The Lightning Child

Theatre, West End
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 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane
 (© Simon Kane)
© Simon Kane

‘Cross-dressing, drug abuse, internet porn and classical myth’ is how ‘The Lightning Child’ has been billed, in an effort to lure theatregoers to Shakespeare’s Globe’s first ever musical. It also transcends time and place, as scenes jump around from pre-Christian Africa to Billie Holiday’s dressing room.

Confused? Yeah, I hear ya. It’s not by any means a linear approach, but considering the source material, Euripides’s shocking ‘The Bacchae’, that’s not entirely surprising. God of wine Dionysus (Tommy Coleman) comes to the city of Thebes on a mission of revenge. The king, Pentheus (Clifford Samuel), has banned the worship of Dionysus and the two clash, with Pentheus lured in with the promise of watching the women of Dionysus’s cult have sex. The eventual climax to Matthew Dunster’s production is as delightfully gruesome as you would expect from a Greek tragedy.

Unfortunately, this free interpretation by Ché Walker doesn’t stop there. It’s also littered with scenes of different periods that tell smaller, modern stories that attempt to reflect the same kind of destruction that results from Dionysus’s gift of excess. These sections feel out of place and jarring, their relation to the core of the play is abstract and it tries too hard to be clever in what is essentially a panto.

If I’m honest, I don’t really like pantos. They’re garish and obvious, rarely funny, the cross-dressing is played for laughs and it’s all a bit embarrassing. But pantos have an excuse – that’s what they’re written for. Here the original text provides some interesting themes around male femininity and gender roles, but it’s dumbed down for cheap laughs.

The songs – by ‘Doctor Who’ star Arthur Darvill, no less – are somewhat forgettable, with none of them standing out even for their rude lyrics. In fact, my overwhelming feeling when anyone broke into song was to wonder whether I’d fallen asleep and woken up in the audience of a student version of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. Some solid performances, but an otherwise disappointing effort.

By Claire Dikecoglu

Claire, 33, is a senior account manager for a social media agency from Spitalfields.. She was selected to write this review as part of the Time Out Takeover – a special edition of the magazine written entirely by readers.


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2.8 / 5

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A play on the knife edge between brilliance and dire self indulgent drivel. Unfortunately it sites on the side of the latter. Some very strong performances and some really nice set pieces, but ultimately someone should have taken a thick black marker pen and done some forthright editing to all the bits that aren't clever or funny enough to be in there. London theatre is on a high at the moment. A few more months of rehearsals and a bit of soul searching from the Director and Writer could have come up with something extraordinary that would have ranked up there with the good uns. As it stands the whole thing feels rushed, poorly executed and a bit of a student production by people who are just so pleased with how clever they think they are being, they can't take a step back and see they aren't.

A hilarious night out! I had a fantastic time and the atmosphere was incredible. The show itself was wild and filthy, performed by an insanely talented cast. Beautiful music and movement. The want from reviews here for it to make more sense is exactly what the show sets out the shatter, there's no need to hang entirely on the narrative just sit back and enjoy!

Loved it. I came away thinking, "What the hell was that all about?" But I didn't care, I'd had a whale of a time. Maybe the brilliant performances disguised the weaknesses but even if the whole didn't add up to much the individual bits were gripping/entertaining/absorbing. The other weird thing is that almost every aspect seemed designed to put off an old fart, but it had the opposite effect on this one. If this is campo-panto give me more! And that soliloquy by Finty Williams - dangerous and masterful. The ambition and execution would have got even Shakespeare's approval.

Dreadful. Probably the worst play I have seen in my life. We stayed for the second half thinking it must get better. It got worse. Bad script, bad direction, feeble school drama acting and a shameful failure to use the glorious space which is the Globe (in contrast to just about every other play we've seen at the Globe in the last few years)..

I had a wonderful evening at the Globe theatre seeing The Lightning Child - a modern interpretation of Euripide’s Bacchae. But Euripide with a hint of Rocky’s Horror at the Globe? YAY! At last the world is moving in the right direction. A mixture of gorgeous Black & White bodies dancing and projecting exactly what the director asked them to project. Generous straight men equally pleasing frustrated women and lady boys. And the music: absolutely divine – as good and immortal as Mozart’s. A great night out that you’re going to remember for a very long time!

CAVEAT: so dire was the first half that I did not stay for the second. Suffice to say that the entire performance can only be described as an irredeemable mess which was mostly on the level of a poorly written and choreographed school play. As Euripides might have said:-"Ye Gods!". And all this at the Globe----poor Will must be spinning in his grave......

Its a rambling mess of a performance; trying too hard to be alternative and inventive but it falls far too short in both categories.

Whoever wrote this must have been on the wacky bacchae - it was generally incoherent.

Loud and powerful, full of surprises from the word go, this is a performance not to be missed. An updated, modern - and yes - expletive-packed take on a tale from the Classics, this play manages to weave some perennial examples into the old underlying Dionysian themes of love, abuse of excess, a variety of gender-related issues and a generous pinch of androgenic introspection. Yes of course the themes are gruesome, so is the world - as much now as in antiquity. And it is is simply refreshing that the writers have not shied away from this. True it is raw in places, and the fast pace of it detracts somewhat from the finale perhaps, but other than that well worth a visit. Hats off to the cast, too, for not (although nearly) slipping on the wet front part of the stage, and for giving it their all.

Hugely enjoyable evening. The play is elemental, starting with the rock of the moon and moving through the hills, the woman, 6 pack abdominal muscles, men, music, fire and dance. Does it make sense? Not particularly. But it's perfect for The Globe's epic stage. For me, the common thread of the piece was the idea of giving yourself over to whatever sense of "other" you feel. Why not begin by going to see this wacko show and letting go of it all? You might even come out gay.

My rating is rather generous because, in spite of all, the cast worked hard - perhaps they did so to justify the play. It was extremely difficult to follow - even tho I had a clue about the general theme of the original - and it seemed to get more extreme, in foul language, and foul content the further along it got. My friend and I, celebrating my birthday, imagined it would come together in the second part, as did the people sitting alongside us, instead it got more shocking, but not in a good way, rather it seemed to set out to shock rather than lead us somewhere so we could work something out. The themes were gruesome, and I would not recommend it to anyone who wants to be entertained, or even intellectually challenged - it was outrageous for the sake of it - and not at all entertaining -