‘The Inheritance’ review

Theatre, Drama Noël Coward Theatre , Covent Garden Until Saturday January 5 2019
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(25user reviews)
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© Marc Brenner Andrew Burnap
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© Marc Brenner Andrew Burnap and Kyle Soller
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© Marc Brenner Samuel H Levine and Andrew Burnap
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© Marc Brenner Andrew Burnap
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© Marc Brenner Andrew Burnap
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© Marc Brenner Samuel H Levine, Kyle Soller and Andrew Burnap
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© Marc Brenner Kyle Soller and John Benjamin Hickey
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© Marc Brenner Paul Hilton and Kyle Soller
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© Marc Brenner Samuel H Levine, Michael Walters
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© Marc Brenner

Matthew Lopez’s haunting, ambitious and flawed saga about the post-Aids generation transfers to Noël Coward Theatre

Transferring from a wildly successful Young Vic run to the West End, Matthew Lopez’s ‘The Inheritance’ is, in some ways, an unlikely success story. Like Tony Kushner’s ‘Angels in America’, it’s an epic of gay life in New York that’s more than seven hours long (and told in two parts). But there’s no sweeping, magical realist bombast here. Director Stephen Daldry has crafted something softer and more intimate: a stage full of men who narrate their intertwining lives with honesty and gentle wit. 

In the first half, the twentieth-century novelist EM Forster presides over the stage like a kindly uncle, awkward and moleish. Lopez’s source material is Forster’s ‘Howards End’, and he uses Forster’s hidden homosexuality as the impetus to turn this story of three English families into an encyclopaedic survey of the traits of twenty-first century New York gay life. Political campaigning, brunches, ballet-going, parenthood, even chemsex – it’s (almost) all there.

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) is the quiet sun at the centre of this galaxy of New York gays, a sort of idealised, cultured everyman who’s forever browsing the shelves of the Strand Bookstore, or watching four-hour arthouse films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His partner of seven years, Toby (Andrew Burnap), is an unrepentant narcissist, but a charming one, who’s just about convincing Eric that he meets his emotional needs. A horde of their flirting, wise-cracking friends flit in and out of Eric’s precious rent-controlled apartment, but it’s ambitious newcomer Adam who shifts things: a fresh-faced, dazzlingly-well connected catalyst for this world to crumble.  

A surprising amount of this story revolves around real estate: both around Eric’s apartment, which he inherited from his grandmother, and around the beautiful Upstate New York house that Eric’s friend and unofficial mentor Walter (Paul Hilton) used as a safehaven for young men during the Aids crisis. ‘The Inheritance’ circles round questions of what one generation passes from another, whether it’s real estate or wisdom: and how this cycle was broken by the huge death toll exacted by Aids in the ’80s and ’90s. Daldry’s production is particularly strong on hauntings, creating tear-pricking moments that fill the stage with a cavernous sense of loss.

Lopez’s picture is both ambitious and limited. There’s a moment where the entire cast entertainingly take Forster to task for never coming out as gay. By the time that homosexual acts between men were decriminalised in Britain, Forster was 88. Does ‘The Inheritance’ actually say anything as brave as it asks Forster to? With a story that focuses on five buff, conventionally attractive gay white men, it arguably doesn’t. Its debates sometimes feel like op-eds, set-piece conversations around issues such as racism that its story never actually explores, however catchy the soundbites are. Ultimately, it affirms, rather than destabilises, the values of this urbane clique, with their emphasis on individualism and personal growth over a sense of collective responsibility.

The night I saw the second part of ‘The Inheritance’, the role that’s usually taken by Vanessa Redgrave (Margaret) was performed by her understudy Amanda Reed instead: she brought a compassion and warmth to a part that nonetheless feels a little tacked on. Her appearance is the first sense that any women exist in this world, and she’s there to mourn, repent, and care for a suffering man, not to have her own agency. Written over decades ago, ‘Angels in America’ still goes further, feels braver. But the inevitable comparisons aren’t quite fair, either. This epic might be firmly set in 2015, but it’s an elegy that’s teeming with a whole century of lost history – and lost lives.

