We round up the reviews for the world premiere production of Lucy Prebble’s reimagining of Luke Harding’s exposé of the events behind the notorious death of ex-FSB Officer Alexander Litvinenko.
The Guardian: **** “Prebble once again bases her play on fact, tells a complex story with great clarity and adopts a variety of techniques, including direct address, puppetry and song, to create a uniquely theatrical spectacle.”
The Stage: ***** “The play touches genre after genre, constantly twisting itself, always entertaining, and finally becoming its own weird and extraordinary thing: stunningly political and superbly theatrical. The point is the extremes; the best and worst the world can offer, from individual people to entire rotten nations.”
The Financial Times: **** ” it is anchored by two moving performances in Tom Brooke’s dry, earnest Litvinenko and Buring’s witty, passionate Marina, who remind us throughout that this is, at heart, a story of love, loss and a struggle to achieve justice. A brilliantly bold and ferociously intelligent drama about our slippery times.”
Time Out: **** “a balancing act that sometimes feels on the verge of collapse. Prebble has bitten off more than she can chew, but she’s done it with her eyes open, and has smartly counterweighted the mad stuff with the Litvinenkos’ story. It’s a play that dares to mirror the absurdity of the world – and then push back against it.”
The Telegraph: *** “Lucy Prebble’s new play, A Very Expensive Poison, based on the 2016 book of the same name by intrepid journalist Luke Harding, seems hellbent on having audiences rolling in the aisles and planting an odd taste in their mouths.”
The Times: **** “It’s a strange way to tell a true story. Then again, the murder of the former Russian secret agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006 was stranger than fiction.”
Evening Standard: *** “It’s often funny or startling. But I didn’t feel I learned much beyond the details reported from the public inquiry into this horrible murder. And the emotional power of Marina standing stricken on stage after Alexander’s death is diminished because Buring and Brooke have doffed their characters shortly before to read out the Litvinenkos’ own very moving but undramatic words. Fascinating but flawed.”
iNews: ***** “Scutt’s ingenious design conjures up everything from hospital ward claustrophobia to the poisoned glitz of Russian’s oligarch culture. It typifies a production that’s as exhilarating as it is daring, leaping from realism to cabaret, from tragedy to slapstick, all the while reminding us how Litvinenko’s death heralded a new and terrifying world order.”
A Very Expensive Poison continues to play at the Old Vic Theatre.