Regular visitors to the National Theatre may find themselves increasingly confused about exactly when and where it is they’re living: London, 2013? Or early twentieth-century Berlin? The NT’s year kicked off with a revival of Carl Zuckmayer’s ‘The Captain of Köpenick’, gathered pace with the current Olivier adaptation of Erich Kästner’s ‘Emil and the Detectives’, and concludes here with Dennis Kelly’s new take on Georg Kaiser’s 1912 expressionst classic ‘From Morning to Midnight’.
Despite the starkly beautiful drifts of snow that periodically waft over Soutra Gilmour’s fabulous, Georges Méliès-inspired set, don’t come here for any uplifting Weihnachten vibes. It’s not hard to see why Kelly was drawn to the project – ‘Morning to Midnight’ isn’t a million miles away from his recent, bleaker-than-bleak Royal Court play ‘The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas’, insofar as both are pitch-black morality fables about the pernicious effects of capitalism upon a single man.
In ‘Gorge’, the antihero simply becomes a wealthy monster. Here it’s more complicated. At the end of the audacious first scene of Melly Still’s production, Adam Godley’s nameless Clerk – who has hithero only appeared as an anonymous, voiceless drone in a busy bank – unexpectedly malfunctions after misunderstanding a woman’s intentions towards him. He proceeds to freak out, abscond with 60,000 marks, then embark upon an odyssey through bike races and brothels to try and understand the appeal of money.
Still’s production looks extraordinary, a creaking, wheezing, antique feast for senses, its dry darkness enlivened by a splash of Brechtian mucking about (notably a minor character getting ‘accidentally’ hauled into the gods by a scene change).
Despite his fragile, emaciated frame, Godley holds the stage convincingly as the increasingly unhinged Clerk. But much like ‘Gorge’, the show lacks a real heart, and for all the visual flair on offer, there’s something stultifyingly obvious about the way the Clerk’s adventure unfolds. Our hero may shed the mechanism of society, but he remains firmly embedded in Kaiser and Kelly’s potentous moral apparatus.
By Andrzej Lukowski
Average User Rating
2.7 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:1
- 3 star:3
- 2 star:5
- 1 star:2
The ultimate message of the play was intelligent, bleak and thought-provoking, though it meandered a little in getting there. The various scenarios used to illustrate his journey lacked impact and didn't really engage me. However, the strong performances and set we very enjoyable - taking it above a narrative that just failed to pack the punch of the premise.
Funnily not comical neither tragic, does not leave much to take home. It is more of a shame as the talent is there in the cast, the design, the music, but the whole thing is inorganically put together with unjustified mood changes and some seriously trite gags. Worst has been produced but the competition is harsh and one would expect more from the National at Christmas.
The staging and the sets were the main stars of the evening, but Adam Godley's physical performance was not far behind. I am left with some truly memorable visual images from a dynamic, vibrant production of a difficult play. I look forward to seeing it again.
The staging was imaginative and the sets Excellent. The play couldn't decide if it were a comedy or drama and was so frantic I felt exhausted. The lead actor often drifted into John Cleese mode and even looked a bit like him. I particularly liked the scene representing a snowy landscape which was highly effective and impressive - several of the cast holding an enormous white sheets stretched over various pieces of furniture to give the effect of a mountainous landscape. I would have been happier for the actors not to have been on stage and perfectly content to have spent the time looking at the various sets and scene changes. I rate it two stars and these are for the sets and staging
Follows the almost-hallowed Fram as one of the National's rare turkeys. Our whole party left in the interval, but I felt moved to ask the cloakroom guy whether it got any better in the second half. 'It gets worse,' he whispered. Energetic and committed performances from all, and pleasing to see Gina Bellman back on the London stage; but the play - and the version presented here - was tedious in the extreme. Sorry Nick H and your genius NT crew - we love pretty much everything else you do.
If it was a five minute capsule of the opening scene I'd have loved this play. Sadly it degenerated into a boring chastising predictable tale of an unsavoury man's descent into chaos. No depth to any of the characters whatsover, so theres no curiousity in terms of what happens to them. What a waste of an incredible set and whimsical support cast who multi-tasked like crazy to keep this show on its wheels. But what a stupid, dull tale. Im not impressed by German impressionism and will avoid this medium in future.
Saw this last night (27th) on a whim, knowing nothing about it. The play and staging take a little selling in time, initially I had no idea if it was a dance piece or what! The staging was remarkable and made great creative use of many scenic elements. Worth seeing for that alone. The cast put in energetic and entertaining performances, even when the script hit clunky parts... The script never seemed to settle down, sometimes over explaining, sometimes opaque in motivation, sometimes tedious and preachy. I thought maybe it was a clumsy adaptation but no, the performance was word perfect, and the script let the production down. Considering how many long speeches the lead has to deliver, it's remarkable that it was possible to deliver at all. I work in film, a medium where the script will routinely get adapted, tweaked, changed, abused and fixed. In theatre I gather the script is considered immutable. That's a shame as with the talent that went into this production you got the feeling that an overhaul of the script could have lifted this to something special as opposed pulling in several directions. Maybe theatrical tastes change, but writing a play full of mischief and joy into the interval then sapping all the joy with clumsy preaching is not in the spirit of modern shows where you might build to a finale. I really felt for the cast that it ended on such a clunky former after they'd worked so hard in the first half. Staging, cast, production 5* exquisite; script 1* clunky and frankly not aged well, the 'classic' that it is. Averaging out at 3*, and it's a shame for all involved that that's generous.
Entirely agree with comments below. I'd read a very critical online review, and at the end of the first half I'd decided I was actually rather enjoying it. The second half was dreadful - endless over-long sequences, dull and uninspiring. I'm not usually aware of noticing the script in a play but I did keep noticing how wooden this sounded. It's a shame as the set was great and the first half promised far more than the second could deliver
I concur with the last comment, the first half was amazing, particularly in terms of visuals, sometimes it felt you were in a film! the opening scene was beautiful. The second part was on the other hand amazingly boring! I wanted to kill myself by the end of it! I actually wished I had left after the first half in order to keep a good memory of it. I hope they will try and change that second part of which the story could have been played in 10 minutes.
I too saw this on the first night. Thought the first half to the interval was stunning - exciting, visual, innovative, humorous. I was stunned to hear some people had left at that point. Alas, after that it was all downhill. Too many overlong sequences that were frankly, boring - more to do with the writing than the production. Towards its conclusion I was losing the will to live. There is much to redeem it though; Adam Godley was mesmerising throughout and it was beautifully directed. I don't regret seeing it and would urge people to give it a chance. Hopefully some of the above will be ironed out during previews.
went on 19th first night left at first interval main character bank clerk played by Adam Godley not strong enough to carry the role convincingly annoying hammed up acting not funny repetitive slow development of plot overall dreadful and disappointing !!
I saw this on 20th November. I can't think of any part of the performance that disappointed, and don't think I'll see such an entertaining, thought provoking and cleverly staged play for a quite a while. I'm going to see it again!
The National Theatre was full and I was excited to be part of the first performance. The opening was amazing, and I couldnt keep my eyes off the movement on the stage. So much was happening, it was very clever. All of the cast had a role to play but the star of the show was the bank clerk who stole the money and then had to find out in life what he really wanted once he realised he couldn't go back. There was so much content, energy and words throughout the performance. The staging was spectacular. I loved it. My only disappointment was that at the end of the show and the cast came on stage they only allowed us to clap once, there was no encore. I couldn't believe that after all their hard work lasting two and a half hours they bowed a few times and then were gone!!