Saturday 4 August 2012
Theatre review: Timon of Athens (National Theatre)
Director Nicholas Hytner has obviously jumped at the opportunity to make a comment on current affairs through a play that shows reckless spending based on debt having disastrous results, and the fact that the story takes place in Greece, current poster-child for economic collapse, must have seemed an extra gift. I can't help feeling he's got a bit carried away with the idea of the play's relevance though and has laid it on with a trowel. The symbolism is heavy-handed from the start, Timon endowing a gallery wing that features a huge painting of Jesus driving the money-lenders from the temple. The lack of subtlety extends to some of the performances - if anyone didn't figure out from the first seven or eight times Tom Robertson's Ventidius sniffed and rubbed his gums exactly where Timon's money was going, they were never going to get it.
Curious Incident in the same building. There's no question that certain elements of the story have contemporary relevance but for one thing I think the audience can be trusted to spot that without being force-fed; for another, it doesn't mean that every single element of the play will have a modern-day parallel, and trying to shoehorn relevance into everything seems to have distracted the director at times.
Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare and Thomas Middleton is booking in repertory until the 31st of October at the National Theatre's Olivier, and screening live to cinemas on the 1st of November.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including interval.