By: Alice Saville

Posted:

Venue name: Noël Coward Theatre
Contact:
Address: 85-88
St Martin's Lane
London
WC2N 4AU
Transport: Tube: Leicester Square
Price: £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min
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    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
    • Noël Coward Theatre £15-£104.50 per part. Part One 3hr 15min; Part Two 3hr 20min Book online
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Average User Rating

4.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:18
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|25
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1 of 1 found helpful
tastemaker

This seven hour epic (broken over two parts) is the most affecting piece of theatre I’ve seen in a very long time. Even three days after seeing this on the stage of The Young Vic my mind is thinking about the characters and the experiences they shared. You’ll laugh, cry and be left a better person after watching. Go see it!

tastemaker

I first watched this play when it was still showing in it's original home, The Young Vic, and I still didn't tire of its thought provoking themes. In fact, the conversation that started between myself and the friend I took about identity, the importance of being a community that is there for each other, and the importance of still documenting our history, became quite heated. This shows just how good an effect this show has. It reminded me how important, still, Pride is, and although we live in a city, and possibly country that is near enough all embracing of people's different feelings and life choices, there are still many, many people who don't live with this privilege.

Based on an adaption of Howard's End, it centres around a group of gay men of different ages, races and political beliefs who give audiences an insight into what the community has come through up until today.

It is funny, with some very well imagined and thought out sequences, that although are in no way risqué, you know exactly what they are alluding to, with great comic effect.

The whole production, all 7 hours of it, is incredibly sick and the ensemble work like a machine, never out of step.The two central characters are Eric played by Kyle Soller, a warm, kind and unbelievably patient character, and his boyfriend then ex boyfriend Toby, played by the marvellous Andrew Burnap, really take you on a rollercoaster of emotion. The pair together are a joy to watch and create some of the best theatre the show offers. 

The importance of this production, what keeps it going, apart from the strong messages running through is the rhythm. It is constant and around 20 minutes in, really finds its feet. I think the arrival of Vanessa Redgrave's character in Part 2 slows it down, however she still gives a great performance about a mother loosing her child. I wish there more of the intense debates from Part 1 in Part 2, but nonetheless, the show delivers in its entirety and I didn't leave disappointed. I believe this show is transferring to Broadway, but like Angels In America, I don't think for a minute this will be the last we see of it.

tastemaker

The Inheritance is quite simply one of the most stunning pieces of theatre I have ever seen.At just over six hours, three on each consecutive night it is not for the faint hearted, but my god you are rewarded for it.

The staging is incredibly simple yet impactful, it allows you to focus fully on the characters.  The play follows the lives of a group of gay men in New York, but the focus is on Erik Glass a beautiful hopeful lawyer at an NGO.  Its hard not to fall in love with Glass’s character over the course of the play and my heart broke for him more than once.  It is in equal measure heart breaking and affirming, uncomfortable and hilarious.  The performances of the almost entirely male cast, until the appearance of Vanessa Redgrave as Mary in the last 30 or so minutes of the second part, are mesmerising without exception.

I can’t quite believe it but I would absolutely go and watch this again. This is a game changing piece of modern theatre.

tastemaker

The play duration may be over 6 hours in total over 2 parts, but it did not feel a minute too long. Matthew Lopez have managed to create characters with such depth that you can't help but be drawn into their remarkable journey. The Inheritance focuses on the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the lives of gay men in contemporary New York, and the legacy of those who have lived through that period to the generation that came after.


It is poignant, heartbreaking, beautiful and inspiring all at once. Truly a modern classic.

tastemaker

The Inheritance is one of the most powerful and poignant pieces of theatre I have ever seen. It is required viewing that is both heartbreaking and uplifting. 


The juxtaposition between New York at the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s with the political turmoil of the current day is alarming in a way that is brilliantly portrayed over the almost seven hours of stage time. Every possible emotion from joy to disgust is brought to life in both a relatable and meaningful way that stays with you after you leave the doors of the theatre.


Go see it- you will be moved in a way that rarely happens from a piece of theatre.

tastemaker

A beautiful and captivating play, even though it is quite long. There are two parts to it but spread across two days, it's quite enjoyable and fun to go to the theatre two days in a row! I really enjoyed the acting and I liked how it had a good mix of humour, romance, and anger. It was a play full of emotions - so raw and well done! I thought the cast did a great job performing and it's really a must-see. 

