The Way of the World (1700): 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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Beginning (2017): David Eldridge

Beginning

★★★★½

(National Theatre at the Ambassador’s Theatre, 30 January 2018)

When I go to the theatre, more often than not I see something classical: a play where the characters speak poetry rather than prose, usually in iambic pentameter. There is a clear division between the real world and the fictional world on stage, no matter how good the actors are. Not so here. For my birthday, J nudged me out of my comfort zone by taking me to David Eldridge’s play, which has already enjoyed great critical success at the National Theatre, and made its West End transfer to the Ambassador’s Theatre in mid-January. Wow. This wasn’t theatre: this was life, flayed and placed under the microscope. With no interval and only two actors, it’s probing, insightful and frequently excruciating: a merciless, yet strangely tender exposé of modern romance.

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