Review Round Up: John, National Theatre

James MacDonald directs Annie Baker’s new play for the National Theatre. Here is what critics have had to say about it… 


The week after Thanksgiving. A bed & breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. A cheerful innkeeper. A young couple struggling to stay together. Thousands of inanimate objects, watching.

The Guardian: **** “James Macdonald’s meticulous production, like Baker’s play, is fascinated by minutiae and focuses on the immediate moment rather than what happens next.”

The Independent: **** “It’s quirkily funny and disquieting; the mundane and the supernatural are on teasing terms; and it’s beautifully acted and consummately well-paced in James Macdonald’s engrossing production.”

The FT: **** “Director James Macdonald and designer Chloe Lamford enjoy piling up the detailed contradictions and/or pointlessnesses.”

The Stage: ***** “Neatniks may find the play frustrating, but it is wildly stimulating, the wealth of possibilities beneath its unhurried surface dizzying, and as rich and mysterious as life itself.”

WhatsOnStage:***** ” John is rich and magical, something special.”

The Telegraph: **** “It could easily drag but the down-beat, high-risk process is assisted by a batch of spot-on performances expertly directed by James Macdonald and nestling nicely in Chloe Lamford’s exquisitely detailed interior.”

The Reviews Hub: ***** “Director James Macdonald tunes into Baker’s unique style comfortably and draws perfectly judged performances from all four actors.”

Culture Whisper: ***** “Baker writes with a vividness that makes most drama feel hollow by comparison.”

London ** ” James Macdonald, a master of the experimental plays of Caryl Churchill, is the perfect director to honour the play’s agonisingly slow rhythms; he also has an ideal cast to tease them out. You can only surrender to it and go with the flow. But the rewards are, this time, few.”

The Upcoming: ***** “It can be hard to explain what exactly works about an Annie Baker play. She casts a spell that makes hours feel like minutes without sacrificing the weight and power such length brings, weaving thematically expansive narratives from everyday objects.”

Broadway World: **** “a hypnotic, thrillingly audacious portrait of humanity.”

Exeunt Magazine: “Baker spins kitsch into something profound, sees the nobility of our attachment to objects around us.”

Time Out: ***** “Macdonald’s production and Baker’s writing never feel stylised or stilted. And it is far from conventional: a rich, strange and idiosyncratic play, unnerving and heartwarming in equal measure, that journeys wonderingly to the fringes of the human soul.”

Evening Standard: **** “James Macdonald’s production savours its mysteries and eerie details, and the actors are courageous, taking us deep into the characters’ inner lives.”

Theatre Bubble: ***** “John is one of these great, silent, thinly-woven plays that discusses everything and nothing, making you ponder the extent of human relationships and how we live with the hauntings of history whilst watching a B&B owner talk with her guest about different diet options. Marvellous.”

British Theatre Guide: “John is a long, patient and frankly quirky meditation on American life today, which like the real thing can sometimes seem painfully slow but consistently holds the attention.”

London Theatre1: **** “Nothing in this production is superfluous in the end, and it’s a testament to the skilled writing and compelling acting that something as negligible as the sound of breakfast being eaten has some significance. A reflective and thoughtful play.”

John continues to play at the National Theatre until the 3rd March. For more information and to book tickets visit:




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