Review Round Up: Exit the King, National Theatre

Patrick Marber directs Rhys Ifans in this new production of Exit the King. Here Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews…

exit the king

Somewhere in Europe the kingdom is disintegrating. It’s the last day of King Bérenger’s life. Queen Marguerite is preparing for the end and Queen Marie is in denial. The King is 400 years old and dying, but he’s clinging on for dear life…

The Guardian: *** “Even if the play’s destination is vague, Marber’s production ensures the journey itself has variety. It is vivaciously performed and full of regal ritual.”

West End Whingers: “It probably says something existential and profound about death and authority though it was impossible to give a hoot. Rather startlingly it’s billed as a tragi-comedy. Strangely some of the audience were laughing. At what? Embarrassment?”

The Independent: **** “There is much to enjoy here besides the fantastical humour and exquisite one-liners.”

Hollywood Reporter: “A little more of this imaginative audacity would have been welcome in a production that chiefly relies on its charismatic star to provide the emotional fireworks.”

WhatsOnStage: ** “Adapter-director Patrick Marber mishandles the style of an extant play that requires a complete reboot. What felt absurd in 1963 looks antiquated today, and Exit the King‘s comedy needs a livewire anarchy but gets hamminess instead.”

The Stage: *** “While there is a scattering of laughs at the start, Marber’s production suffers from a number of lulls. He brings out the play’s layers – one man’s scrabble against the multiple indignities of physical decline and the falling away of an old order – but ironically he struggles to make the play feel alive.”

The FT: *** “Ifans, however, is tremendous and weirdly magnetic. Starting out as a cross between an ageing rocker and Batman’s Joker, with his lank locks and his smeared make-up, he seems to age and crumble poignantly before your eyes and he brings real terror and pathos to his final exit.”

The Telegraph: *** “Put bluntly, when the “existentialist” element is to the fore, you feel the cosmic shiver of the human condition. When the evening attempts lower-case absurdist larks, you may be afflicted by shudders of boredom.”

Exeunt Magazine: “Ifans is a master storyteller, and his inward-facing sermons are compelling.”

Broadway World: *** “Ultimately a beautiful set and great performances can’t save this show, which starts out well but struggles through to the end. While Ifans gives a striking performance, the play is less funny than one would expect from an absurdist tragicomedy.”

British ** ” It’s hard to think of, apart from students of Absurdist theatre, who this production is for, and seems a very insipid choice for a revival.”

Time Out: *** “Indira Varma is superb as the king’s first wife Marguerite, got up like a Disney villain in a black velvet fishtail gown, all imperious impatience; her comic lines drop like a guillotine.”

The 730 Review : *** “Ionesco’s script proves a challenge too great for this company to realize fully.”

The Reviews Hub: *** “despite Marber’s best efforts, one fears Exit the King’s legacy will be the set on which an otherwise anodyne adaptation plays out.”

The London Economic: “Who says the anti-political Ionesco isn’t political or that he can’t be relevant because he is now. Bring on more because he seems just right for our times and a provocative breath of fresh air.”

The Upcoming: *** “Ifans makes for a striking lead, bellowing and bawling as he crawls towards the other side.”

Evening Standard: *** “A blend of pantomime and angst-ridden darkness, it’s commendably bonkers yet also overblown and uneven.”

The Metro: *** “The concluding segment is visually astonishing, but underlines the heavily gestural quality of both the play and the production. Despite Ifans, this felt like a long evening.”

London Theatre1: ** “This is a play that I think will divide its audience – some will love it and others hate it – I just thought it was a bit creaky and jaded.”

Exit the King continues to play at the National Theatre until the 6th October. For more information visit:





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