Review Round Up: The Great Wave, National Theatre

Francis Turnly’s new play is directed by Indhu Rubasingham and is currently playing at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre. Here is what critics have been saying about it…

On a Japanese beach, teenage sisters Hanako and Reiko are caught up in a storm. Reiko survives while Hanako is lost to the sea. Their mother, however, can’t shake the feeling her missing daughter is still alive, and soon family tragedy takes on a global political dimension.

The Guardian: **** “Formally, Turnly’s play breaks no new ground but it draws one’s rapt attention to a scandal that long obsessed the people of Japan.”

The Independent: **** “Questions of identity, of siblinghood and personal responsibility are raised with speed and acuity in Indhu Rubasingham’s remarkably fluent and beautifully acted production.”

The FT: **** “this is an urgent, riveting and resonant piece of theatre.”

The Telegraph: **** “Director Indhu Rubasingham and the company of 10 show a similar care throughout, capturing the quiet agony on one side, the constant fear on the other, never overplaying the darkness or the redeeming glints of humanity.”

The Stage: *** “And if this is in imperfect play, it’s one that fiercely demands, and deserves, our attention to its exploration of shocking and shameful truths.”

Variety: “If it’s a play of two halves, however, each tends to cancel the other out. While Hanako’s life lays bare the harsh realities faced by North Korean citizens, it’s couched alongside a glossy procedural drama as her family pushes for answers in Japan.”

WhatsOnStage: **** “Turnly’s achievement, in bringing this dark story to the stage, is to make it speak of many things. For all its pared-back dialogue, he makes it resonate loudly.”

London ***** “Francis Turnly’s The Great Wave tells a tale of abduction, espionage and diplomacy between two neighbours in an utterly gripping, heart-breaking new play.”

Exeunt Magazine: “The play itself – if I look at it from a purely critical perspective – which I can’t really do but let’s give it a go – it’s deeply flawed. Plot is favoured over everything else, certain lines of dialogue clank onto the ground dully, the emotions are dialled up to 11 from the get-go and fundamentally I didn’t really – not really – believe the relationships I was seeing up there. But there was something. There was Something.”

The Times: **** “This play is the theatrical equivalent of a sneaker wave — it will bowl you over when you least expect it.”

Evening Standard: *** “Turnly isn’t shy about serving up a history lesson, and sometimes the result is a drip-feed of exposition. Yet in its second half The Great Wave becomes much more than that and takes on a rich emotional charge.”

British **** “If, particularly in the first half, the production veers slightly towards melodrama in places, Indhu Rubasingham’s direction pulse’s the play perfectly, allowing it to build up the second Great Wave- that of publicity that gained power in Japan through the 1990s until now, and the emotions break beautifully at the conclusion.”

The Upcoming: *** “It’s a shame, then, that The Great Wave spends so much time treading water before this final emotional flood.”

The Reviews Hub: *** “Turnly has drawn attention to a little-known and surprising area of Japanese-North Korean history, and while it doesn’t quite pull both its strands together is a worthy subject for a family-focused drama about the long-term effects of grief.”

Gay Times: **** “The Great Wave is an ambitious, impressive new piece of theatre which largely succeeds. While it may not be flawless, it tells a fascinating, absorbing and incredibly powerful story with some genuinely affecting moments.”
Theatre Bubble: *** “It’s a good play, but not a great one. However, marking one of the few high-profile theatrical pieces that tells an East Asian story with an entirely East Asian cast, and equally considering the current state of diversity within British theatre, it seems a landmark production in terms of equality and representation onstage.”
Time Out: *** “But if it sometimes feel like ‘The Great Wave’ favours pace over depth then that’s mostly fine – it still has a great story to tell. And director Indhu Rubasingham gives it a crisp production that has the speed of a film”
Londonist: ** “Yet for such strong material the play is strangely undramatic. Dialogue is flat and expository, too full of dead air. The acting is at times awkward and lacking in flow, not helped by a revolving stage that hardly keeps still and blasted by video projections and bland EDM. “
British Theatre Guide: “Remarkably, political pressure, combined with personal industry and passion, begins to have an impact, leading to satisfying but far from sentimental closure at the end of 2½ mesmerising hours that must surely be transferred either to a West End theatre or possibly one of the larger auditoria at the National.”
The Great Wave continues to play at the National Theatre until the 14th April. For more information and to book tickets visit:

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