Tastemaker

The Inheritance Part 1 and Part 2 are a must see, even if the total length does clock in at around 7 hours. From the beginning to the end I was hooked, going through almost every emotion in the book. From the heartbreaking effect that AIDs still has today to the laughter shared with a fantastic cast of characters. Speaking of which, the cast is outstanding if a little male dominated. It isn't until late into Part 2 that Vanessa Redgrave makes her touching appearance. The story had me gripped, and I found myself connecting with so many of the characters and plot hooks. This is truly a grand tale of love and loss which must not be missed. It really challenges the status quo, politics taking a very interesting place in the play at one point. The set itself was quite minimal with few props and the stage itself was like some kind of long table which slowly rises and falls along to the emotional notes of the story. This lack of props did nothing to detract from the story, the performance of the entire cast being the driving force of this behemoth of a performance. This is an absolute must see and if you are apprehensive about booking both parts, go and see Part 1, you will be getting your tickets to the second part in no time! 

Tastemaker

This is a play that really has to be seen. A theatrical epic at 7 hours, shown over 2 consecutive nights, but it truly worthy of that stage time. The play charts the lives of a group of gay male friends in New York in present times, but the intricately woven story also dips into the lives of previous generations and specifically the effects of the aids crisis on the gay community. This delicate and desperately sad topic is tactfully dealt with in a witty and generally upbeat story which includes plenty of perfectly pitched intelligent humour. Vivid and captivating storytelling also sets this play apart from most, along with the performance of its exceptional cast, being both flawless and perfectly timed. The set itself is largely a blank canvas and so the rich narrative is relied upon to paint the picture in your mind's eye rather than detailed sets which work fantastically well. Despite loving the play as a whole, part one was my favourite. Without giving anything away its ending scene is so incredibly poignant, and memorable.

tastemaker

The Inheritance is an epic 6.5 hour play split into two parts. Set in New York, it follows the friendship of a group of gay men who went through the AIDS crises in the 80's and 90's and how they educate the next generation. It's also a homage to EM Forster's Howard's End. It's funny and heartbreaking in equal measure and a stark reminder to always respect the struggle, fights and activism of those who came before us. The whole cast have a great chemistry and acting legend Vanessa Redgrave appears in part two, but it was the actor who played EM Forster/Walter, who really stole the show with an incredibly poignant and powerful performance

Minimal but clever set design worked perfectly with the razor sharp dialogue. It's certainly worth the lengthy run time.

Tastemaker

Absolutely fantastic. I was a little nervous when I saw the show was 7 hours split over two night. But time just flew.

The story was captivating and the staff and direction was incredible.

The play goes through the highs and lows and through all the enotions possible.

Be ready to laugh and cry.

A truly moving performance. Go check it out!

tastemaker

The Inheritance is a perfect example of a great theatre production.


The play itself is thought-provoking, entertaining and emotional: it talks about relationships, politics, the inscrutable fate. I'm glad it intorduced me to snaps of gay history (e.g. the life of E.M. Foster,  the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80s) and questions of gay identity and heritage. My only problem was the discrepancy between the first and second night. The first part was eventful:  it was full of surprises (cliffhangers before the intervals!) and interesting storylines so I was constantly alert and didn't notice how time flew by. The second part was more analytic, sentimental and sometimes I didn't see the function of scenes (e.g. at the very end to bring a caracter back who didn't really contributed to make the ending whole).

The actors were great, it was joy to watch this many talented people on one stage. Powerful, sensitive and clever performances with heart and dedication. I especially liked Andrew Burnap: he could show the fallible but still lovealbe sides of Toby perfectly.


Watching the Inheritance needs dedication (two days/7 hours), but you'll leave the theatre richer. Absolutely recommended!


