Two popes and one question – how do we move from one era to another? PATRICK MARMION criticizes The Two Popes
The Two Popes (Rose Theatre, Kingston and on tour)
Verdict: Alpha Papas
The Snail House (Hampstead Theatre, London)
Verdict: No more pain, please!
At a time of royal succession, this beautiful revival of Anthony McCarten’s play about Popes Benedict and Francis is poignantly relevant.
Its central question of how we move from one era to another and how an incumbent relates to his office weighs heavily on our minds today.
The play, which has been made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, is a speculation about what happened behind the scenes in 2013, when Benedict XVI shook the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics by becoming the first pontiff to resign in 700 years.
The retiring pope is played here by Anton Lesser – with Nicholas Woodeson as Francis – and both find immense warmth in the troubled souls of men.
The big debate is whether the Catholic Church should renew or transform its 2,000-year-old traditions. But McCarten and the actors focus on the two men as human beings who find themselves overwhelmed with a great responsibility.
The retiring pope is played here by Anton Lesser (right) – with Nicholas Woodeson as Francis (left) – and the two find enormous warmth in the men’s troubled souls.
Lesser first revels in Benedict’s pleasure in secretly watching Kommissar Rex, the Austrian thriller about a dog solving a crime. He remembers, innocently, how, in his youth, a girl once allowed him to scoop salt from his pretzel.
Argentine Cardinal Bergoglio de Woodeson (who became Pope Francis) likes to tango and watch football; and once told a girl he would become a priest if she didn’t marry him (the sigh that follows is worth the ticket price alone). Yet Bergoglio reminds Benedict that a priest is an “imperfect vessel” and asks who are they to bring change to a church that itself needs such great forgiveness.
Former Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict) is racked with guilt for failing to thwart a pedophile priest in Germany. Bergoglio is ashamed that he did not do more to support the victims of Argentina’s fascist junta in the 1970s. And yet, despite their imperfections and apprehensions, one of them must bear the burden of the papacy.
Both are energized by supportive and provocative nuns (Lynsey Beauchamp and Leaphia Darko); and James Dacre’s production is tender but intense. There are occasional cheesy outbursts of ‘Gloria! Gloria!’ echoing amid puffs of incense and church lighting, but it’s a thoughtful, soulful delight that shines bright again.
Catholics are well known for their belief in the dignity of suffering and, as a Catholic myself, I would have liked to suffer a little more from Richard Eyre’s first play, The Snail House.
Clearly influenced by the great Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, this is the story of a consultant pediatrician and knight of the kingdom who discovers that the past is catching up with him as he celebrates his 55th birthday with his friends and family.
Played by Vincent Franklin, our doctor is an authoritarian northerner, firm in his faith in science. During the evening, he is confronted by the catering manager – against whom (it turns out) he testified in court a few years before.
The doctor’s wife (Eva Pope) endures grievances familiar to wives of alpha males, while her gay son (Patrick Walshe McBride) is a scathing political adviser and their daughter (Grace Hogg-Robinson) a teenage eco-warrior.
One of the great directors of modern times, Eyre (a late screenwriter at 79) rolls out the action with skill. But I wanted more of everything: sweat, tears, intrigue and, above all, pain.
Not to mention the trick. How, for example, did the catering manager (Amanda Bright) come to take charge of the posh party in an oak-panelled schoolhouse? Was it just a coincidence?
Our top doctor could also have faced more than one moral dilemma: one that could have revealed greater depth in his character. Instead, the charges against him aren’t really his fault and are resolved at little cost.
For more reviews see MailOnline.
A fun pair, a quirky game…should be a perfect fit
The clothes they stood in (Nottingham Playhouse)
Verdict: Used Bennett
It should have been a wedding in theater heaven: Adrian Scarborough and Sophie Thompson, two of our most beloved actors, par excellence eccentric and comedic, in the staging of an Alan Bennett short story about a bizarre type of burglary , which first strips a couple of their material possessions (including the used toilet brush) and, second, the “marital deceits” that allowed this pair to function.
It’s a kind of parable about losing “stuff” – and discovering that possessions matter less than loving, living relationships, neither of which knew much about before the thieves cleaned out the contents of their apartment. in London.
There’s a brief explanation of the theft, but that’s certainly not the point of this little literary gem.
Alas, it is now at the center of Scarborough’s adaptation, dragged unconvincingly into post-Brexit Britain. The portrait of a wedding becomes an over-the-top, over-the-top whodunit, losing Bennett’s deliciously amused and ironic tone in the process.
It should have been a wedding in theater heaven: two of our most beloved, eccentric and comical actors, Adrian Scarborough (left) and Sophie Thompson (right), in the direction of an Alan Bennett short story about a bizarre type of burglary, which robs a couple first of their material possessions (including a used toilet brush) and, second, of the “marital deceptions” that allowed this pair to function
Still, even second-hand Bennett has its pleasures. For Rosemary soft and repressed, hunched and droopy before her time, the flight proves liberating and revelatory, feelings somewhat hammered home by Thompson, suddenly all joyful, breathtaking, amazed.
Venturing into her neighborhood shop to restock essentials (having always stuck to the security of Marks & Spencer), she is charmed by the friendly Mr Anwar, the widowed shopkeeper (an echo of Bed Among The Lentils, one Bennett’s brilliant Talking Heads).
Dusty, a counselor for victims of crime, enters the uncluttered apartment and, comfortably slumped on Rosemary’s new beanbags, the women discuss their grief and the need to “heal your belly”. Moved by daytime TV’s Lorraine Kelly, Rosemary plans to ‘hone her marital skills’. “I grew up,” she beams.
By contrast, Scarborough struggles to animate Mozart-mad Maurice, a deadly dull and quietly oppressive lawyer with a dirty secret, who cannot be shaken from his rigid routine.
Entertainment a little laborious.
Inspector still has the power to stop us
An Inspector Calls (New Wimbledon Theatre)
Verdict: Still relevant at 30
Stephen Daldry’s sweeping reimagining of JB Priestley’s thriller (written in 1945 and set before World War I) was a smash hit at the National Theater in 1992, winning 19 major awards, including three Oliviers and four Tonys on Broadway. Now it has been given a welcome 30th anniversary revival tour under the associate direction of Charlotte Peters.
The play (set to a striking set by Ian MacNeil) begins with loud music and lots of smoke, with the Birling family’s dollhouse of a house stuck in the middle of a ravaged cityscape, emphasizing the fable quality of the work, a morality tale for our time.
Mysterious Inspector Goole (nicely sardonic Liam Brennan) unexpectedly calls the successful Birlings as they reunite to celebrate daughter Sheila’s engagement to local businessman Gerald (Simon Cotton).
Mysterious Inspector Goole (Liam Brennan, nicely sardonic, pictured) unexpectedly calls the successful Birlings as they reunite to celebrate his daughter Sheila’s engagement to local businessman Gerald (Simon Cotton)
Goole investigates the death of a young woman whom it turns out they all knew in one way or another – none of them testing positive.
Sheila, emotionally charged by Evlyne Oyedokun, is the moral center of the play, a vapid social butterfly who develops a conscience before our eyes as the hypocrisy of her fiancé and parents (Jeffrey Harmer and Christine Kavanagh) is put to rest. bare.
I had the added pleasure of seeing this production at a school performance. There’s no better barometer of awkward exposition and overaction than a large group of teenagers and I’m happy to report that their laughs were just a few.
Daldry’s production remains a socially relevant document – and the piece still functions as a rousing call to personal responsibility.
Until September 17, then on tour (aninspectorcalls.com)