Review Round Up: Vassa, Almeida Theatre

Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews for Tinuke Craig’s production.

(c)Marc Brenner.

The Independent: **** ” vivid, horribly vital production”

Camden New Journal: “Although the performances are all excellent, the production is quite patchy and perhaps the cast change needs more time to settle down.”

Hackney Citizen: “Everyone else within the cast provides the necessary snappy characterisation and solid believability that makes Vassa entertaining and unsettling in equal measure.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “Redmond gives a performance of monstrous malevolence, roaring through Vassa’s exertion of her tyranny, occasionally in moments of quiet revealing the cost.”

The Guardian: *** “Siobhan Redmond is impressive as a tyrannical mother trying to rescue her debt-ridden family in Tinuke Craig’s strangely rootless production.”

The Telegraph: ** “Chekhov created some memorable mother figures who answer to the description of ‘formidable’ – think of Arkadina, the grandly self-absorbed, maternally unreliable actress in The Seagull or that impulsive, imperious (borderline impecunious) landowner Ranevskaya in The Cherry Orchard. But they both look like saints compared to Vassa Zheleznova, the scheming matriarch at the heart of Maxim Gorky’s indictment of brutish capitalist-Tsarist Russia as expressed through a quirky back-stabbing family drama.”

The Stage: *** “It’s clear what Bartlett and Craig are trying to do here, and it feels as if a stunning production lurks not far beneath this one’s messy surface. It just needs to break through.”

Time Out: *** “Craig’s production wittily bookends each instalment of upper class cruelty with pompous classical music. Fly Davis’s design is all laminate surfaces and extravagant flowers; only the obligatory tea-dispensing samovar suggests we’re in Russia. The message is that it’s money that corrupts, not the specifics of cultural context.”

The Upcoming: * “Confined to one wood-panelled room, Tinuke Craig’s production is also boring visually. The constant opening and closing of doors on every side is presumably meant to create the feeling of familial surveillance and ever-churning plot hijinks, only to be contrasted with the suffocating boredom of the wake in the second half. Instead it is a disappointment that we never leave the dull space of the office.”

iNews: ** “The larger problem is one of tone. Marking her debut at this address, the fast-rising director Tinuke Craig has trouble locating the elusive gallows humour necessary to sustain this pitch-black portrait of a moneyed family wallowing in its own, often-gleeful mendaciousness.”

Exeunt Magazine: “Bartlett’s adaptation is almost a farce, but not quite. It’s also almost a family tragedy, but not quite. And it’s also almost a political satire, but not quite. It never commits fully to any genre, nor bridges the gaps between the three to fuse them into something bigger and better.”

Secret London: “Leaving the theatre, the one thing that was on the audiences’ lips was “why now?” Theatreland is crammed with theatre that teaches, shows and presents new ideas and new arguments. Vassa feels like a pleasant-enough way to spend an evening, but I was left wondering why The Almeida had chosen Vassa to follow such a brilliant and strong season.”

British Theatre Guide: “Mike Bartlett has written a deliberately tasteless but very funny modern comedy that veers on farce filled with memorable, if not always credible, characters. As such, there is a lot to commend this two-hour long presentation.”

Evening Standard: ** “The play seems to dare us to be shocked by an unlikeable woman with power, but the script never allows her to become more than a cardboard cut-out.”

Broadway World: *** “Unfortunately, what lets this production down is its lack of clarity in its intention.”

London Theatre1: *** “The cast is strong. Michael Gould is especially good as morally bankrupt uncle Prokhor and Amber James is effective in changing the energy with her Act Two arrival, thanks to strong timing and instincts. Siobhan Redwood has the chops to enact the controlling, conniving and potentially conflicted titular role. However, these actors occupy an inconsistent world plagued by too many styles for the fullest realisation of the play’s potential.”

Londonist: *** “It’s not really funny enough to ignore the stock plot and not deranged enough (think Joe Orton) to undo its farcical conventions. However, though the political context is weak, in its myopic, desperate self-obsession, Vassa’s family wars might contain a lesson for our time as much as writer Maxim Gorky’s.”

Vassa continues to play at the Almeida Theatre until the 23rd November.

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