Tastemaker

A strongly emotional & powerful play about the gay culture of the past and today, given in 2 parts. The minimal set design makes even stronger the story and the characters. The cast is super talented and the direction excellent. Despite its total 7 hours duration, there isn't any moment to feel tired but instead the story grows continuously to bring the story to a climax at the end. A masterpiece not to be missed!

tastemaker

The thought of watching a 7-hour, two-art play is a daunting one even for as man as cultured as thee, but The Inheritance exceeded all my expectations and then kept on going for another mile and a half. Even after a 7-hour marathon of friendship, love, laughter, heart-break and healing, I could have continued watching some more. The cast and production does an honorable homage to what is a great piece of literature. 


The Inheritance is not the best piece of theater I've seen, it's the best piece of art I've been fortunate enough to lay my eyes on.

tastemaker

What a show, or two shows should I say. The Inheritance takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions, spanning decades in the lives of these gay New York men. The acting is incredible and can't be faulted, I especially loved Kyle Soller as Eric. I preferred the first part to the second and although the second part was engaging and full of strong moments, I would have been content with how the first part ended. The time does fly by as you are constantly engaged, jumping from humour to some pretty dark moments, epic isn't really the right word to describe this piece!

Tastemaker

Wow. This was a two part play, with each part being around 3h20m. Nearly 7 hours in total, yes, but the time, especially in the first part, truly flew. 


I look at gay men in modern day NYC, and how the past, including the AIDS epidemic, swept through and devastated the gay community. The acting is truly fantastic, as is the direction. There is the right amount of comedy alongside seriousness to keep the play moving freely, but there is certainly a dark undertone. Fantastically made. 

tastemaker

A 2 part play (!), initially fearful of the the length, I left the first evening looking forward to what the second night would bring. It explores many deep, often dark themes, but maintains a sense of joy. Do not miss 'The Inheritance'!

tastemaker

What can I say? This was truly one of the finest theatre shows I have ever seen, and perhaps ever will see. The writing was absolutely perfect and it truly was like a “Netflix binge” as so many other reviews have said- I just wanted more!

I was hooked from the first minute and couldn’t wait to watch the next 7 hours.

Messages were told-not shoved in your face- through a beautiful story of many men’s lives, intertwined throughout- with simple, yet effective staging.

I was honestly blown away by the cast, every single one shone on that stage and the fact that Paul Hilton (E.M Forster/Walter) cried during curtain call-through a rapturous standing ovation for the second night in the row- shows just how much care the actors put into the story they were telling.

Both parts were just as strong, just as emotional as each other and, although at first looks it seems like a titanic length for a play on the west end it was not at all a chore to watch, at any point. The whole audience was hooked on every word throughout both evenings.

The Inheritance was such a catharsis, and as I walked out the theatre, blotchy and teary eyed, I knew I had just witnessed something special.

Watch this play, tell your friends, family, strangers on the tube and make them go see it- the whole world needs to see this show.

tastemaker

As daunting as a two part seven hour play sounds like, The inheritance, without a doubt, was the most vibrant thrilling and engrossing experience. The characters guided the audience through a roller coaster of emotions. The play touches the audience on an emotional and spiritual level illustrating the inheritance of emotion, disease and social etiquette through the generations of gay men. The experience all together surmounted the satisfaction of binge watching a TV series. 


My friend and I both reacted differently to various parts of the play. We cried, laughed and became attached and invested into the characters' story . The most memorable moment for myself was Adam's graphic description of his disturbing experience in a Prague bathhouse. 


The production was flawless effectively narrating a mixture of stories with emotion and clarity at the same time. The performances of Kyle Soller, Andrew Burnap, John Benjamin Hickey, Paul hilton and, most notably, Samuel H Levine were passionate and trans-formative.


This is a play I highly recommend going to. Truly is a modern classic. 

Tastemaker

This is a remarkable performance! I am in no way a self proclaimed theatre buff like many of my friends, I get bored easily in the theatre if there is no music and can often be secretly wishing it to end. The thought of a TWO part play split over two nights, each as long as the other, did not fill me with confidence and I had to be thoroughly convinced.


If you only ever go to one two night play in your life, make it this one. The time flew by and after night one I could not wait to get back to the second part. The acting is amazing with each character as vibrant and compelling as the next. I'm not sure how they manage to engage the audience at every single moment of this play. perhaps it's extremely likeable and relatable characters, or the fact that everything in the play is relateable.


