‘Beat the Devil’ is a fiery Covid monologue performed by Ralph Fiennes

Theatre, Drama
Beat the Devil, Bridge Theatre, 2020
Manuel Harlan Ralph Fiennes (David Hare)

Time Out says

Ralph Fiennes stars as a pissed-off David Hare in the playwrighting legend’s Covid monologue

Bloody Covid.

Bloody Tories.

That’s pretty much the moral to ‘Beat the Devil’, David Hare’s new autobiographical solo play, performed by Ralph Fiennes as the flagship production in the Bridge’s new two-month season of monologues.

Directed by Bridge boss Nicholas Hytner, it is not exactly Hare’s most sophisticated work, nor is it the play it probably could be if it was given more development time. Really, it’s a posh middle-aged man playing a posh old man having a moan about the issues of the day. 

And with some reservations, it feels really good to have that moan in a roomful (well, one third full – social distancing, baby!) of people. ‘Beat the Devil’ combines an engrossingly horrible account of the playwright’s trippy battle with Covid, combined with some fun potshots at our government’s incompetence (the best bit is a pedantic riff on the misuse of the word ‘mediocre’ with regards to current ministerial talents).

The illness stuff is more illuminating than the political stuff, which tends to verge on the obvious. There are bits – like Hare’s observations on how annoyed people in his social circle seemed to get with him for coming down with what they perceived to be a disease for poor people and minorities – that are crying out for deeper exploration. It’s a disposable sort of play that seems pointedly determined not to stand the test of time. But for now it’s timely, a breezy cocktail of the raging and the urbane, despatched with plummy self-deprecation by the likeable Fiennes.

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