Review Roundup: ROOTS at the Donmar Warehouse
In 1958, Beatie Bryant goes to London and falls in love with Ronnie, a young socialist. As Ronnie anxiously awaits his arrival to meet her family, her head is swimming with new ideas, which promise to clash with their rural way of life. ROOTS is the centrepiece of Wesker's seminal post-war trilogy, directed by James MacDonald and starring Jessica Raine.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Photograph: Stephen Cummiskey
Lyn Gardner, Guardian: In James MacDonald's fine, slow-burning revival, the Beales live like moles in the dark. Outside, the sky glowers as if trying to squash the cottage flat; inside a child is being settled for bed; food is being prepared. Supper must be bolted down before the ice cream, wrapped in newspaper, melts. Wesker and Macdonald's attention to detail is both exquisite and necessary.
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard: Beatie (Call the Midwife star Jessica Raine) is a lively young woman with a socialist boyfriend, tendencies towards self-improvement and the admirable but self-righteous conviction of youth. Back from London to visit her taciturn farm-worker family in rural Norfolk, she has an acute case of mention-itis when it comes to boyfriend Ronnie. Indeed, the drama builds towards a climactic act three tea when Ronnie is to meet as much of the Bryant clan as is on speaking terms.
Sarah Hemming, Financial Times: Central to the play then is the texture of their daily lives and James MacDonald's superb production honours this. Life is slow, quiet and dogged for Beatie's folk: the men labour outside, the women in the home - housework is hard, repetitive graft. The play unfolds against the rhythm of the kitchen: as Beatie talks to her sister (Lisa Ellis), the two women dry dishes, fold clothes or sweep the floor of Hildegard Bechtler's meticulously realistic set. It tests the patience a little, but that is the point: this is a play that accumulates depth and potency and Macdonald's lovingly observant staging reminds us there is comfort too in routine.
Michael Covaney, WhatsonStage: The play is a working class classic precisely because it charts that historic post-war shift in social mobility and awareness through education, politics and art; Beatie here demonstrates her new-found elation in music to the grumpily bovine figure of her mother (a performance of sustained and enthralling brilliance by Linda Bassett, who is morphing into Dandy Nichols) by putting on a record of Bizet's "L'Arlesienne Suite" and cavorting to the farandole.
Paul Taylor, Independent: Jessica Raine superbly captures both what is maddening and touching in Beatie's proselytising campaign. Full of gamine fervour, she jumps on chairs and gesticulates like a soap-box orator when spouting the boyfriend's pearls of wisdom but there's an undertow of vulnerability in the vehemence because she knows that she does not fully understand what she's ventriloquising.