People*** (National – Lyttelton, 15 Dec 2012)

Posted: December 16, 2012 in Theatre

In his new play, Alan Bennett postulates, with more than a little irony, that properties and artefacts are to be treasured and that people only spoil them. He berates the National Trust for its mission to make them accessible to the wider public. Blessed with three cracking comic performances (Frances de la Tour, Linda Bassett and Selina Cadell as sisters in possession of such inherited assets), this production should itself have become a National treasure. Yet somehow the whole of the evening seems worth much less than the sum of the constituent parts. Too often dialogue that should sizzle only fizzles and jokes fall flat as the script meanders and sidetracks, thereby diluting the clarity and wit of the arguments being presented. In a segment at the beginning of Act II, the play veers into broad farce with double entendres, falling trousers and even an intruding bishop, but hilarious as this is, it is a mere diversion which seems incongruous when set in the context of everything that precedes and follows it. To sum up, a disappointment but an intermittently entertaining one.

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