Review Round-Ups

Critics enjoy The Painkiller

Sean Foley’s production opened at the Garrick Theatre last night

Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage


"Blakley is a gorgeous comedienne, and she does what she can, while Branagh and Brydon play consistently, even ruthlessly, in character, and win laughs from start to finish."

"Apart from there being a very good reason why the porter (the ingeniously inventive, always hangdog and flustered Mark Hadfield) should enrol Ralph to keep an eye on his suicidal neighbour, it would be both fruitless and impossible to untangle all the by-ways of the plot, except to say everything is more or less in place – that is to say, the wrong place – by the end."

"Branagh is a great actor who knows how to act farce, mostly through underplaying, and he's very funny; while Brydon – as he did in Trevor Nunn's 2012 revival of Ayckbourn's A Chorus of Disapproval – shows how, through application, you can turn a talent for comedy into first-rate comic acting."

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph


"The Painkiller treats its audience to the double-whammy of Welsh comedy actor Rob Brydon careering about in the skimpiest briefs and his co-star Kenneth Branagh – Sir Ken! – in only slightly less revealing underwear, twitching and flexing his pecs too."

"Supplementing the double-act and often accelerating the madness are those who look in on the action: Mark Hadfield gives a supporting tour de force as the mincing, interfering and increasingly bewildered porter; Alex MacQueen shines too as Dudley’s loathed rival Dent."

"This medicinal froth gives the West End a perfect shot in the arm."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"Brydon’s main task as Brian is to convey a nerdy niceness that causes mayhem, something that he accomplishes with great skill."

"Foley’s direction includes the requisite amount of slammed doors and dropped trousers and, bringing the show in at 90 minutes, is suitably fast and furious."

"It may not be to everyone’s taste but, in these sombre times, I found the show offered a restorative tonic."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"Laugh? We almost died. No, wait, they almost died, and more than once. There is nothing subtle about this farce by Francis Veber, adapted by Sean Foley, who also directs. It’s 90 minutes without an interval, crammed with farcical action, what with the door slamming, guns going off, mistaken identities, shower disasters, trousers up and down. Can a play be categorised as underpants noir? I do hope so."

"The stand-out star is Brydon, the husband who has lost his mojo, so naff that he thinks his wife Michelle really wants to hear him sing 'Lady in Red' at breakfast."

"Stylish. Funny. Raucous. But I really wish Brydon would stop singing 'Lady in Red'. Now I have an earworm. Is that a crime? I think it might be."

Quentin Letts, Daily Mail


"Sir Kenneth Branagh’s admirable tenancy at the West End's Garrick theatre continues with a hotel farce by French playwright Francis Veber. It makes for a cheerful enough evening and offers the sight of not only Sir Ken with his trousers round his feet, but also Rob Brydon."

"Brydon and Branagh have a ball, Sir Ken on good form as a tough-guy assassin whose murderous intentions are soon disrupted by needy Dudley. Mr Brydon is well cast as this maddening fusspot. Mark Hadfield, perhaps slightly on autopilot, does his normal comedy routine as the hotel porter."

"Sir Ken’s fight sequences with a policeman (Marcus Fraser) are so clunky, they may need a substantial rethink. A cheerful, blameless evening, all the same."

The Painkiller runs at the Garrick Theatre until 30 April.