Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Nation Theatre at the Lyttleton


“I'm angry . . .just angry at the waste of a good man. Look at the work undone . .. think of it! Who is to do it! Oh . . the waste . . . !”

Thus Walter Kent [Hubert Burton], secretary to Henry Trebell, as the curtain falls on Harvey Granville Barker's Waste, famously banned by the Edwardians.
Roger Michell's revival at the National is respectful and admirably acted. But the scandal and the political intrigue feel, if not irrelevant, then a little remote, the pre-occupations of another age.
Charles Edwards gives a cool, composed Trebell. He is a career politician “in love” with his parliamentary bill, seeking, a little like Wolsey, to use church property for educational ends. Olivia Williams is excellent as Amy O'Connell, with whom he flirts under a massive moon, the only glimpse of the natural world the production affords. Their ill-fated liaison drives the personal and political tragedy. Much of the “action” however, consists of gentlemen talking, notably at the start of Act Two, gathered at a round table, the only relief a kind of musical chairs. Closest to the style Barker would recognise are Michael Elwyn as the pragmatic Prime Minister Horsham and Gerrard McArthur, sporting magnificent spats, as the Catholic grandee Cantilupe. Sylvestra Le Touzel, as Henry's sister Frances, and Lucy Robinson [pictured] as Julia Farrant, give some much needed depth of feeling to the piece.
Hildegard Bechtler's sparsely furnished set, off white walls, high gloss flooring and wooden chairs and tables, uses massive screens both horizontal and vertical as scene tabs, making the epic piece as satisfying visually as it is intellectually or emotionally.

production photograph: Johan Persson

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