Angels in America (National Theatre)

Quite possibly the hottest ticket (2 tickets) in town this year – The National’s production of Tony Kushner’s epic 8 hour headfuck of play (2 plays) set around 7 interconnected characters battling the AIDS crisis in1980s New York.

Now I tend to think that plays need a bloody good reason to go past 2 and ½ hours in length so imagine my feelings on 8 hours which could be spread across two nights (as I did) or across one very grueling Saturday – but with a cast including Russell Tovey, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough and Nathan Lane (among others) I was intrigued beyond measure – not least because I remembered the early 2000s TV version with Meryl Streep and Al Pacino and had been entranced by it then.

Sooo… it’s obviously long. A real effortful commitment of time in a world where one 4 hour trip to the theatre isn’t undertaken lightly, let alone 2 – I mean you would see Hamlet twice in a week, would you? But Angels in America really starts to tick – particularly in the second part which I have to say was mesmeric. Nathan Lane’s despotic New York Lawyer Roy Cohn is a performance that will linger long in the memory, and Denise Gough seems unable to turn in a bad performance as her star continues to rise.

I don’t think I’ll ever been fully convinced of the necessity for this play (or any other) to be quite so long, but Kushner’s play makes a more compelling argument than I expected it to. The writing is far tighter than I expected, and the hopefulness that resonates, particularly in Andrew Garfield’s Prior Walter’s obstinate refusal to be beaten by his illness is heartbreakingly uplifting.


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