Review Round-up: Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! at the Bridge Theatre

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Alan Bennett’s latest play has officially opened at the Bridge Theatre, the premiere production directed by Bennett’s frequent collaborator and Bridge artistic director Nicholas Hytner. Here, Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews….

The Guardian: ★★★★ “there is a wealth of good jokes and a deceptive patina of nostalgia. The classic songs, arranged by George Fenton and sung by the patients, are proof of the durability of age and a poignant reminder of a lost happiness.”

Broadway World: ★★★ “the myriad messages come at the expense of streamlined drama; if the documentary crew were to get their hands on it, plenty would end up on the cutting-room floor. Yet there are ardent Bennett lines here that ring out like a bell: “Nobody can ever be written off”.”

Please Mind the Blog: ★★★★ “A love letter to the NHS, masterfully written by Bennett with lots of lovely touches – the 25-strong cast are impressive and really bring the play to life.”

London Theatre.co.uk: ★★★ “It is funny, but perhaps this is more a play about facing death than it is a searing political statement about our dwindling beloved NHS. Either way, it isn’t as heartbreaking as it should be. ”

The Stage: ★★★ “At its most effective the play hones in on the moments of care and kindness that still manage to exist, even within a target-driven, throttled hospital system.”

Time Out: ★★★ “In a sense, it’s difficult to know how to judge late-Bennett work, when the temptation is to simply be delighted he’s making work at all. ‘Allelujah!’ isn’t one of his great plays, but it’s hopefully not indulging in sentiment to say it is a pretty good one once it gets going. He remains a totally singular voice, and – crucially – extremely funny.”

Independent: ★★★★ “Given that its political diagnosis is not exactly cheering and its recognition that “it isn’t Death that has jaws, it’s Life”, it’s remarkable how Bennett’s humour and faith in the decency of ordinary people manage to make this an ultimately high-spirited occasion.”

The Telegraph: ★★★★ “Combining high doses of whimsicality and topicality, Bennett’s serio-comic look at the way we treat the elderly – set largely in the quirkily named geriatric wards of a northern hospital (“The Beth”) threatened with closure – occasionally has the puzzling air of a rushed job.

inews: ★★★ “Bennett’s neatly plotted play may convulse with implausible rapidity, and there are some rather on-the-nose political salvos, but there’s also much to enjoy. Not least those OAP hoofers.”

British Theatre.com: ★★★★ “Nicholas Hytner’s production feels, in places, like a work in progress, and the first half still needs shaping. But Bob Crowley’s excellent design keeps the action flowing smoothly, and the play is at its best when the fourth wall is broken and the style less realistic.”

The Upcoming: ★★★★ “Comedy battles the gloom, and Bennett always makes sure we have something to laugh about.”

Evening Standard: ★★★ “But while there’s plenty of mordant humour, along with a few knowingly moth-eaten gags to tickle Bennett’s long-time fans, the writing lacks focus. There’s a mix of thematic heavy-handedness and improbable contrivance, and the main characters are thinly drawn, though it’s refreshing to see a new play so replete with parts for older actors.”

British Theatre Guide: “Allelujah! may not see Alan Bennett at his very best, containing a few too many longueurs, but it is still a good play that will undoubtedly please his large fan base and, one hopes, embarrass the government into a further look at the plight of the NHS.”

The Play’s The Thing: ”a well-crafted and politically sensitive comedy that gives voice to an older generation in a way we do not see enough on stage. ”

Radio Times: ★★★ “Beyond the frills of dry witticisms and gleeful dancing is a play which lacks some depth and focus. The second half becomes almost bloated with half-hearted plots, from an implausible crime narrative to some rather blunt ideological pronouncements. The play just feels a little more tired and old-fashioned than Bennett’s most successful work.”

Londonist: ★★★★ “Nicholas Hytner expertly marshals a cast of 25 in an entertaining show aided by Bob Crowley’s flexible design of sliding ward partitions.”

Theatre Cat: “This latest play, steered by his vicar-on-earth-Nicholas Hytner, delivers a proper theatrical punch.”

Partially Obstructed View: “a lot of trademark wit and heart (as well as a surprising amount of song and dance) that means the most brutal attack on present-day Britain’s failings is couched in a genuinely warm, entertaining few hours full of quotable jokes. It makes for what would be one of the plays of the year even without its not-so-hidden depths.”

Allelujah! continues to play at the Bridge Theatre until 29 September 2018.

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Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.
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Emma Clarendon on FacebookEmma Clarendon on InstagramEmma Clarendon on Twitter
Emma Clarendon
Emma Clarendon studied drama through A-Level before deciding she was much better suited to writing about theatre than appearing onstage. She’s written for a number of online publications ever since, including The News Hub and Art Info. Emma set up her own blog, Love London Love Culture, in April 2015 and tweets at LoveLDNLoveCul.