So it came to my attention that today is the last day of Nick Hytner’s time at the National Theatre. I’ve not seen nearly as much as I’d like there while he’s been there, hampered by not being closer. However I thought I’d share some highlights. I’ve stuck to those plays I’ve seen live rather than via NT live or for research purposes in their archives. (while we’re at it thank NT for that, you’ve saved my academic bacon with your religious recording of things….)
So the good….
I didn’t see it in the NT, but I think no summary of Hytner’s tenancy can go without mentioning this one. I fought really hard to keep a discussion of this in my thesis in fact. War Horse is without doubt one of the most innovative works the NT has seen in years. No the story itself isn’t ground breaking, but I’m also all for honest, but young person friendly historical tales. But the use of puppets in this way, was simply unheard of. Years later it’s still astounding, still beautiful. Ah Joey.
London Road Verbatim Theatre, in musical form, about the Ipswich Prostitute murders? sign me up. I saw this twice. I thought it was better in the Cottesloe. But I love it. I think it’s brilliant and innovative and pushes boundaries, and everything theatre should be. It also has songs about hanging baskets. I can’t wait to see the film version this summer, especially as it has added Olivia Coleman. Also the people I was with hated it. Not so fun at the time but for personal reasons in reterospect wonderful. It’s also the production at which I was recognised across the Olivier circle for being “that girl who looks a bit like Connie Fisher” Anyway I digress….
This House Political play? political play that felt like a bit of a thriller, a bit of a black comedy? Excellent. I’ve nothing much else to add other than it was a well written play and an excellent production. Brilliant stuff.
The Amen Corner I’m a sucker for a gospel choir what can I say? but I do love that this play incorporates music in an unusual way, making it that rarer beast the ‘play with music’ rather than ‘musical’. It’s also a fascinating and harrowing play that was performed brilliantly. Something of a risk but a good one.
Othello To my shame the only Shakespeare of Hytner’s run I’ve seen, but directed by him also. A great production that did modernizing well. Kinnear and Lester’s double act was impeccable. Othello is one of three Shakespeare’s I know upside down and back to front and have strong feelings on so to get this I thought spot on for me made it a great production. Also seeing Kinnear do battle with an exploding pipe on stage, quip about being a plummer and do two scenes looking like he’d wet himself was a bonus.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime another innovative and imagination capturing production. And a brave one at that. I saw it in the Cottesloe and although I’m seeing the tour next month I don’t think it could be as perfect as it was for that setting. Of all the spaces that one has my affection for what can be done there and this was a perfect example. I don’t love the story as much as some but the staging and direction for me won me over. Even if an errant train did cause me to nearly jump out of my seat.
Finally, none of the others are ranked but this one is number 1. Caroline or Change. The love I have for this production is immeasurable. It was the first Tony Kushner play (musical) I saw live. And look what that led to. Sometimes you fall in love with an actor on stage, sometimes a director, sometimes a writer. Sometimes all three at once. The performances in this were truly exceptional. I have nothing else to say except it was a remarkable production of a remarkable musical. For this alone I will love Hytner forever.
And the not so hot….
Actually in the NT I’ve had very few bad evenings. The Magistrate did little to set my world on fire, but I went for John Lithgow and seeing the “other side” of the NT Live Broadcasts and that’s what I got. Along with a stunning set it must be said. Until I looked over my programme I’d forgotten 13 by Mike Bartlett, but I remember it being a decent enough play, just not one to sear into my memory.
Honourable mention for “what the everloving **** was that?” award must go to “The Veil” by Connor McPherson. In my defense I was very very tired when I saw it. But all I remember is a scary old lady, a scary child and a puff of smoke. If there was something drastic I’m missing someone please enlighten me….
Finally, the only truly bad thing I’ve seen to come out of Hytner’s time, although again I didn’t see the original: One Man Two Guvnors. Not only is it the worst of the NT I’ve seen it is the only, I repeat only time I’ve genuinely wanted to leave at the interval (in fairness to it the second half is the better half) I know I’m in the minority but it’s like theatrical fingernails on a blackboard to me.