Tag Archives: Peter Rice



Hampstead Theatre



“Hampton is not a writer known for his humour, but the script is relentlessly grim”

Since Hampstead Theatre lost its Arts Council funding their programming has been shaped by the need for philanthropic donations. It seems a safe choice then, to programme the UK premiere of the latest Christopher Hampton adaptation, which will surely encourage audience attendance. Unfortunately, while this play explores many of Hampton’s favourite themes – memory and time, loss and obsession, seduction – it falls emotionally flat and is overwritten to the point of parody.

The story is moving, if slightly sentimental. It is based on a Zweig novella of the same name and is set against the building xenophobic tensions of 1930s Vienna. But this political context gets only the briefest of nods. Instead, the play focusses on two characters, a middle-aged writer, Stefan, whose biography seems curiously similar to Zweig’s own, and a mysterious young woman, Marianne, whose sexual enthusiasm is made disquieting by a peculiar familiarity with Stefan’s life. The story unravels into a personal tragedy, with sex and casual cruelty at its poignant heart.

Chelsea Walker’s direction shines in the passion between the two, but somehow fails to inject this verbose two hander with the necessary emotional depth to carry it.

Hampton is not a writer known for his humour, but the script is relentlessly grim. Marianne’s story in particular, is emotionally monotonal. Whether that’s the script, performance or direction is unclear, but there is a sore lack of light and shade.

The dynamic between the two should be fascinating, but Marianne’s unrelenting and unbelievable selflessness feels more like Zweig’s (or Hampton’s) own fantasy than a real woman.

James Corrigan, playing Stefan, has been brought on late into the process, only taking over the role after the first week of performances, and bearing that in mind his performance is impressive. He plays the writer as a Hugh Grant-esque bumbling charmer. It’s a good performance, but maybe lacks the magnetism which can birth the level of obsession which the play explores. Natalie Simpson’s performance is a little one note, but as discussed, that’s not entirely her fault. It would’ve been interesting to see this character unravel more, but there are a couple of moments where Simpson’s range is unleashed. Nigel Hastings has a walk on part of Johann the butler, which feels a little random, but he embodies it well. Jessie Gattward as a young Marianne is deeply sinister, with a moment of pained physical theatre which works well in balance with the naturalism.

The set (Rosanna Vize), sound (Peter Rice) music (Max Perryment) and lighting (Bethany Gupwell) are excellent. The set is an apartment, with a landing, and a huge pile of wilted white roses rotting in the darkened corner outside. The music, at one point echoed by Corrigan on the piano, provides a haunting refrain as the play shifts through time and memory. The lighting alters to play with shadow, building an excellent atmosphere which never quite comes to a climax.

Of all novellas ever written, or even all Zweig novellas, this is a strange one to choose to adapt. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it lies in the biographical hints of Zweig’s own life – he wrote it shortly before he left Vienna for South America where he committed suicide. Knowing that (or reading the programme) brings moving light onto the reaction of the writer, but without it, the play feels a little adrift, almost like a scene within a longer play to which the audience is not privy.


Reviewed on 11th July 2024

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Marc Brenner




Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE DIVINE MRS S | ★★★★ | March 2024
DOUBLE FEATURE | ★★★★ | February 2024
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL | ★★★★ | December 2023
ANTHROPOLOGY | ★★★★ | September 2023
STUMPED | ★★★★ | June 2023
LINCK & MÜLHAHN | ★★★★ | February 2023
THE ART OF ILLUSION | ★★★★★ | January 2023
SONS OF THE PROPHET | ★★★★ | December 2022
BLACKOUT SONGS | ★★★★ | November 2022
MARY | ★★★★ | October 2022
THE FELLOWSHIP | ★★★ | June 2022
THE BREACH | ★★★ | May 2022



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic

Jesus Hopped The A Train

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic

Reviewed – 20 February 2019



“the brilliance of this production is that the answers don’t just come from the words; every aspect and element of the show feels relevant and important”


Kate Hewitt’s production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ ‘Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train’ is bold and philosophical, with moving performances and genius staging that elevates this show to exciting heights.

Angel Cruz (played with tender fierceness by Ukweli Roach) has wound up in jail, accused of attempted murder after shooting a cult leader called Reverend Kim. Alongside the threatening watch of prison officer Valdez (Joplin Sibtain), and the guidance of his lawyer Mary Jane Hanrahan (Dervla Kirwan), Angel strikes up a complex relationship with serial killer, and fellow prisoner Lucius Jenkins (Oberon K.A. Adjepong) – a relationship built on debate and argument surrounding the nature of good, evil and, indeed, God.

The opening line of Guirgis’ play sets the tone, as Angel prays, “Our Father, who art in heaven – Howard be thy name.” The moment is witty and heart wrenching in equal measure as Angel desperately tries to remember the correct words. The play continues in this vein. The dialogue is an absolute powerhouse and the real force behind this work; it’s clever, snappy, and fast paced, becoming so beautifully intricate in the sounds and nuances that are created. The actors really let themselves fly as they attack their dialogue and rattle off their monologues, keeping the performance exciting and engaging. In one particularly impressive monologue, Adjepong’s Lucius exercises whilst addressing his religious beliefs; the actor’s energy doesn’t falter once as he performs countless press ups, squats and on the spot sprints all the while delivering his speech. These scenes are separated by blackouts and a score of dramatic drum beats that sound like gunfire – they are thrilling and tense and help support the tone of the piece.

The staging, too, keeps the show feeling fresh, exploiting both movement and stillness to full effect. The auditorium is in the round; the stage is created as a strip cutting through the audience, with glass doors sliding along it. The simple fluidity of this design (Magda Willi) introduces an interesting dichotomy to the show that reflects the inherent sentiment of the play. On the one hand, it creates a sense of openness and, ironically, freedom, whilst on the other hand it creates an inescapable claustrophobia. The transparent glass doors evince our all-seeing nature whilst at the same time producing the actors own reflections in a way that reminds us of their entrapment. They can’t escape prison; they can’t escape themselves.

The play implores us to question humanity and freedom, good and evil, religion and atheism. We are drawn to the charming, God-fearing, comical Lucius despite his psychopathic nature and are left to wonder how we assess our morality and whether we can ever truly find redemption. Whilst Guirgis’ script is truly wonderful, the brilliance of this production is that the answers don’t just come from the words; every aspect and element of the show feels relevant and important. Overall, this is a really well thought out, fantastic piece of theatre.


Reviewed by Tobias Graham

Photography by Johan Persson


Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train

Young Vic until 30th March


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fun Home | ★★★★★ | June 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com