Review Roundup: What Did the Critics Think of James Graham's BEST OF ENEMIES?

James Graham's critically-acclaimed play is now at the Noël Coward Theatre

Best of Enemies

James Graham's Best Of Enemies is now open at the Noel Coward Theatre, having transferred from the Young Vic. The play is set in 1968 and follows the fight for the American Presidency between the cunningly conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and the iconoclastic liberal Gore Vidal, played by David Harewood and Zachary Quinto.

The play received rave reviews at The Young Vic, but what did the critics think of the revival?

Cindy Marcolina: BroadwayWorld: Best of Enemies is an exceptional addition to a Theatreland that's generally lacking in political engagement, especially during the Christmas period. It's intense, brainy, and absolutely delectable. The latest West End must-see.

Nick Curtis: Evening Standard: The play's decoding of the way politics, media and fame interact has deepened since its original run at the Young Vic in 2021. No one under 60 will remember the debates, or what Vidal and Buckley stood for, but Graham stitches them back into the wider context of the Vietnam War, student demonstrations, racial tensions and the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr, with great finesse.

Marianka Swain: London Theatre: The prize fights between Buckley and Vidal were, and are, spellbinding. America had never seen anything like it; now, sadly, squabbling talking heads are the norm, though none are as articulate or principled as this pair, who actually try to listen to one another. That's the innate tragedy of Graham's tale, that their sincere efforts to debate important issues had the terrible consequence of birthing completely biased networks like Fox, as opinion usurped truth and entertainment trumped news.

Clive Davis: The Times: If Charles Edwards was superb as Vidal at the Young Vic, the Hollywood star Zachary Quinto actually goes one better: he's even more arch and narcissistic, preening himself in front of his male lovers and his cocktail party admirers. David Harewood returns as the equally self-assured Buckley. It's an ingenious piece of not quite colour-blind casting which, I suspect, will make liberal audiences think twice before dismissing his free-market evangelising out of hand.

Alice Saville: Time Out: The great thing about a James Graham play is that you go in with only the haziest ideas about the twentieth-century political moment he's picked as his subject, but come out two-and-a-bit hours later buzzing with its personalities and conflicts and stories. And 'Best of Enemies' typifies that feeling, alighting on the relatively niche subject of telly debates in the run-up to the US 1968 Presidential election, and making it completely lucid and vital.

Dominic Cavendish: The Telegraph: If there's a failing, it's that almost too much research gets stuffed in, the action channel-surfing between pop-up primers, archive footage, cameos (wow, there's Warhol!), angsty strategising and more. Filleting the 11 debates - conducted first in Miami, then Chicago, both taking in speculation about presidential hopefuls - the script doesn't dig especially deep into the men's backstories.

Best Of Enemies at is the Noël Coward Theatre until 18 February 2023

Photo Credit: Johan Persson


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From This Author - Aliya Al-Hassan

Aliya Al-Hassan is UK Managing Editor of BroadwayWorld. A London-based theatre critic and journalist, she has a life-long passion for the arts, with a focus on theatre. She is always keen to... (read more about this author)



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