Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think of Anne Washburn's Trump-Era Play SHIPWRECK in London?

Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think of Anne Washburn's Trump-Era Play SHIPWRECK in London?

Anne Washburn (The Twilight Zone, Mr Burns) returns to the Almeida with a sinister and sensational new play, Shipwreck, directed by Almeida Artistic Director Rupert Goold.

The show, described as "A History Play About 2017," is a criticism of the Trump era.

The cast includes Khalid Abdalla, Fisayo Akinade, Raquel Cassidy, Risteárd Cooper, Elliot Cowan, Tara Fitzgerald, Adam James and Justine Mitchell.

Let's see what the critics are saying...


Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: But this world premiere does capture the present fear, confusion, outright weirdness and tortured fervour - that sense of bickering over form and language with which to address the end times, all while hovering over the mouth of hell. Raquel Cassidy's exhausted host Jools strikes a chord early on when she confesses "I'm scared of everything". And if Shipwreck doesn't quite find a focus for its passions, there is at least a freshness and gravity to its response.

Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard: Washburn may not tell us much that's new about Trump and his supporters, and the characters' existential wrangling can feel like a talky retread of Eighties movie The Big Chill, but her writing is sometimes startlingly poetic. It's performed with total conviction by a cast of eight that includes Tara Fitzgerald, Justine Mitchell and Adam James. At its sharpest, this is a dismaying vision of a future in which the super-rich will inherit the earth while liberals sit around camp fires like the dispossessed.

Michael Billington, The Guardian: Washburn tries to cram too much in: liberal impotence, racial oppression, abuse of power, the nature of censorship. A climactic scene, envisioning Trump as a demonic superman firing a terrified Comey, strikes me as gratuitous. But this is an important play that not only examines the Trump phenomenon but also asks why he was elected: one character shocks his friends by explaining that he voted for Trump because a failing democracy needs a shock to the system. It is precisely the argument you sometimes hear in Britain about a no-deal Brexit being a catalyst for change.

Tim Bano, The Stage: As in Mr Burns, we are presented with the apotheosis of characters (in this case, Trump) to the status of archetype, cult figure or religious symbol. But where that play was pure perfection, this falls short.

It's messy and anxiety-inducing, and you can't believe it's been going on for so long. It's the essence of the Trump presidency on stage.

Claire Allfree, The Telegraph: American playwright Anne Washburn persuasively imagines the Trump phenomenon in her new play as a crisis of empathy.

Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out London: 'Shipwreck' is flawed because 'Shipwreck' is daring. There will be those who hate it, because they hate its wordiness or simply find it too weird. It is a play on the subject of Donald Trump that ducks the crushing responsibility of being a play *about* Donald Trump. But for Washburn that works out just fine. If his victory was above all, a triumph of lies over truth, then Washburn is the perfect author to sift for shards of wisdom in the rubble he has left behind.

Chris Bennion, The Times: Sound dull? My word, it's anything but. There is next to no plot in what Washburn describes as a "History Play about 2017", but it is an absolute thriller.

Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: Washburn's writing is often razor sharp and pungent. Her observation that Trump is somehow a corrective to the darkness lurking unrecognised beneath liberal assumption, is acute. But as scene follows scene, in a spiral that accelerates into increasing unreality, it is hard to avoid a sense of indulgence. It is all so baggy; two fantasy scenes about Trump's behaviour just seem to go on forever.

Will Longman, London Theatre: A streamlined version of this text, with a sharper focus and believable conversations, and this might shine a light on just why people did vote for Trump. Instead, it tries to offer too much, resulting in a stuffy final product.

Connor Campbell, The Upcoming: Shipwreck is preoccupied by the processes of the empathetic imagination, the potentially flawed ways in which we try and envision why someone could do something like vote for Trump, even if - or especially if - it goes against many of their personal beliefs. Or how certain groups discuss certain topics in private. Or how to carry the mental weight of slavery, the knowledge of those horrors, as a black person in America. It's unwieldy, and inelegant, but boy, is there no-one out there like Anne Washburn.

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