I could not have enjoyed this more. Go see it!

Tastemaker

Split into 2 parts, The Inheritance follows on from what seems to be an increasingly common trend of episodic plays. Based on the novel Howards End, it takes a look at different generations of gay men, their experiences and how the world treats them. Rather than having a solid under pinning narrative, it ebbs and flows between multiple relationships and timelines. While this could end up being a rambling mess, the writing and the perfomances (for the most part) are so good that rarely does it lose your attention. 


Part 1 is definitely the better of the two. The ensemble are strong (although one performance did jar a touch) and the lead roles are brilliantly performed. Paul Hilton is mesmerising and Kyle Soller excels at the very difficult task of carrying the play. Both Andrew Burnap and Samuel H. Levine also deserve a mention for their charisma and commitment respectively, and John Benjamin Hickley adds a wonderful nuance with a subtle, slightly underplayed performance. Of the smaller roles, Hugo Bolton stands out, although there is little not to like from the rest. The stage remains pretty sparse throughout and, in a Brechtian manner, all the cast stay on stage for the most part to observe the action. Matthew Lopez's writing is fluid and smart, Daldry's direction is excellent and the whole thing gels perfectly. 5 stars.


Part 2 drags in places and I can't help but feel they could have trimmed it down and made each part 2 hours rather than 3. It starts to meander a bit too much and a few plot devices are opened up to the audience to only hit a dead end. Whilst we can all appreciate the acting giant that is Vanessa Redgrave, she stands out like a sore thumb in this play and that's got nothing to do with her being the only female to grace the stage. She seems lost, struggling to find her lines and maintain her accent and despite one or two inspired acting choices, it's as if we're suddenly watching a different play. Poor casting - lets go for performance, not names please. 


It's wonderful experience and even though part 2 is a good play in it's own right, it's a bit deflating after the tour de force of part 1. Highly recommended. 

tastemaker

I really enjoyed this play. The story telling was very unique and skilfully done by the ensemble. It's a 6 hour epic and the piece keeps the audience engaged better than most standard-length plays. Absolutely hilarious at times, at others very touching and heartfelt. The multi-layered plot and superbly formed characters bring this adaptation of Howard's End alive. Although never spelt out, the message is very clear and you do leave the theatre with a strong sense of community. I did think that the play could have been cut in places (we were the last West End audience to leave the theatre). Although I don't believe the piece tries to encapsulate the gay narrative in it's entirety - and the piece did give a brief nod to the coloured LGBTQ+ community - I would have enjoyed slightly more diversity than a thrice mention of a Chinese take out. The cast all look more or less like A&F models which doesn't do too well for an often image obsessed community. Personal preferences aside, it's a brilliant play and I'd definitely recommend it for any fun-loving theatre goer. 

Tastemaker

Astonishing writing and acting, so much that you forget the versatile sparseness of the set. Yes, the play is a bit of an endurance test, but it feels like a big, roomy novel or TV series, with the long running times allowing plenty of time for the characters and relationships to develop. I've never heard so much crying in a theatre--a testament to how moving this is. It's not perfect: Vanessa Redgrave unfortunately appeared to flub her lines, and the play doesn't entirely know how to tackle class and privilege. But overall, it's incredibly impressive. This play will be huge.

tastemaker

I was lucky enough to see both parts of ‘The Inheritance’ over a Saturday double bill, and it was incredible. Everything from the writing and staging, to the stunning performances from the cast was so marvellous that it was difficult to believe I was watching a new work, early in in its first run. At its heart, the show deals with the interwoven relationship dynamics of a group of friends, but this is just the starting point of a review of some seriously weighty social issues. If you can, go and see it: I recommend it unreservedly.


Just go- if you can get tickets. 


Soul-stirring, though-provoking... theatre at it's finest. Getting to see it as a world premiere here in London is a treat, especially in such an intimate theatre as the wonderful Young Vic. 


There's no doubt this is headed for Broadway once it closes here in a few weeks, and will probably be back here in a few years with a different cast (not sure how you could get any better than these gents- they are absolutely mind-blowingly fantastic), and higher ticket prices of the west- end. GO. GO. GO.