In what is a Tony Award performance, Tom Hollander is spectacular in the role of Henry Carr. His high octane role makes this play a winner. Henry is a Military Bureaucrat from blue-blood high society, as is his sister Gwendolen. Henry loves his champagne and his butler. We see Henry at first as an old man who is relieving his day’s with Jimmy Joyce, Vladimir Lenin and Tristan Tzara, a member of the Dadaists movement. His rapid fire dialogue, a complex dialogue, he rattles off his remembrances of the aforementioned. The senile memories of Henry Carr the play is a distorted homage to Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”. The complexity of this play will be a delight for some audience members and a burden to others. The ringing of the bell on the librarians desk, where scenes are restarted, beginning familiarity, then veering off into another direction entirely; characters emerge unexpectedly from cupboards, and historic figures like Lenin are posed in preposterous circumstances from dressing like Shakespeare or a priest and later dancing and singing on a chorus line. It is all reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch.
- Hollander has many great attributes in this play, among them is how he can dismiss anyone at anytime and the way he does it, from constantly getting the country where Tzara is from wrong to calling Joyce a “bog Irish potato eating harp”. Equally humorous is that as the revolution starts to pick up steam in Russia, his butler starts to make more demands, like equal sharing of the champagne. We keep finding young Henry Carr and old Henry throughout the play, equal to the task, both are hilarious.
- The Set and Costume design were well done by Tim Hatley, he catches the period well . The lighting was superbly done by Neil Austen. The sound design was astonishing most notably when the stage opened up to create the sound effects of a train station, Adam Cork did a wonderful job throughout the play, as the sound and lighting kept the pace throughout the performance. The stage design creativity and usefulness also made the play more exciting, how the doors were used, the stairs and doors, how the library changed into a discotheque as extra comical fodder.
- The entire cast was wonderful, Gwendolen and Cecily in the second act sing a song about there lover who happens to be the same Tristan, it ends all comical and satirical. Seth Numrich,(Tristan Tzara) is brilliantly played as a bulshuvick anti establishment, anti capitalist. He wrestles with Henry every chance he gets. He believes that Dadaists no longer needed rules because the world is in a bloody war, no longer has any rules itself. He also believes that art is expressive and it needs no rules nor should it explain itself to people who don’t understand art anyway. He thinks once the revolution starts, art will be front and center, that literature will conquer all. Peter McDonald was excellent as James Joyce, both witty and electric on stage. Joyce brought an air of success and ultimate professor in literature for the revolutionaries to be motivated by. Mc Donald moved about with great comedic style.
- The show would not have been such a success if it were not for the brilliant direction of Patrick Marber. Marber had the cast moving about in timely fashion, never a slow moment in this Stoppard play, Marber has the action always going which was needed to make this play a success.
- In the end we are where we began, Henry babbling about, retelling the old stories that have changed over the course of the two and a half hours, most of it purposeful for comedic effect and for his own personal gain.