Phil Willmott travels through theatreland...

And reviews The National Theatre's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and August: Osage County.

The National Theatre’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was always a dead cert for a lump in the throat. You can’t go too far wrong with shaven headed political prisoners discussing their plight in front of a full symphony orchestra banging out cod Russian orchestral music. The directors have also added the requisite back lighting, smoke and standard-issue physical theatre (as usual, dancers throw chairs at each other in slow motion to represent angst) so you’re guaranteed emotional punch. Leading actors Joseph Milson and Toby Jones are right on the button too as victims of a cruel penal system but is it all a bit hollow?

Stoppard describes the creative process in the programme and freely admits it developed out of an intellectual conceit rather then a passion to expose the inhumanity of locking dissidents in asylums. As a result the dialogue is so often smug in its cleverness rather then heart felt.

But at only an hour long there’s easily time to have your social conscience pricked, feel worthy about it over dinner and be back in Hampstead in time for the baby sitter.

(Or for a more authentic experience you could browse the Amnesty International website and donate the cost of your ticket to them)

However don’t miss The National’s transfer of August: Osage County in their Lytleton theatre (pictured above). I’ve raved about the New York production of this domestic blitz here before. I'm glad to say it has arrived on The South Bank gloriously intact with some of the best acting you’ll see anywhere and a plot as audacious as any Tennessee Williams melodrama. There’s no seats left but I know several people who’ve stood through this three-hour epic of family meltdown and still had a great time.

Phil Willmott has directed over fifty productions across the world from Shakespeare & musicals to cutting edge new writing. He is founding Artistic Director of his own multi award winning theatre company The Steam Industry, incorporating The Finborough Theatre (under the Artistic Directorship of Neil NcPherson) and the London's annual Free Theatre Festival at the open-air "Scoop" amphitheatre on the South Bank.

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