We received a special offer to go and see this play, the winning entry in the Bruntwood Competition by Ben Musgrave. Maybe the special offer was because the play had some poor reviews (which I only read after seeing it) and was thus not sold out.
As a theatregoer rather than hack critic or luvvy, I found this play well worth seeing. It covered a lot of issues and was an interesting production using minimalist scenery descending on pulleys onto the set. Some big names in the cast. I thought the acting was more than competent.
The critics did not see fit to lavish praise on this play, probably because it tries to cover many different themes and most critics seem to need a simple story line so that they can concentrate on other elements of a play.
Lynne Walker, writing in the Independent on Sunday, which is turning out to be the worst of the serious Sundays, found it ‘underwhelming and unconvincing’, referring to the ‘stilted acting’ and ‘patchy narrative’. Lyn Gardner in The Guardian nailed it for me with her rather more generous ‘sprawling play with a big heart’.
I think Musgrave will go on to write better plays but as a debut this was most promising. Billy Seymour’s Steven was the funniest role I have seen for a while. I did not find the acting stilted. This was an ambitious play, which is not a bad thing, and far less formulaic than others I have seen this year.