Sunday, 9 September 2012

Timon of Athens at The National Theatre

Simon Russell Beale, centre, is in compelling form in Nicholas Hytner's production of Timon Of Athens. Photograph: Tristram Kenton 
I love Simon Russell Beale and I love the National Theatre.

Mr R-B could act the contents of the Yellow Pages for me and I'd give him a standing ovation. So the fact the this unfinished play by Shakespeare was more depressing and (dare I say it) a little boring, rewritten and set as it was in the modern times, didn't matter a jot to me.

Simon Russell Beale owned the stage, and I laughed, scoffed and cried with him as his fortunes, as Timon, were turned from the wealthy - and too generous as it turned out - Athenian benefactor to a down and out tramp. The lessons of the play were that good time friends are just that - good time friends - and that money breeds greed and violence. There were some references to last summer's riots in London as well as to the recent anti Capitalist demonstrations in the City of London, the credit crunch and the corruptive effect of absolute wealth, but on the whole no-one in the play came out smelling of roses.

I think it's a noble effort to try both to finish a play by such a master as Shakespeare, as well as to set it in modern times. I've said on this blog before that I'm really no expert on Shakespeare - he was but skimmed in my Finnish education - and have to admit that this play was a difficult one for me to grasp.

And Timon of Athens lacked any kind of reprieve for the audience; there was very little humour, no sex and no love story. But, it may be that, as I've found with other Shakespeare plays, they have a habit of growing on you: the more Shakespeare I see the more I enjoy him.

As with Shakespeare, the National Theatre too has been growing on me. When  I moved here in the early 1980's I thought the South Bank building ugly and the theatre too large, sterile and anonymous. But now I love the stark architecture and appreciate the flexibility the different stages at the National afford a theatre company. And having spent the previous night not at all enjoying King Lear at the Almeida, partly because the seats were cramped, the comfortable chairs of the National were a bonus too.

The lighting at the National is often dramatic too.
Timon of Athens runs until 1 November 2012
Olivier Theatre
National Theatre
South Bank

No comments: