Review Roundup: IN THE REPUBLIC OF HAPPINESS - All the Reviews!
Martin Crimp returned to the Royal Court with his new work, 'Republic Of Happiness' which Dominic Cooke directs in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. Described as a "violent satire", the production opened on December 6 and features Anna Calder-Marshall, Emma Fielding, Seline Hizli, Ellie Kendrick, Stuart McQuarrie, Paul Ready, Michelle Terry, and Peter Wight.
Let's see what the critics had to say:
Michael Coveney from whatsonstage.com: Structurally unlike anything else he has written, it's funny, sexy, witty and rude, and performed in bright light with some terrific songs. Crimp goes so far as to call it "an entertainment in three parts," and it rocks along like a dystopian vaudeville conceived in an unlikely alliance of Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill.
Susannah Clapp from the Guardian: Ellie Kendrick is compulsively watchable: hyper-alert, silvery and feral. Michelle Terry lets out radiance not as if she were projecting it but rather expelling an unstoppable force. She also has to do phoney radiance and pulls that off too. She can do anything.
Charles Spencer of the Daily Telegraph: In Cooke's fluent, stylish production the cast perform this tiresome piece with more wit and conviction than it deserves. There is especially strong work from Anna Calder-Marshall as the game old granny; Peter Wight as her confused husband; Emma Fielding as the mother desperately trying to maintain the festive spirit; Paul Ready as Uncle Bob and Michelle Terry as his terrifying wife.
Sarah Hemming of Financial Times: It is a spiky, difficult and sometimes crude play: it has already infuriated some theatre-goers and prompted walk-outs. But I found this middle-section uncomfortably brilliant, as the cast work through "The Five Essential Freedoms of the Individual" in search of elusive personal happiness and security, breezily making assertions such as "I write the script of my life" and "I'm looking good".
Paul Taylor of the Independent: Martin Crimp's play has a deceptively traditional opening. We seem to be in Alan Ayckbourn territory as a middle-class family bicker round the Christmas dinner table. But then it's as though Season's Greetings has been hi-jacked by a squad comprised of the absurdist Ionesco, that master of logorrhoeic misanthropy, Thomas Bernhard, and Caryl Churchill at her most radically playful.
Henry Hitchings of the Evening Standard: Crimp tears into the contemporary obsession with individualism. He's venomous and occasionally very funny about narcissism, our short memories and the culture of therapy (both the retail and psychiatric varieties). He also skewers metropolitan smugness, the cut-and-paste aesthetics fostered by desktop technology and the modern historical ignorance that feels like a kind of collective dementia. Less overt is his interest in what might be called downward mobility - a preoccupation with being grubbier than our forebears.
Andrzej Lukowski of Timeout: Dominic Cooke's production is superbly acted, brilliantly deadpan and often furiously intimidating - I'm not sure he has really unlocked this play's full potential. Or has he flattered a wilfully obtuse mass of Crimp-isms? Whatever the case, the genuine winsomeness of the songs ensures this challenging show has a heart. 'Crimp: the Musical', anyone?
The Cambridge Student Online: Ultimately though, despite the many outstanding features of this production, the play left me confused (and I still cannot work out whether this was the desired effect). Life in "The Republic of Happiness" seems just as hollow and scripted as in the preceding two parts, leading one to wonder whether Crimp's satire has a point. There is a sense, from Bob's refrain of "it's deeper than that", that there is something beneath the surface of this satire of superficiality that cannot or will not be expressed.
David Benedict of Variety: The strength of this section is undercut by being painfully indebted both to Beckett's trailblazing "Play" -- in which characters in purgatory repeat their self-justification to an invisible interrogator -- and Caryl Churchill's "Blue Heart" whose linguistic repetitions it echoes to less winning effect. Long before the overextended sequence has run its course, its point has been made.
Stephen Wilmot of the Londonist: There is a little light relief in the form of songs, which, after the opening scene's flirtation with realism, are delivered karaoke-style to the audience. These were easier on the ear and mind than the spoken lines, probably because the music provided a sense of structure that made the absence of a plot easier to deal with. It's a tantalizing reminder of why George Benjamin's opera Written on Skin, for which Crimp wrote the libretto, is rapidly gaining a reputation as a modern classic after its premiere at the Aix-en-Provence festival this summer.