Berenice** (Donmar Warehouse, 5 Oct 2012)

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Theatre

The Donmar has received great acclaim for re-discovering many rarely-performed European classics, giving high hopes for this 17th Century French play by Jean Racine. Sadly these hopes are quickly dashed. The scenario of thwarted love is established within 5 minutes and, thereafter there are virtually no plot developments and no dramatic tensions as the play rambles aimlessly towards a climax that never arrives. Maybe the verse of the French original was its justification but, here, lifeless prose offers no compensation. There are just three redeeming features: firstly the set consisting of a magnificent staircase spiraling down to a sand dune is a visual treat (although it’s relevance to the play remains unclear); secondly Anne Marie Duff in the title role is always worth seeing, she stands out in a cast that otherwise lacks sparkle; and thirdly, at 95 minutes without an interval, it is mercifully short.  Josie Rourke directs. As she nears the end of her first year as the Donmar’s Artistic Director, she needs to understand that this is just not good enough.

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