in front-on, hardly directional, never specific."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph


"These knights have a combined age of 153. Their powers remain seemingly undimmed. Yet what we're treated to here is, very possibly, that final beautiful gleam of light as the sun dips behind the brow of the hill."

"At times, the writing borders on sketch-show silliness, but there are other times, when Stewart's Hirst is crawling on all fours like a baby, or scrabbling at his throat, choked with the pain of life's losses, that the evening rips through its seeming inconsequentiality and makes you reel."

"I suspect we will be toasting this production ages hence too. Unmissable. "

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"Under the same director [as Waiting for Godot in 2009] Sean Mathias, the result is a faithful and loving production that captures both the essential bleakness and paradoxical comedy of this enigmatic masterwork."

"But they also play off each other beautifully. In the opening scene McKellen, with a jaunty corduroy cap from which the label uneasily protrudes, perfectly captures Spooner's chattering anxiety and desperate desire to please."

"Stewart, meanwhile, exudes an infinite weariness as he drinks himself into oblivion, occasionally arching an astonished eyebrow, as when Spooner recalls the beauty of his mother's buns."

Paul Taylor, The Independent


"Mathias's staging manages to be the funniest account of the play I have seen without underselling its scariness, mystery or bleak vision of the twilight zone between life and death that is old age."

"McKellen delivers a wonderfully unsentimentalised portrait of Spooner: even as the character tries to rescue Hirst from the dipsomaniac death-in-life where his henchmen have him trapped, he always remains, in part, a con-artist shooting glances at the main chance."

"Stewart's performance, ranging between imperiousness and terrified bewilderment, makes you feel that it's high time he played King Lear on stage."

Mark Shenton, The Stage


"[McKellen and Stewart] are lions of the stage and they roar in this alternately icily restrained and ferocious account of human beings hurtling towards the void while anaesthetising themselves with generous helpings of alcohol.

"Owen Teale and Damien Molony also bring the required sense of menace to the servants who police their interactions."

"Stephen Brimson Lewis' solidly realistic drawing room set is poetically offset by Nina Dunn's projections of nearby Hampstead Heath where the two men meet, making for a stylish and spell-binding production."

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out


"Set and costume designer Stephen Brimson Lewis also extracts some definite LOLs with the ‘70s setting: Molony and Teale look ludicrous, and a the deadpan deployment of an anachronistic serving trolley gets a deserved round of giggles. "

"It's not a boundary-pushing or definitive production, but it's a finely-balanced and entertaining one, suggestive of the absurdity and chaos of late life and the disintegration of memory."

"Above all, it's two actors who still live up to their legend nailing one of the great works of a playwright who still lives up to his."

No Man's Land runs at the Wyndham's Theatre until 17 December.