The Way of the World: William Congreve

The Way of the World

★★★★

(Donmar Warehouse, 25 May 2018)

Midway through last week, I saw that Kerstin had posted on Facebook about William Congreve’s The Way of the World, first performed in 1700 and now playing in Covent Garden once again, this time in the cosy Donmar Warehouse. I was sorely tempted, as I hadn’t seen a Restoration comedy for years. By chance there was a single seat left on Friday night; and so off I went, for a thoroughly self-indulgent evening of belles, beaux, dastardly rakes, romantic dowagers, wicked stratagems and – I devoutly hoped – virtue rewarded. Although it sometimes proved difficult to fathom exactly who was gulling whom at any given moment, I had a wonderful time, savouring the dazzling costumes and the accomplished cast, who brought out all the sparkle of Congreve’s elegant wit.

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Coriolanus: William Shakespeare

Coriolanus: Donmar Warehouse

★★★★

(Donmar Warehouse, 2013, directed by Josie Rourke)

During the Donmar Warehouse’s run of Coriolanus, tickets were so scarce that people camped outside in sleeping bags in the hope of getting a day ticket for the show. Interviewing the director Josie Rourke, just before a live broadcast of the play, Emma Freud asked what could account for this surge of popular interest. Somewhat disingenuously, Rourke enthused about the modern parallels to be found in this story. It’s a tale about the power of public opinion, in which a great soldier is brought down by his failure to transition to the hand-pressing, baby-kissing world of popular politics. She suggested that the play spoke to modern sensibilities. It’s about an era of austerity, about class divisions between the people and those who rule them, and about the fact that the people notionally have a voice but realistically don’t feel they have any power to change their government.

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