Apollo Theatre, London – until 29 April 2017
Patrick Marber’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s 1974 play transfers from the Menier Chocolate Factory to offer a bewildering yet excellently performed evening.
The mind can play funny tricks on all of us and that is made very clear to audiences watching Tom Stoppard’s quirky but still enjoyable comedy.
If there is a story (which isn’t made very clear), it evolves around Henry Carr and his experiences and relationships with people that he met in Zurich around 1917. But throughout Patrick Marber’s sharply comic and presented production it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps everything that is happening in front of us is in fact a figment of his imagination. Throw in references to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the Russian Revolution and you are left with a production that meanders in many different directions.
My first experience of watching a Stoppard play was a production of Jumpers as a school trip as part of my drama course at secondary school and I left the theatre feeling bewildered – now that I was older, was watching Travesties a better Stoppard experience? It would be fair to say that it was certainly a more entertaining one thanks to the cast who deliver outstanding performances, but still that lack of clarity and purpose did affect my ability to fully engage with what was happening.
However, there is no denying that Stoppard has written some of the best insults as heard throughout the play that really delight (which would be a shame to ruin if you are planning on seeing it) and just on the edge of shocking in some cases and the sense of humour is brought vividly to life in Patrick Marber’s lively production.
Tom Hollander leads the cast as Henry Carr, delivering a charming and quirky performance of a character who seems to enjoy telling stories and recalling memories which he genuinely believes to be true.
But he is more than amply supported by Freddie Fox as the energetic and somewhat peculiar Tristan Tzara, the charming and poetic Peter McDonald as James Joyce and Clare Foster as the elegant and charming Cecily.
There is no doubting that this is a very clever play, but at times in the production it comes across as overwhelming in the way in which it uses language – perhaps made even more so by the pace and energy of Marber’s production.
Lively and surprisingly entertaining, Travesties is definitely one to watch if you are a fan of other Stoppard plays and it feels as though Marber really understands the play. But if you prefer your theatre more straightforward and not so intellectually challenging you might need to look elsewhere. Let the language wash over you and just appreciate the talented performances of all the cast who certainly put all of their enthusiasm into the show. Bizarrely entertaining.
Travesties is booking at the Apollo Theatre until the 29th April 2017. To book tickets visit: Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, ATG Tickets, Last Minute.com, Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.