‘High quality & thought-provoking work’: HANSARD – National Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Lyttelton, National Theatre, London – until 25 November 2019

Hansard opens at the National Theatre with an impeccable sense of timing. As the blinkered thinking of Brexit and the perilous threats of prorogation rock Parliament, Simon Woods’ play (his first) urges consideration of what political discourse has become and also reminds us history reflects with a coolly unblinking eye – messages you wonder whether the watching George Osborne took onboard but at all…

Set in May of 1988, Diana Hesketh and her husband of 30 odd years Robin, a Tory MP, are political opposites and don’t we know it. From the opening shots to the final quiet devastation, her left-leaning sensibilities and his Thatcher-loving ways tear ever-increasing strips off each other in a manner redolent of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf but one which also leaves you wondering how they ever made it this far.

That you believe it is down to Simon Godwin’s luscious production which stars Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings in fine, lacerating form in the bleached-out cavern of Hildegard Bechtler’s set, a swanky Cotswolds house that is no longer a home. Both actors sensitively flesh out their roles beyond the talking points (identity politics, the media, class etc) to suggest that they once were a couple who did listen to each other and who, perhaps, could do so again.

The issue du jour here, the Brexit of their time, is Section 28 and it is here that Woods doesn’t quite deliver on his promise. The intention of interrogating the personal effects of political acts arrives too late in the day to have the impact it deserves, even if Jennings’ Robin gives a good account of how someone might attempt to justify such a virulently homophobic policy. And the result is an ending that feels slightly rushed given its emotional weight. Still, an evening of high quality and thought-provoking work.

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Catherine Ashmore
Hansard is booking at the National Theatre until 25th November

Hansard will be broadcast live to over 700 UK cinemas and many more worldwide on 7th November. More info at www.ntlive.com
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Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on FacebookIan Foster on RssIan Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."

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