Even with an enchanting set by Es Devlin, that shifts from banquet table, to battlegrounds to bare earth, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire is weighty stuff. In its capacity as the Nation's Theatre, Rufus Norris' National is certainly ticking the 'contemporary relevance' box. Carol Churchill's portrayal of the run up to and aftermath of the civil war shines a light on our current version of democracy. The Putney debates are recreated with subtlety and the rants certainly resonate with our own political rhetoric and causes for protest. It's illuminating, but is it entertaining?
We were divided: with the highest quality actors, a spectacular design and deft direction from Lyndsey Turner (who masterminded a mammoth cast over the dauntingly large Lyttleton stage) it is an impressive feat. But the sum of the parts is a show that didn't quite disappoint, but did have us drifting off and thinking about our to-do lists. Caryl Churchill's plays are often divisive and we suspect this revival of Light Shining in Buckinghamshire will be no different. It's worthy and fascinating, but as a piece of theatre feels a little staid.
Light Shining in Buckinghamshire: plot and political relevance
National Theatre Artistic Director Rufus Norris describes his revival of Caryl Churchill's Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, opening just before the General Election, as a 'timely reminder as we go to the polls of the power of personal choice'.
Despite being written in 1976 and set in the 1640s, this is a play with great resonance in 2015, with economic instability, lack of faith in government, and the prospect of revolution driving the action. Depicting a time of shock and uncertainly following the English civil war, Caryl Churchill's play explores an appetite for change and a mood of hope and possibility.
Churchill has made her name as a playwright by boldly confronting the thorniest of issues and by reviving this classic to coincide with the 2015 general election, Norris's first season is keeping a strong hold on the National theatre's role. His predecessor Nicholas Hytner began his reign at the National with a nod to the Iraq war and Norris is maintaining the same sense of contemporary relevance at the heart of the programming.
Famous theatre director and designer
A talented team of women are at the helm of the production and helping to steal some star power from the Barbican's summer blockbuster.
Lyndsey Turner will direct. All eyes are on Turner this year as she takes the reigns of Benedict Cumberbatch's hotly anticipated Hamlet (Barbican, 2015) and a show in Norris's inaugural National season only goes further to cement her place at the very peak of British theatre. Her partner-in-Hamlet, set designer Es Devlin, is another big name on the list of creatives. We were enchanted by the virtual escape she created for the set of the Royal Court's The Nether and her imagination is not confined to theatre. This savvy set-designer has designed the stages for pop stars such as Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus.
Light Shining in Buckinghamshire: National Theatre cast
Having starred in Mike Bartlett's 13, Trystan Gravelle will return to the National Theatre. After stepping away from the stage for a role in ITV drama Mr Selfrige, Gravelle has recently reminded critics of his talent for theatre with a shining performance in The Wanamaker Playhouse's proaction of The Changeling. He will be joined on the Lyttelton stage by actor Joshua James, who has already worked with director Lyndsey Turner in a performance 'extraordinary tenderness' in the Donmar's Fathers and Sons.
|What||Light Shining In Buckinghamshire, National Theatre|
|Where||National Theatre, South Bank, London, SE1 9PX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Waterloo (underground)|
15 Apr 15 – 22 Jun 15, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via the National Theatre|