Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for the stage adaptation of Ben Elton’s comedy.
The Stage: ★★★ “Ultimately this all works better in sitcom format: small doses, over several weeks. By the end of the play it feels like we’ve heard every gag four times too many. The near-perfect cast, and Foley’s steady hand ensure the play is, just about, the thing.”
The Metro: ★★★ “Still, the action doesn’t get going until the second half, too many jokes fall flat and there is a slight whiff of money for old rope — Mitchell for one can do this sort of thing in his sleep.”
The Upcoming: ★★★★★ “Shakespeare is meant for the stage, and Elton’s take on him is no exception. The same goes for Mitchell, Whelan and the rest of the cast, who give a flawless performance. By the end of the show, it’s easy to forget that Upstart Crow was ever just an onscreen-only spectacle. Once again, we are reminded just how relevant Shakespeare’s plays remain, and most importantly, how funny too.”
The Guardian: ★★★★★ “Punchlines and slapstick are meticulously timed, culminating in a spectacular sight-gag involving costumes (designer Alice Power) including a bear suit, an unfeasibly large codpiece and an escalatingly testicular pair of the baggy-thighed trousers Elton calls, in his one of his neat pieces of mock Elizabethan lingo, ‘puffling pants’.”
Time Out: ★★★ “But if it’s not great art – it’s not even the greatest postmodern Shakespeare tribute in the West End, that’s ‘& Juliet’ – it’s fairly winning. I was worried Mitchell, Elton et al came to lazily bury Shakespeare, but in fact they rather sweetly come to praise him.”
The Times: ★★★★ “One of the many pleasures of this high-spirited version of his Shakespearean BBC sitcom is that the spectators and the actors are on such intimate terms.”
Evening Standard: ★★★ “It’s intricate but deliberately unsubtle. Indeed, the arch staginess of Sean Foley’s production is underscored by wobbling backdrops and tiny trees behind which characters hide. There’s affection behind the whole elaborate send-up but it’s all in service to a relentless stream of set-ups and punchlines.”
The Telegraph: ★★★★ “Like a once-favoured jester banished from court who returns from exile to make amends, Ben Elton has restored himself to favour in theatreland with this joyously silly spin-off to his much-loved BBC Shakespeare sitcom, aided and abetted by a West End debut from David Mitchell as the Bard.”
The Independent: ★★★★ “Ben Elton’s critically acclaimed Bard-centred sitcom has forsaken the relative safety of the small screen in order to expose itself to the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortune that is live performance.”
The Upstart Crow continues to play at the Gielgud Theatre until 25 April 2020.