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Review Round-up: Hodge Receives Judgement at Donmar

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Jamie Lloyd's revival of John Osborne's 1964 play Inadmissible Evidence opened to critics on Tuesday (18 October, previews from 13 October) at the Donmar Warehouse.

Bill Maitland (Douglas Hodge) is a middle aged lawyer struggling to avoid the harsh truths of his life. He puts himself on trial to fight for his sanity when he becomes isolated from his family, friends, and colleagues.

Also featuring Amy Morgan, Karen Gillan, and Al Weaver, Inadmissible Evidence continues at the Donmar until 26 November.

Matt Trueman

"Though it gives Douglas Hodge opportunity to dazzle, the play never gains momentum of its own … Soutra Gilmour’s design has the look of a fish-tank that needs cleaning … Hodge plays him like a rhinoceros learning to rollerskate, slipping and sliding around, but occasionally pulling off an inadvertent triple pirouette … Hodge’s energy is, in itself, remarkable, but he still maintains several layers with real care. His Maitland is both entertainer, chasseing across the stage and twisting case notes into punchlines, and embittered depressive. It is a complex performance that never loses sight of either humour or torment, even as the latter grows dominant for Maitland’s eventual breakdown … Lloyd smartly has Al Weaver double as Maples and Jones ... There’s great support from Esther Hall as Maitland’s level-headed mistress Liz and Daniel Ryan as Hudson, the lawyer tired of holding the fort, but Karen Gillan’s fans might be disappointed, since her cameo role has been over-billed."

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph

"In this superb lacerating staging, with an extraordinary performance from Douglas Hodge as the tormented anti-hero … Jamie Lloyd brilliantly captures the piece’s haunting atmosphere ... design by Soutra Gilmour of the solicitor’s office superbly captures the drab atmosphere … Hodge brilliantly captures a character both imprisoned and tortured by his own nature. As he lashes out at others, his own pain is constantly palpable, and I have rarely seen a more convincing portrayal of a man both wired and wasted by pills and booze … His stinging sarcastic diatribes are a lethal cocktail of wit and venom, and the mixture of sardonic wit, desperate neediness and sudden moments of pure terror in this performance are as unforgettable as they are and disturbing. The supporting performances are all first rate but this is Hodge’s triumph … Though Inadmissible Evidence is deeply uncomfortable play to sit through, you leave the theatre in no doubt that you have seen a great actor doing complete justice to a dark masterpiece."

Quentin Letts
Daily Mail

" ... Douglas Hodge plays his heart out as the central character, Maitland. He gives an enormous performance. I fear, however, that it is a performance which is misdirected (by Jamie Lloyd). It is overdone, histrionic, plain untrue both to its era (supposedly the 1960s, though Mr Hodge's gestures scream 21st century) and humanity. This Maitland never feels like a real person. He is just over-the-top, potty, entirely unloveable ... This feels like a play written by a man in the grip of self-love and drunkenness. We are urged to believe that Maitland would attract women as winning as his office junior Shirley ... Not for a second was I convinced ... Extreme madness on stage is seldom instructive. It is all so overegged ... This tale has the didacticism of unhappiness. It is plainly the work of a mind cankered by choleric self-loathing. It fails to draw any secondary character to any convincing degree. The whole thing is soured by selfishness. Avoid."

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

"A superb performance by Douglas Hodge: jagged, defiant and furiously articulate. It's an astonishingly energetic and detailed picture of a man coming apart at the seams ... With his busy hands and hyperactive features, Hodge perfectly conveys Bill's cringing narcissism ... Engagingly and horrifyingly, Hodge suggests the way Bill weaves an angry web of rhetoric around his suffering. Soutra Gilmour's excellent design emphasises Bill's isolation ... Whereas Joy (a poised Amy Morgan) is interested, the queenly Shirley (Karen Gillan) has seen all his tricks before. There's further strong support from Daniel Ryan and Al Weaver, while Serena Evans does a nicely unshowy job of playing three clients whose physical similarity makes Bill feel queasy. In Jamie Lloyd's finely tuned production, the dark discomfort of Osborne's writing is fully present, but thoughtful cuts have been made to a text that can seem overlong … But it has a deep emotional charge, and Hodge delivers one of the performances of the year."

Michael Billington

"... this play's scream of pain has a visceral impact ... Even though the text is sensibly trimmed in Jamie Lloyd's new production, it is an overwhelming part for an actor; and, while Douglas Hodge gives a virtuoso display and triumphantly reaches his destination, I quibble about some of the paths chosen. In the early stages, his Maitland is almost too like the vaudevillian Archie Rice in his chipper ebullience and mimetic vigour ... It is only in the second half I felt Maitland's agony ... But by the end, Hodge moves one with his image of a man as trapped and immured as any Beckett hero. Daniel Ryan and Al Weaver as clerks and Serena Evans ... lend considered support, and Soutra Gilmour's set neatly conveys the sense of a real world of telephones and bustle that exists beyond Maitland's nightmare. Although I find other Osborne plays more socially resonant, none pins down quite as vividly as this the 'nagging sense of disquiet' that characterised the author's own life."

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