Boulevard Theatre, London – until 29 February 2020
Cormac McCarthy isn’t known for cheery topics as anyone who has sat through (or read) The Road will testify and his play The Sunset Limited is no exception. But where there was the drama of danger and survival in the apocalyptic The Road, in The Sunset Limited drama is somewhat lacking.
It’s a two-hander between two unnamed men identified, somewhat ironically given their immovable viewpoints, as Black (Gary Beadle) and White (Jasper Britton).
Black is an ex-con who stops White, a professor, jumping in front of a commuter train – the eponymous Sunset Limited. He sits him down in his tenement apartment to persuade him that life is worth living after all.
The reformed criminal has found god while White remains a staunch atheist admitting that the thought of meeting people in an afterlife fills him with horror. They debate each other’s views, neither conceding ground only occasionally acknowledging a particular view or train of thought as good.
And this is the problem with The Sunset Limited, as interesting as the debate is, there isn’t any tension perhaps mild frustration from White that Black won’t let him leave. The only shock is the retelling of one violent incident which is grim in its graphic description.
There is a lighter moment, a sort of truce in the intellectual and non-threatening verbal combat while they share a meal but otherwise, there is little tonal shift.
Beadle and Britton’s performances can’t be faulted, managing to find some humour in McCormac’s script and I have to applaud McCormac for not falling into one of a number of obvious endings.
The irony is that it feels like the play is left where it starts and you wonder what the point of the bit in between has actually been.
I’m giving The Sunset Limited ⭐️⭐️⭐️, it is 90 minutes without an interval and runs until 29 February.
Do you think that’s fair?
It was my first visit to the Boulevard Theatre and it’s an interesting space and a nice sized theatre – big enough to feel like a substantial theatre but without losing intimacy.
Queues for the loos afterwards were long though which isn’t a good sign.
On Instagram? Check out my @revstan account for 60-second reviews of plays I’ve seen.
You might also like to read:
Review: You Stupid Darkness!, Southwark Playhouse – funny, haunting and strangely uplifting (until 22 Feb)
From the archive: Two years ago this week I was watching Ben Whishaw and David Morrissey in Julius Caesar.
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