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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

at the Royal Court


  Pippa Haywood and Tom Brooke/ Ph: Manuel Harlan

Vicky Featherstone chose Dennis Kelly’s brutal modern morality play for her debut production as the Royal Court’s new artistic director, but it doesn’t quite repay her faith, or earn its own excessive length and portentousness. It has a dark energy and the kind of chilling dramatic coups that are a signature of Kelly’s stage work (excluding the sweet aberration of his book for the musical Matilda). But it is also flabby, talky, over-explanatory and, well, a bit obvious.

At the start, a chorus seated on chairs somewhat archly tells us quaint stories of the titular Gorge’s birth, childhood and young manhood. It seems he is a noble soul until he begins to equate goodness with cowardice. Shortly after this, Gorge, now embodied with a psychotic intensity by Tom Brooke, is given a crash course in insider dealing by a charismatic capitalist (Pippa Haywood) and decides to approach business, romance and family life with the same ruthless amorality.

He becomes fabulously wealthy but loses the woman he loves when an awful but clumsy – and, it must be said, deeply improbable – lie is easily exposed. And that’s it. Ruthless capitalism can make you rich but it won’t make you happy. That’s a pretty weak message to take home after nearly three hours of stage time.

Featherstone has assembled a fine ensemble and conducts matters fluently, but there just isn’t enough matter here. After the bold gesture of her Open Court launch jamboree – each new director of this Sloane Square venue needs an imprimatur-stamping flourish – and the announcement of an intriguing first season, this feels like a strange sideways step. Brooke’s performance is remarkable, though, particularly in a final scene where, with only a change of costume, he suggests an arid old age that recalls Daniel Day Lewis’ Daniel Plainview at the end of There Will Be Blood. But that’s not enough on its own.


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